If you would like to watch my Friday Facebook Live from last week, click here.

The Third Time is the Charm…I hope

We have been talking about the structural imbalance in our budget for well over a year. Because of the economy, we have had large surpluses in our education fund–which is made up of revenue from income taxes and is constitutionally mandated to go to education–while at the same time seeing revenue growth shrinking in our general fund–which is made up from sales taxes and other fees and is used to fund almost everything else. Despite our scaling back on government and cutting budgets, the general fund has been growing far slower than our population and the demand for services. Many of our vital services are in crises because of our shrinking general fund, including law enforcement, criminal justice, mental health, family services, and public health. 

The legislature has made two serious attempts to fix this imbalance. The first was through a bill introduced last session, HB 441, which taxed services–broadening the base, and lowering the rate–but it was extremely unpopular with Utah citizens and was never voted on. The second was the recent tax restructuring passed during the special session, which I voted against and most Utahns also did not like. It was repealed in the first days of the session. 

The saying goes that the third time is the charm, and I believe that to be the case with restructuring plans. We have a new plan that is a variation of what I have been promoting all along. It does NOT raise taxes, and voters will be able to vote it up or down in November. This allows for plenty of time to study it and for you to have a voice.

Following is the proposal.

HJR 9 1st Sub

This resolution, if passed, will put a question on the ballot in November that will ask voters if they approve of changing the Utah Constitution to broaden the use of income tax revenue “to support children and to support individuals with a disability.” Currently, income taxes are earmarked to only be used for education. If this passes, it would not remove the constitutional earmark, but it would open it up to be used for services for children and individuals with disabilities. 

While there is a need for better funding for education, there is also a lack of adequate funding to support families, to take care of children who are experiencing trauma and mental health issues, and to support those with disabilities.

Putting these groups together in the constitutional earmark is a more holistic way of looking at the big picture and seeing how interconnected supporting children and supporting education are. What I hear from teachers is that higher pay would be great, but what they would really like is help for the children in their classes that are disruptive and out of control because of anxiety, trauma they are experiencing at home, or other unresolved issues. If we can get these children and their families the help they need outside of school, we won’t have to keep asking educators and schools to act like social workers and therapists. And if this passes, I will have hope that individuals with disabilities will have access to the care and services that have so far been denied because of funding. 

This constitutional change, if passed by the voters, will give the legislature flexibility to more adequately fund the other vital needs of the state. The understandable worry about this constitutional change is that it will decrease funding for education. That is where HB 357 1st Sub comes in.

HB 357 1st Sub

This bill lays out, for the very first time, a plan to protect, stabilize, and guarantee education funding and keep it whole, even in a downturn. Currently, there is a dedicated funding source–the education fund–but no guarantee for funding. Income tax revenue is volatile and during recessions it decreases, and education funding takes a hit. 

Under HB 357 1st sub, education is guaranteed to receive growth and inflation funding every year in addition to other funding appropriations. Currently, this funding is not guaranteed and in downturns they have not always gotten it. 

To protect this guaranteed funding for recession years, this bill sets up a constitutionally protected account that will be supplemented by 15% of above trend revenue in good years. Our fiscal analysts have run worst case scenarios, and this account will have enough to protect and guarantee this automatic funding for education even in a worst case scenario.

I support this plan!

In case you couldn’t tell, I really like this plan. IT DOES NOT RAISE TAXES, but instead is a common-sense way to provide a plan to stabilize and guarantee education funding, it will provide a boost to funding for the needs of children and those with disabilities, and it gives the legislature flexibility to address vital needs in our state. The State School Board and the Utah School Board Association have voted to support this plan. The Utah Education Association is still negotiating.

Another plus is that I think we can still work in a tax decrease for low and middle income social security recipients. We will have to wait and see. The economy has become very uncertain, and we do not want to make any promises we can’t keep.

This week…

We have the largest group of women legislators ever! I love serving with these intelligent, accomplished, amazing women! We all almost managed to get in this photo. 🙂

My niece, Brooklyn Haight, was able to come visit and observe the process. It was so fun to have her on the Floor with me!

My parents have been tutoring and working with Jahed, a Rohingyan refugee who fled genocide in Burma as a teenager several years ago. He was sworn in as an American citizen just an hour before they brought him to the Capitol for a visit. I was happy that he came and sat on the House Floor with me for awhile.

HB 272 Pharmacy Benefits Amendment

This is already too long, but I wanted to let you know about this great bill.

Utahns spend more out-of-pocket for their health care and prescription drugs than the average American. Branded drug prices have nearly tripled since 2008 and for every dollar spent on health care, 23.3 cents goes towards prescription drugs. Representative Ray’s bill, HB 272 Pharmacy Benefits Amendment, will address these concerns and significantly benefit Utahns by increasing drug price transparency and bending the cost curve on health care. HB 272 unanimously passed the House of Representatives and has moved to the Senate.

Bills passed in the House this week

(A prefix of SB means they are Senate bills and have already been passed by that body and now will go to the governor to be vetoed or signed, HB means they originated in the House and still have to be passed by the Senate, which may or may not happen.) 

HCR 14 Concurrent Resolution Reaffirming Utah’s Important Relationship with Taiwan
HC13 Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Protection and Restoration of Wildlife Corridors
HB 335 Illegal Activities on Trust Lands Amendments
HCR 19 Concurrent Resolution Opposing the Introduction of Wolves
HCR 16 Concurrent Resolution Calling for the Creation of a National Federalism Task Force
HJR 15, 1st Sub Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – The Right to Hunt and Fish
HB 359 Municipal Annexation Revisions
HCR 18 Concurrent Resolution Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the Historic Voyage of the Mayflower and the Signing of the Mayflower Compact
HB 59 Tax Credit for Alternative Fuel Heavy Duty Vehicles
HB 157, 1st Sub Wine Services and Amendments
HB 313, 1st Sub Telehealth Parity Amendments
HB 235 2nd Sub Voluntary Home Energy Information Pilot Program
HB 108 Medical Specialists in Public Schools
HB 300, 1st Sub Justice Court Jurisdiction Amendments
HB 23, 2nd Sub Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Amendments
HB 166 Watershed Councils
HB 10, 2nd Sub Boards and Commissions Amendments
HB 344, 1st Sub Sex Offender Restrictions Amendments
HB 271 1st Sub Firearm Preemption Amendments
HB 269 2nd Sub Tax Credit Amendments
HB 356 1st Sub Railroad Amendments
HB 275 Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission Amendments
HB 348 Business Licensing Amendments
HB 304 Citizen Feedback Program
HB 363 Public Employees’ Health Plan Amendments
HB 350, 1st Sub Impaired Driving Amendments
HB 206, 3rd Sub Bail and Pretrial Release Amendments
HB 308 Lien Amendments
HCR 21 Concurrent Resolution Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
HB 146, 3rd Sub Driver License Suspension Amendments
HB 372, 1st Sub Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Amendments
HB 366 Utah Alternative Dispute Process for ADA Complaints Act
HB 211, 2nd Sub Renter Expenses Disclosure Requirements
HB 227, 1st Sub Motor Vehicle Insurance Revisions
HB 392, 1st Sub Early Warning Program Amendments
HB 340, 1st Sub Rampage Violence Prevention Study
HB 362 Overdose Reporting Amendments
HB 226, 2nd Sub Storm Water Permitting Amendments
HB 389, 2nd Sub Emergency Medical Service Amendments
HB 331 Water Infrastructure Safety and Maintenance
HB 311 Controlled Substance Enhancement Amendments
HB 370 Tourism Information Amendments
HB 242 Charter School Operations Amendments
HB 282 Voluntary Firearms Restrictions Amendments
HB 358 Poultry Amendments
HB 371 Wildlife Tagging Amendments
HB 423 Controlled Substances Database Act Amendments
HB 407 Regulatory Sandbox Amendments
HCR 20 Concurrent Resolution Honoring the Utah Hospital Association for 100 Years of Service
HB 289 Public Education Retirement Amendments
HCR 22 Concurrent Resolution Concerning the Protection, Development, and Beneficial Use of Utah’s Colorado River Compact Allocation
HB 373 Attorney General Fund Amendments
HB 374, 1st Sub Local Government Building Regulation
HB 382 Property Tax Records Amendments
HB 400, 1st Sub National Guard Training Amendments
HB 388, 1st Sub Land Use Development and Management Revisions
HB 62, 2nd Sub Enterprise Zone Tax Credit Amendments
HB 347, 1st Sub Inland Port Modifications
HB 232, 2nd Sub Food Revisions
HB 158, 2nd Sub Data Privacy Amendments
HB 349 Insurance Modifications
HB 360 Interactive Reading Software Amendments
HB 376 Dropout Prevention Amendments
HB 328, 2nd Sub Division of Water Resources Study Update
SB 75, 1st Sub Legislative Audit Amendments
SB 51, 2nd Sub Secondary Water Requirements
SB 142 Delivery Driver Age Requirements
SB 109, 1st Sub New State Construction Set-aside for Art Amendments
SB 67, 3rd Sub Disposition of Fetal Remains
SB 34 Sex Offender Registry Amendments
SB 113, 1st Sub Arts Program Funding Amendments
SB 143 Fiscal Impact of Initiatives
SB 23, 2nd Sub Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Amendments
SCR 6, 1st Sub Concurrent Resolution for Study of Local Option Sales Tax
SB 149, 1st Sub Occupational and Professional Licensing Amendments
SB 111, 1st Sub Higher Education Amendments
SB 127 Nursing Licensing Amendments
SB 110 Electronic Driver License Amendments
SB 130, 1st Sub 911 Communications Amendments
SB 154, 1st Sub Taxed Interlocal Entity Amendments
SB 100 State Institutional Trust Lands Administration Amendments
SB 144 Water Related Process Amendments
SB 67, 4th Sub Disposition of Fetal Remains
SB 148 Oil and Gas Modifications
HB 412 Credit Reporting Notification Amendments
HB 305, 2nd Sub Urban Development Amendments
HB 377 Health Care Funding Amendments
HB 391 School Textbook Fee Amendments
HB 288, 1st Sub Prosecutor Data Collection Amendments
SB 147, 1st Sub School Internship Safety Agreements
SB 125 Single Sign-on Portal Amendments
HB 393 Municipal Annexation Amendments
HB 396, 2nd Sub Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Amendments
HB 332, 3rd Sub Special Needs Scholarship Amendments
SB 62 Reauthorization of Administrative Rules
HB 402, 1st Sub Regulatory Waiver Process
HB 316 Restricted Status Amendments
HB 343 Probate Notice Amendments
SB 131, 1st Sub Mining Amendments
HB 364, 4th Sub Abortion Revisions
HB 272, 2nd Sub Pharmacy Benefit Amendments

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments for me. If you would like to take a trip to the Capitol, I would love to have you sit on the House Floor with me and see how it all happens. Have a great week!

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