Just released budget projections

Today, the Utah Legislature and Governor’s Office released updated revenue numbers for the upcoming general session. Utah is expected to see a 1.5% increase in available revenue in the current 2021 fiscal year and a 6.5% increase in the 2022 fiscal year. Hooray!! This is a great relief, because it allows us to re-fund some of the important needs that were cut because of worry about our economy in the pandemic. Utah’s fiscal health in the face of what has happened over the last 10 months is the envy of almost every other state in the country.

In addition, it is likely that states will be receiving a COVID relief package that is expected to include hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for ailing small businesses and jobless Americans; tens of billions of dollars in aid for other critical needs, such as vaccine distribution and schools; and a one-time check of between $600 and $700 for millions of Americans below a certain income threshold. You can read more about that here.

Education funding

Educators have made great sacrifices to keep schools open and educate Utah’s children under 2020’s challenging circumstances. The Legislature plans to provide one-time stipends of $1,500 to teachers and $1,000 to school employees to assist them with the costs they have borne and as a thank you for the dedication they’ve shown to Utah students during this unpredictable year. (Part-time employee stipends will be prorated).

The Legislature also plans to use $235 million of ongoing funds to increase the public education base budget. These appropriations fulfill the Legislature’s promise to education following voters approval of Constitutional Amendment G, and do so a year earlier than planned. Learn more here: https://house.utah.gov/?p=8228

During the 2021 General Session, we will discuss additional investments in education and infrastructure, and take a look at potential tax cuts.

Federal COVID-19 Revenue

A significant portion of this new available revenue is a result of extraordinary federal government intervention. The U.S. federal government injected between $10-$12 billion in Utah’s economy this year, including $1.25 billion CARES Act funding as well as extensive amounts of direct aid from the federal government to individuals and businesses through stimulus payments, expanded unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program.

Executive Appropriations Committee

The budget and appropriations process determine almost everything that happens in the government. A great bill can go through all the steps to become a law, but if the necessary money is not appropriated for the bill to be enacted, it will go nowhere. Programs, departments, employees, and policies are all continued at the dictates of appropriations.

In Utah, all legislators are assigned to an appropriations committee where we review expenditures and appropriations, look for savings, and prioritize money spent within the restrictions of the budget. These prioritizations are then given to the Executive Appropriations Committee, or EAC, which is made up of assigned legislators and senators, and they create the final budget we vote on, hopefully based on the recommendations of the committees.

This process has strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is that is gives all legislators experience, oversight, and somewhat of a say in the budget process. One of the weaknesses is that each department is in a silo; appropriations committees only know the budget they are working on, and can’t prioritize in relation to the other committees’ important needs. The EAC is tasked with the job of looking over the entire budget and prioritizing across all departments. I usually disagree with at least a few things in the budget, but I know the EAC has a very difficult job.

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