By Tom Hatch
Utah State Senator, District 28 (the most beautiful Senate District on earth)
Legislators are going to make some tough decisions in the next few days.
Every one of us wants to cut taxes, and we will cut them. But to cut as deeply as some of the proposals we've seen doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Senate voted to cut taxes by $100 million - the largest tax cut in state history. I'm concerned that if you go much north of that amount we may not meet the real needs of the state.
Both the House and Senate have agreed to fund the growth in public education as well as increased Medicaid costs in addition to some other minor adjustments. That bill has passed through the House and Senate and has been signed by Governor Huntsman. The House and Senate have also agreed, in concept at least, to fund transportation and water projects (mainly transportation) with an additional $200 million of ongoing monies. Combine this with increased insurance costs, retirement benefits and a modest salary increase for state employees and there is nothing left for consideration to meet the other needs of the state.
It does not make sense to force the Division of Wildlife Resources or our State Parks to pass on increased costs by raising fees to the sportsman and others while at the same time giving a huge tax cut. This is just one example from a committee with which I am deeply involved. Every other appropriations co-chair can give examples just as compelling for their committees.
No one is talking about reckless government growth. I don't like growing government at all, but when you have a job to do, and the means to get the job done right, it doesn't make much sense to abdicate our responsibility to the citizens of one of the fastest growing states in the country.
I too have had numerous contacts from constituents wanting everything from a half billion in tax relief to "spend it all and tax me more". In every case without exception those who contacted me did not have much information regarding the budget or the budget process nor were they looking at the big picture of balancing tax policy with the true needs (not wants) of our state.
We need to take a hard look at the numbers, and cowboy up to our job as decision makers and statesmen.