(KUTV) On Tuesday night, the Salt Lake County Council voted - again - to approve a $9.4 million plan to reform the county's criminal justice system.
This time, two Republicans voted "nay". Two others, Aime Winder Newton and Steve DeBry voted yes along with the Democrats on the council.
"Last week I considered not voting to continue the tax, but as the days went on, my gut said otherwise," said Winder Newton of her decision to approve the taxpayer-funded plan.
The plan will fund treatment for criminals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, commit crime after crime and are jailed over and over again.
"Substance abuse and mental illness is directly responsible for the vast majority of our citizens being incarcerated," said DeBry, pointing out that two-thirds of the county budget goes toward arresting, prosecuting, defending or jailing those criminals.
Weeks ago, council members began to debate the cost of the plan which would come from an $18 per-month tax levied on county taxpayers. Some council members said the tax was not new, rather an extension or renewal of a tax that was about to expire .
Other council members, were against continuing to levy a tax that was supposed to expire.
Winder Newton said the group Americans for Prosperity, which she called "an outside special interest group", blitzed her constituents with flyers and "misinformation" about the plan and the tax. The group tried to pressure her to vote against it.
Winder Newton said on her blog, she surveyed her constituents and most said they were in favor of revamping criminal justice by paying for more substance abuse treatment. She went with what her constituents wanted.
Chris Harelson, with Americans for Prosperity, said his group wanted the council to reform the criminal justice system by taking money within the existing budget - not by extending the tax.
"We were hoping they would cut taxes in other areas and reallocate the money they already have," he said.
Harelson feels the council didn't explore other funding alternatives and rushed to make a decision.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said reforming a broken criminal justice system can't happen for free.
"I understand the fiscal conservancy of our community but I also need people to understand that if we are going to affect any change, you don't do it without any dollars," he said.
The council did not offer details for the reform plan but will meet with the Sheriff, District Attorney and others in January to develop the plan.