Here is an update on a couple of bills the House has voted on and a bit about tax reform. Also, every Friday I do a Facebook live video about the week, so check out my Facebook page if you would like to watch.
SB 96 passed and was signed by the governor last week. This legislation covers EVERYONE up to 100% of the poverty level starting April 1st at a 70/30 match from the federal government–the Federal Government puts in $70 for every $30 that Utah puts in. It is important to note that the money that the Federal Government “gives” us is our own money that we have pay to them in FICA deductions from our paychecks. Something that I think is a very positive item in SB 96 is that it includes a year grace period for those on medicaid who then transition into working more hours or are able to get a job that takes them out of the qualifying income bracket. They will be able to keep their medicaid coverage for a year to help them get ahead (no federal plan does that).
The state has applied for a federal waiver that would move us to a 90/10 match for this coverage. If we don’t get that waiver by January 1st of next year, medicaid will expand to cover those from 100-138% of the poverty level, because that is covered by a 90/10 match, and apply for waivers to add a work requirement and enrollment caps. A very sustainable and fiscally responsible funding mechanism is in place for this possibility that projects a growing reserve into the future.
I am so relieved and happy that everyone in Utah will have access to health care, no matter their situation, on April 1st, and that it is being funded in a very responsible way. Not only will this improve quality of life for so many, but it will save the state so much money in other social services programs. I am on the Social Services Appropriations Committee, and have seen where these saving will happen.
My hope is that people will have open minds and give this plan a chance. There is so much hyperbole and bias on both sides of this issue, but the bottom line is that we have a responsibility to take care of those who are most vulnerable AND we need to be fiscally responsible and make sure whatever we do is sustainable. I feel this plan will accomplish both.
The House voted to approve HB 166, the Down Syndrome Non-discrimination Abortion Act, on Friday. If passed into law, this bill (which I support) would require that a woman who is given a genetic or diagnostic test that indicates her unborn baby might have Down syndrome be given information to help her understand this syndrome.
A second part of the bill would take effect only if other similar bills that are working their way through the courts are declared constitutional. It says that a baby may not be aborted if the only reason for the abortion is that the baby might have Down syndrome.
For any mom who receives the difficult news that her baby might have this genetic abnormality, there are resources and supports available. If the mom decides she can’t take care of her baby for any reason, there are waiting lists of people who want to adopt Down syndrome babies.
In keeping with this year’s theme of handling big issues, the legislature has been discussing tax reform. In a year in which a budget surplus is projected, many have wondered why tax reform is necessary. I agree with the reasoning behind restructuring taxes, but I think we need to be extremely careful about how we go about it. Also, our teachers have been told for years that when the economy improved, they would see the benefits. The economy is doing great, and I think it is time for education to reap some of the windfall. I am also worried about small business owners and how this restructuring might affect them.
Following is an excerpt from the legislative newsletter and a video that explains the restructuring.
The reality is that Utah’s economy has grown dramatically in recent years. With the rise of the service economy and the dramatic growth of e-commerce, we have outgrown a tax system that was designed for a manufacturing-based economy. As the market continues to shift over the next several years, our outmoded tax system is expected to bring in significantly lower levels of state revenue. As revenue decreases, costs rise, and our state continues to grow, a modernized tax system is vital.
Without reform, funding for critical programs—such as transportation, infrastructure, and education—will be jeopardized. Our already congested roads and growing communities will become even more crowded, and funding for upkeep and maintenance will diminish, reducing overall quality of life.
We are currently experiencing a boom in Utah’s economy. This surplus allows for more flexibility and security in the budgeting process, making now a good time to think about restructuring our tax system. If we reform taxes now, our state will experience greater security and prosperity when inevitable periods of instability arise.
As legislators, our job is to prepare for the future by keeping the long view in mind.This sometimes means we must make difficult decisions. However, taking the long view ensures we will maintain the high quality of life we currently enjoy. With a rapidly growing population and economy, now might be the best time to modernize and restructure our tax system, guaranteeing future growth and success throughout the state.
To learn more, watch this video.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. If you have the opportunity to come up to the Capitol during the session, please let me know and you can sit with me on the floor i(if you want), or I will find time to talk to you. My intern, who manages my schedule, can be texted or called at 385-479-1358.