Welcome to The Senate Site

Monday, July 31, 2006

Goodbye Mike

Governor's General Lee leaves for Supreme Court

Buena suerte, amigo. Vaya con Dios.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Blog: Utah Taxpayers Association

You listened to Lyle Hillyard's audio blog on the most recent TC-23 and now you want more. Who could blame you?

Revenue junkies can immerse themselves in additional insight on the Taxpayers Association’s new blog site.

URL: UtahTaxpayer.blogspot.com

Smitten by Mitt

Steve at Orbiter Dicta discusses the Romney buzz in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Good news for Small School Districts

By Carlene Walker
Utah State Senator, District 8

A preliminary feasibility study indicates that a new school district, consisting of
  • Cottonwood heights
  • Draper
  • Midvale, and
  • Sandy
would be a healthy division. A newly created district would not damage the remaining Jordan School District and there would be no tax increase for residents of either district. In fact, after the debt service is paid by the new, smaller school district, there will be the potential for lower taxes, or smaller class sizes.

This report went public last night at the new Cottonwood Heights City Council Meeting. You can read a copy here (please excuse my scribbling in the margins).

The ad hoc group continues to meet to work out details of HB 77 (creating smaller school districts).

I'll keep our blog readers posted.

Washington Post: Belwethers

In this podcast, the Washington Post scrutinizes Eight Belwether Issues and anticipates how each might impact congressional races this fall.

It ain’t Senate Radio, but it’s worth a listen.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Romance & Intrigue

this is an audio post - click to play
By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25 and
Senate Chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee

You can get the gist of what I've written below by listening to the audio blog we recorded this afternoon. Click on Senate Radio to listen (then minimize the screen to stay on this page).

One of the reports that I follow very closely is the TC23, issued by the State Tax Commission each month.

Take a look:
TC-23 - July, 2006

The latest report shows our account balances at the end of our fiscal year, June 30, 2006. It shows Utah State’s income from specific sources and compares them to last year’s revenue collections, and to our original projections for this year.

You will see some interesting things; most very positive with a few items that should cause some concern.

On the first line you will notice that our sales and use tax collections are up 10.2% (from $1.634 B. to $1.8 B.). You will see in column two that we had projected that figure at $1.7 B. for the full 12 month period, thus we ended up receiving $56.9 M more than estimated.

On the second line you will notice that the individual income tax is up 17.8% or $162.6 M. The typically volatile corporate franchise tax has experienced the largest percent growth of 85.6% or $113.5 M. This gives us a tentative year-end surplus balance of $351.3 M.

The positive things are that the income and corporate franchise tax continues to grow. People are earning more income and corporations are making more profit. Great! Great!

On the other hand, the sales tax, which is the chief source of money for our General Fund, is not growing as fast. These figures do not yet reflect the 2 cent reduction of the sales tax on food, which will take effect January 1, 2007.

The Motor Fuel tax collection is down slightly which indicates people are not driving as much. That trend will probably reflect itself in the future with reduced sales tax income on the purchase of cars.

These figures may change slightly before we get to the real surplus amount. There will be some adjustment for lapsing balances. At least 50% of the General Fund surplus will be transferred into the Rainy Day General Fund account. 25% of the money in the Individual Income and Corporate Franchise tax surplus will go into the Rainy Day Educational Fund, thus reducing the TC-23 projected figures by approximately $100 million.

I have learned from experience that you cannot look at the increase and automatically assume we will continue to have these types of increases in the next fiscal year. Too many factors need to be considered. It is very difficult in January of 2007, to project what the economy will be doing eighteen months later. If the economy starts to slow down or change in any regard, especially in the sales tax or income tax area, it will impact our projections.

I am thankful the revenues are up. I am glad our people are doing better than expected. The investments we are making are working. It would not be wise, however, to begin making plans to spend the "new" money until final figures are given.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Nightside Project

Ethan Millard, who for one brief moment in time was a senate intern (and who must share blame for the Senate Cam), has found a new role as radio man on KSL’s new Nightside Project.
Weekday evenings
7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
102.7 FM, (or listen live on-line)
The Nightside Project is edgy, with a touch of class. They talk about technology, truckers and politics. They quote Napoleon Dynamite.

Pro: Now we have something cool to listen to on our way to and from evening meetings.

Con: It's probably just a matter of time before they head-butt the legislature on the air.

Rocky Hearts the Legislature

Robert Gehrke reports in Out Of Context:
Anderson was praised for Salt Lake City's effort to reduce greenhouse gas and improve energy efficiency, but when asked if he's been working with Utah's governor on statewide projects, Anderson responded:

"I think he gets this. It's just that he's facing the most conservative, backward Legislature on the planet," he said, drawing laughter from his audience.

"This isn't on C-SPAN or anything is it?" he asked. "No. They already know what I think of them anyway."

If the Mayor of Salt Lake finds the legislature to be cooler toward him next session, will he count that as a victory in his fight against global warming?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Web Cam in Chambers

The Senate Cam is now stationed behind a five-volume set of the Utah Code in the front of the Senate Chamber.

Senators will gather at noon. We’ll hold confirmation votes on the Governor’s appointees and swear in Wayne Niederhauser as Utah’s new Senator representing District 9.

You can also listen live on-line.

The Trib on Tax Reform

Today’s article: Tax reform regains some momentum
Senate leadership, which earlier resisted the House-proposed bifurcated system because it would have made it difficult to predict revenues, has warmed to a version that would include a simple flat tax option.

"We are seeing refinement in the idea," Valentine said. "We are seeing something closer to what the Senate could accept."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tax Reform Reloaded?

"Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
- Utah Tax Reform, 2006

Today’s Deseret Morning News: Utah GOP leaders push tax cut plans

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farewell to President Mansell

By John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

Former Senate President Al Mansell gave me his letter of resignation a few minutes ago. It is with bittersweet feelings that I will be accepting his resignation.

Al Mansell has been my mentor, friend and confidant throughout the time I have served in the Utah Senate. His twelve years of service has yielded so many benefits for the state of Utah, it is hard to even remember them all.
  • One of his most noteworthy projects is his close involvement with the reconstruction of the Utah State Capitol. Who better to comprehend and oversee the renovation of our capitol than one of the preeminent developers in the state? Al has been sensitive to the historic nature of the building, while adding a number of innovations to make it more usable and more accessible to the people of Utah.

  • He presided during the post-9/11 budget crunch. Cutting millions of dollars out of base budgets was hard, very hard. But to come back in six months and do it again was even harder.

  • He brought added prestige to the state when he was elected by his professional peers as the President of the National Association of Realtors. Such national recognition does not happen very often to smaller states, such as Utah. Al presided with excellence over this association, with its powerful national and international presence. He was instrumental in providing significant humanitarian aid from realtors to the Tsunami Survivors and Hurricane Katrina victims.

  • Speaking of international recognition, Al and Margurite helped host the world during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. For 10 days, they were everywhere (I know, I saw them every place that I went).

  • As a parting accomplishment, he spearheaded the passage of USTAR, one of the most aggressive economic development programs ever undertaken by this state. “Now are the good times, but don’t waste it . . . invest in the future,” was his constant reminder.
Al will be remembered by his colleagues for sincerely caring about good public policy; being tough on the outside but having genuine compassion on the inside. His ability to grasp complex issues quickly and come to a rapid decision was phenomenal.

Thank you, Al, for your friendship and 12 years of service to Utah. You will be sorely missed.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Goodbye to the Senate

By Al Mansell
Utah State Senator, District 9, and
Former President of the Utah Senate

I began serving in the Legislature in July of 1994. The past 12 years have not been easy, but my time in the Senate has been an unconditional honor and privilege.

I always asserted that I was not a politician, and didn’t want to become one. When I started my service in the legislature I said when the time came for me to move on, I would.

Well, that time has come. Because of time restraints and my other commitments I feel that I need to step down and make room for a new person to represent my district. I’ll sign my resignation letter tomorrow, when I return to Salt Lake City.

The vacancy will be filled through the normal process provided in the Constitution and the Utah Code.

My time in the senate has been one of my most cherished experiences. It was an experience I never expected but one which I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life. What made it shine for me was the stellar quality of the people in my district, my legislative colleagues, professional staff and others with whom I associated statewide.

Best of luck to all of you, my friends. It has been a pleasure.

2 More on Medicaid

Boy, we hate to stir the pot on this one, but today's Top Story on Stateline.org focuses on Utah’s Medicaid dental challenge.
Utah to use gifts to pay for Medicaid
Fair article. One of their points -- which didn't receive nearly enough attention from the lynch mobs following the “special” session -- was as follows:
“only half of the pool of taxpayer money dedicated to providing dental services last year was spent because many dentists refused to take Medicaid patients. They complained that Medicaid reimbursement rates were far too low.”
We agree. Any real solution must address reimbursment rates for Medicaid providers. What good is pushing more money into the program when they are unable to utilize the funds already there?

While we’re on the subject, a few lost souls may have missed the editorial last week in West Virginia’s Wheeling News Register:
Substituting Charity For Big Government
Worth reading. Here’s an exerpt:
"The easy preference of many of the political class would have been to commit more tax money to the Medicaid program. But Utah residents seem to have a better idea, and if donors come through, the nation just might see the first significant push-back against top-down, government-run welfare since the 1960s.

"Politicos and charity leaders elsewhere — too many of whom in recent years have taken to the idea that welfare-like programs are beyond the private sector’s capacity — should take note. Perhaps they underestimate Americans’ capacity for generosity and compassion."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Be Big Brother

Senate President John Valentine is working in his office this afternoon.

Senate Cam

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pre-November Matchup

Heads-up:

The Davis County Republicans will take on the Davis County Democrats in a softball game.
When: Saturday, August 12, 2006 at 11:00 a.m.

Where: Ellison Park, 700 North 2200 West, in Layton (just south of Swan Lakes Golf Course)
Questions? Contact Todd Weiler, chair of the Davis County GOP.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Week Ahead

Today's UPD:

Four legislative meetings are scheduled this week, including the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel, Wednesday at 2 p.m.; the Special Districts Subcommittee, also Wednesday at 2 p.m.; the Water Issues Task Force, Thursday at 9 a.m.; and the Tax Review Commission, Friday at 1 p.m. The main focus of the Water Task Force will be water conservation. The tax review commission will address the land value tax and sales tax exemptions, in addition to other tax issues.

For locations and agendas of all the meetings, see the legislative calendar.

Friday, July 07, 2006

New Jersey

Glad to see our sister state was able to work out a compromise agreement and pass a budget.

Interestingly, a New Jersey-style Shutdown would not happen in Utah -- not because we’re all angels and love each other that much, but because of a recent policy experiment in the budgeting process.

The Utah Legislature passes a base budget (the previous year’s budget adjusted for inflation, federal program money, and other non-controversial items) in the first several days of the legislative session. We then spend the rest of the time debating tax cuts, new spending proposals and more controversial items.

The upshot is that it is much more difficult for our state government to be held hostage over a single policy initiative or line item. Worst-case scenario – in cases of standoff, gridlock, and breakdown – the state government would run off of the last year’s base budget – which was passed with a few adjustments in the first few days of session, before the fighting really got started.

We’ve used the new method for two years now and it seems to be working well.

President Valentine in yesterday's KCPW interview:
"In the first 10 days, we take the non-controversial items and pass those base budgets. And then we argue on the more controversial issues towards the end," explains Valentine. "It leaves us with a base budget by default if every thing else falls apart."

"That's [one of the reasons] why Utah is one of the best financially-managed states in the Nation," adds Valentine.
Previous blogs on the Utah process:
Base Budgets? (January 12, 2006)

Early Budget Approval (October 15, 2005)

Good news on the economic front

"Utah’s economic performance continues to rank with the best in the nation."


and

"Utah is seeing good job growth, low unemployment, a resurgent technology sector and a strong housing market, as well as solid earnings among its insured financial institutions."


Certainly beats the alternative. Thanks to UPD for sending the links.

Utah Volunteers

A KSL Editorial spotlighted Utah’s remarkable rate of volunteerism (something John Valentine mentioned in Monday’s blog).
Utah has the highest percentage of volunteers among seniors, baby boomers and young adults. And among college students, the Utah volunteering rate of 62.9% is a stunning 22% higher than the next closest state.
Good job, Utah. That’s the way it should be.

By the way - anyone wanting to volunteer for the Utah Senate feel free to send us an E-mail.

We also have a stellar internship program for the Legislative Session. U of U, BYU, Weber State, USU, SUU, and UVSC all send us excellent interns and we couldn’t run the session without them. If you are interested, contact the chair of your political science department (but you don’t have to be a political science major to succeed here – just bright and willing).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Spokane

Picked this up at The Thicket:
. . . the Spokesman-Review began broadcasting its twice-daily editorial meetings over the Internet. In a world where the public -- and indeed legislatures -- are often in the dark on how decisions are made on what stories newspapers cover and feature, this is an eye-popping, jaw-dropping moment.

Anyone with a decent Internet connection and free QuickTime software can watch and listen as editors and reporters debate and analyze the day's news . . . .
Wow.

George Pyle and the Pyle-Drivers are blogging over at the Tribune -- respect them for that -- but how long until we see something like this webcast in Utah?
Read the article in Editor & Publisher

Watch their meetings (10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. PST)

Scope out the area

Download QuickTime

News from a parallel universe

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Declaration

We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

That to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such principles and organizing it's powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
From the “Original Rough Draught” of the Declaration of Independence, 1776. More on the Declaration here.

Have a great Fourth of July.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Fourth of July

John Valentine
President of the Utah Senate

The Fourth of July season represents a week of BBQs, parades and fireworks, and for my wife and I -- in our other public service role -- call outs for search and rescue.

As of this writing, our search and rescue unit has responded to 18 calls in the last 16 days:
  • An airplane crash in Utah Lake (took five days to recover the pilot and two passengers);

  • A hiker with a broken leg in a waterfall high on the backside of Timp (took all night to get him back to a landing zone for a Life Flight pickup);

  • Three lost Finnish students in the Aspen Grove area (actually found them on the next mountain over);

  • A young lady with a broken leg at Stewart Falls;

  • Two people on a wave runner on Utah Lake at night (wave runner quit running and sank . . . thank goodness for life vests);

  • A lost scout leader above camp Maple Dell in Payson Canyon (spent the night climbing over logs from a major forest fire);

  • Several stranded hikers on various cliffs;

  • A flash flood in Diamond Fork Canyon;

  • The recovery of the body of a snowshoer caught in an avalanche last winter high up on Timp;

  • . . . and the list goes on.
These calls were all within a two and a half week period and represent the work of only one unit: The Utah County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team. Other volunteer units are also stretched pretty thin.

I love the spirit of willing, enthusiastic volunteers in our state.

I read this past week about the Peoples Republic of China closing off access to the internet to its citizens and censoring blogging. I hear about continual civilian bombing in Iraq. I watch the elections in Mexico where the candidates offer a clear ideological choice but the results are too close to call at this time.

These things really help you realize the power of democracy and the value of the principles we are celebrating tomorrow - even simple things like the freedom to volunteer for public service and to post this blog.

It is true that freedom is earned, not free.

I hope we continue to earn it.

Have a great Fourth of July, and please be careful out there.

Thomas Jefferson

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.

"These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."

Source: Today's Patriot Post.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

America

Bono spoke at the University of Pennsylvnia’s Commencement Ceremony on May 17, 2004.

Here is an exerpt from his address:
I know idealism is not playing on the radio right now, you don't see it on TV, irony is on heavy rotation, the knowingness, the smirk, the tired joke. I've tried them all out but I'll tell you this, outside this campus--and even inside it--idealism is under siege beset by materialism, narcissism and all the other isms of indifference.

… But I don't want to make you cop to idealism, not in front of your parents, or your younger siblings. But what about Americanism? Will you cop to that at least? It's not everywhere in fashion these days, Americanism. Not very big in Europe, truth be told. No less on Ivy League college campuses. But it all depends on your definition of Americanism.

Me, I'm in love with this country called America. I'm a huge fan of America, I'm one of those annoying fans, you know the ones that read the CD notes and follow you into bathrooms and ask you all kinds of annoying questions about why you didn't live up to thatŠ.

I'm that kind of fan. I read the Declaration of Independence and I've read the Constitution of the United States, and they are some liner notes, dude. As I said yesterday I made my pilgrimage to Independence Hall, and I love America because America is not just a country, it's an idea. You see my country, Ireland, is a great country, but it's not an idea. America is an idea, but it's an idea that brings with it some baggage, like power brings responsibility. It's an idea that brings with it equality, but equality even though it's the highest calling, is the hardest to reach. The idea that anything is possible, that's one of the reasons why I'm a fan of America. It's like hey, look there's the moon up there, lets take a walk on it, bring back a piece of it. That's the kind of America that I'm a fan of.

In 1771 your founder Mr. Franklin spent three months in Ireland and Scotland to look at the relationship they had with England to see if this could be a model for America, whether America should follow their example and remain a part of the British Empire.

Franklin was deeply, deeply distressed by what he saw. In Ireland he saw how England had put a stranglehold on Irish trade, how absentee English landlords exploited Irish tenant farmers and how those farmers in Franklin's words "lived in retched hovels of mud and straw, were clothed in rags and subsisted chiefly on potatoes." Not exactly the American dream...

So instead of Ireland becoming a model for America, America became a model for Ireland in our own struggle for independence.

When the potatoes ran out, millions of Irish men, women and children packed their bags got on a boat and showed up right here. And we're still doing it. We're not even starving anymore, loads of potatoes. In fact if there's any Irish out there, I've breaking news from Dublin, the potato famine is over you can come home now. But why are we still showing up? Because we love the idea of America.

We love the crackle and the hustle, we love the spirit that gives the finger to fate, the spirit that says there's no hurdle we can't clear and no problem we can't fix.

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