By Lyle Hillyard
District 25 Senator, and Executive Appropriations Committee Co-Chair
We are considering the use of a budgeting process that seemed to work very well last year. Near the middle of the 2005 Session, the Utah House and Senate passed a bill that funded about 90% of the state budget. These were the non-controversial items most of us felt obviously needed to be funded.That left the remaining requests – and the money we had left to spend - clearly in focus. This year we might do the same thing, but earlier. Maybe even by the second week of session.
An early approval of the base budget will prevent anyone with an intensely desired project from holding the total state budget hostage at the end of session. It will move the simple tasks out of the way – and allow subcommittees to concentrate on the tougher issues they need to debate and decide.
Our appropriations subcommittees are now fairly seasoned in their roles. They all have a minimum of one year's experience with their agencies and budgets. In many cases they have much more.
We plan to send all bills that appropriate money for a specific project (which are NOT part of the early base budget) to the proper subcommittee - and avoid the phenomenon of the Executive Appropriations Committee making late-session add-ons without proper subcommittee consideration and prioritization.Budget requests should be compared and prioritized by the subcommittee best suited to see the request in perspective. If a lobbyist or special interest group approaches me and asks me to fund a project by adding it into a budget bill, I will recommend that he or she talk to the subcommittee chair over that area of state government - so it can be prioritized with other like requests.
Wouldn’t it be great if the budget was decided early? With only the contested items remaining we may find the final few days of session to be much less stressful. An additional benefit is that we empower our subcommittees, who really are in the best position to make informed, balanced decisions on budget priorities.
What I've written here are my thoughts as of right now. On Monday afternoon, the Legislative Process Committee
will be meeting to give further consideration to these issues. Perhaps I’ll have a new perspective after the discussion.
Anyone wishing to attend can come to the West Building of the Utah State Capitol Campus. We’ll be meeting in room W130 at 2:00 p.m.
You can also listen in via our on-line audio stream