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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Budgeting Process

Senator Lyle Hillyard
State Senator, Cache and Rich Counties

As the budgeting process began, I thought about the changes I have seen during my service in the legislature.

I remember my first year in the Legislature - 1981 - when Scott Matheson was beginning his second term as Governor. The session lasted 60 days and began the second Monday in January. Governor Matheson gave his State of the State Address on the first morning. There was a great lobbying effort to have him mention your bill or project in his speech because it would help passage.

The morning following his State of the State, the Governor would present his budget message. That was the first time the legislature knew exactly what revenue figures he was using. His figures were usually different than ours (it seemed to me that the Governor always had higher figures so he could always spend more). By the end of the session, we would all have to come to agreement.

Twenty-five years later – 2006 - the Governor must announce his budget recommendations by December 15 so the legislature has a month to prepare. We also have a plan in place so the Governor’s and the legislature’s revenue figures are the same. The State of the State is now given in the early evening on primetime TV. There are no longer two separate speeches.

The Governor has always faced the challenge of making the first initiative before much of the economic information is finalized. He can only guess how Christmas sales will impact the ultimate picture, along with other factors that ending an old year and beginning a new one bring. During the session, he can have some input but must really wait until the legislative process has worked itself out and he sees exactly which of his priorities are not being properly funded. Anyone who follows the legislature knows things can change quickly. If the governor had to react to every idea and proposal, he would need several more full-time staffers just to issue press releases. It is truly marvelous how well the process works.

This session is quite typical. The Governor proposed his priorities. Because of the substantial revenue this year, everyone has suggestions (many quite good) on how best to allocate or spend the money. New revenue figures in mid-February could change the outlook significantly.

I believe the legislature has shown wisdom in putting in place an early approval of last year’s budget with add-on’s. Most people can agree that funding the new growth in public education including charter schools and the federal mandated programs need money. The tension between the Governor’s plan and the various goals of the two legislative bodies, however, will cause us to consider a diversity of views and finally reach a consensus that works unbelievably well every year. There is truly a diversity of views and priorities held by legislators that will be carefully considered and become part of the final budget picture.


Anonymous Joe Taxpayer said...

Good luck with what promises to be a very complicated task this year. Thanks for the perspective.

1/11/2006 5:19 PM  

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