By Lyle Hillyard Utah State Senator and Senate Chair of Exec Approps
The latest round is the third time I have been involved with the state going back and reducing budgets because of a downturn in the economy. I was Co-Chair of Executive Appropriations the first time when we had the shortfalls under Governor Norm Bangerter. He understood both the seriousness of delay and the difficulty in doing the reductions. At that time we raised taxes and reduced budgets by 3% across the board even for Public Education - well into the school year as I recall. Because of his firm leadership, everyone stepped up and the job was done.
During Governor Leavitt’s administration when shortfalls first began to appear he was convinced that the revenue downturn would only be temporary. He did not call the legislature into special session. He tried to do it administratively and that turned out to be a nightmare. He tried to hold Public Education harmless by advocating the use of on-going General Funds that had been put into the roads. His statements that these reductions can be handled by this transfer created the impression with Public Education that the legislature was just being mean to even talk about budget cuts to them and the whole process was very unpleasant.
When I first heard that there were shortfalls in the revenue forecast this year, I met with John Nixon, the Governor’s budget director, and we discussed how best to handle this problem. There was a tremendous amount of work done by him and his staff as well as our Fiscal Analyst, Jonathon Ball and his staff in getting ready for this session. They identified where the reductions could be made and where pockets of money could be found to soften the impact of reductions. We were able to cover many of the most critical areas and ease the transition. Agencies can now prepare for any reductions that they will need to absorb in the FY 10 budget which begins July 1, 2009.
To accomplish this during just two days of actual meetings is a tribute to the staffs involved. I believe that almost every member of our Fiscal Analyst’s staff worked through the night, last Thrusday. They had the bills printed and ready by noon on Friday.
Special Session action gives until January to see what other changes in revenue we may have and to fine tune what we have done to get ready for the FY 10 budget. Were programs and people cut off from beneficial results? Unfortunately, yes. Of course they were. It would be like you reporting to work in the morning and told that your income had been cut by 5%. You probably have fixed costs that must still be met and spending you like must be reduced.
Overall, I think the process was healthy and will make us better appreciate the services we have and the burden being carried by the taxpayers of this state. It is hard not to compare what is happening here to what happens in Washington where no one has seemed to get the picture that spending money we don’t have only causes more problems. I think the public can be thankful and proud of the legislators of both parties who stepped up to the problem and will make this transition over these fiscal problems much easier.
2:00 p.m. ~ Executive Appropriations Committee meets to discuss the new budget bill (click here for the audio).
2:30-3:00 p.m. ~ Start debate in both chambers on the remaining 4 bills. We should be done by 4 or 5:00 p.m. Following debates, we will hold another informal Media Q&A in President Valentine's office. If you can't make it here you can watch the live-stream.
The Legislature is scaling back it's own budget along with the other state agencies. In fact we're cutting a little deeper than most (between four and five percent), including axing the pay raise set by the Legislative Compensation Committee.
Like sinners left behind in the Rapture, Robert Gehrke, Lisa Riley Roche, and Max Roth stayed late in an otherwise empty Capitol to get the full story on last night's meetings. That's why they have the most recent details other outlets missed.
They stayed so late that the Utah Highway Patrol had to unlock the door after our final Joint Leadership meeting and let everyone back into the dark, empty, echoing (but still beautiful) Capitol Building. Yeah, we have key cards. No they didn't work.
So, if you’re highly interested in the special legislative session happening today, where would you look for current information? The newspapers? TV? Utah Policy Daily? Wrong.
If you want instant information, live audio and video of committee and floor action, commentary by legislators themselves, tweets from Twitter, links to mainstream media coverage, links to a variety of blogs, YouTube video, podcasts on Senate Radio, including full audio of press conferences, then you would tune in to the Senate Site and the Legislature’s official site.
Ric Cantrell and his merry band of communications staffers, are running what amounts to a multi-media legislative “channel” that, combined with the Legislature’s official site is probably the most sophisticated and informative such web site in the country. Of course, traditional reporters will note that what you won’t find is objective reporting and analysis because the site is designed to support the Senate majority. However, most of it is pretty straightforward without a lot of spin and partisanship. Some of it is amateurish and a little slap-dash, but it’s still remarkably good and informative, and it is clearly a forecast of things to come.
Although, I must admit, I’m not so sure about thisTwitter stuff. Tweeting may be great if you’re a parakeet but, personally, I like my public policy in more substantive chunks. But maybe it’ll grow on me.
"In their own words, this bipartisan group of leaders reveal how they are reducing government spending and reforming bureaucracy; how they are collaborating with the private sector to build new infrastructure and deliver cost-savings and better services to taxpayers; how they are advancing market-based transportation solutions to reduce congestion and improve mobility; how they reforming public education delivery and advancing school choice; and how they are reforming urban public transit operations."
As we prepare to convene in special session to deal with budget woes, we are undoubtedly seeing the “hunkering down” to protect each area of the budget by certain groups. Special interest groups are a fury with email, and editorial boards have begun their opining on what we should cut and what we should not cut.
I don’t fault advocates, departments and all who argue for their piece of the pie but the Legislature does not have the luxury of limiting our view to individual silos of money. We have to look at the entire picture and make decisions based on long-term effects to those affected by individual pots of money and to the tax payers in general.
I simply look to our friends at the Federal level, and their inability to recognize the realities of their long-term financial situation and make appropriate cuts, and then the Legislature’s job becomes crystal clear - do our job and balance the budget. Even if it is right before an election.
The easy and irresponsible thing to do would be to simply cut transportation, run to the bonding trough and incur major debt (which we may or may not be able to afford in the future). This should not be our first line of defense. The fact is, right now we can tighten our belt AND avoid major debt. This last session we doled out $776 million dollars. We now know that we have less than that amount to work with ($272 M less, to be exact). Let's not lose sight of the fact that this is still an appropriation of over $500 Million in new money - and some suggest rushing to incur a large debt?
I fully expect the Legislature to be criticized here and there by certain groups and some editorial boards who are unable and unwilling to look at the big picture or who have an agenda to push. That is fine by me so long as we do the right thing for the people of our state and avoid the US Congressional practice of sticking our head in the sand.
Utah isn’t the best fiscally managed state in the nation by mistake, and I appreciate working with gifted colleagues who are determined to keep it that way.
The Guv just called a special session, beginning Thursday morning.
Press release text (from Lisa Roskelley):
Salt Lake City - Utah Governor Jon Huntsman issued a call of the Utah State Legislature to begin a special session beginning Thursday, September 25, 2008 to address budget shortfalls from original projections.
The Revenue Estimates Committee, consisting of representatives from the Executive and Legislative branches, met today to determine revised Fiscal Year 2009 revenue projections, decreasing it by $272.4 million, leaving a remaining surplus of more than $330 million in new money for this fiscal year. The Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee will meet Thursday at 8 a.m. to adopt the new numbers.
“While Utah is seeing the impact of the national economy, our sound financial policies and practices have put the State in a fortunate position of being able to deal with this downturn in our revenue with a balanced approach,” Governor Huntsman said. “We continue to demonstrate why Utah is the best managed state in the nation by this proactive approach to dealing with Utah’s budget. It’s critical to realize our State is still performing.”
Governor Huntsman, House Speaker Greg Curtis and Senate President John Valentine have agreed to hold public education harmless in the budget reconsiderations during the special session.
The Special Session call is as follows:
WHEREAS, since the adjournment of the 2008 General Session of the Fifty-Seventh Legislature of the State of Utah, matters have arisen that require immediate legislative attention; and,
WHEREAS, Article VII, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Utah provides that the Governor may, by proclamation, convene the Legislature into Special Session;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., Governor of the State of Utah, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Utah, do by this Proclamation call the Fifty-Seventh Legislature of the State of Utah into a First Special Session at the State Capitol Complex, in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 25th day of September 2008, at 9:00 a.m., for the following purposes:
1. To make adjustments to the FY2009 budget to conform with the most recent revenue estimates and to make amendments to statutes necessary to implement those budget adjustments.
2. To consider amending state and local sales and use tax provisions to address the transactions eligible for exemption as aircraft parts and equipment and to require the exemption to be claimed by refund under certain circumstances.
3. To consider legislation allowing the State Board of Education to exempt a school district or charter school from testing requirements under the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS).
4. To consider issuance of general obligation bonds for capital facilities and transportation projects.
It was with great satisfaction that I spent a few hours in my garden last Saturday. While it has been cold enough to turn the leaves red and yellow in Sardine Canyon, it has not frozen my garden. I dug new potatoes (planted later in the summer) and picked broccoli and corn (I plant four patches about two weeks apart. Patch #3 is now done and it looks like Patch #4 will be ready then end of this week if the frost doesn’t come). I also picked tomatoes, beans, and just under a case of the biggest and sweetest raspberries I have seen. The yellow delicious tree is also loaded and they are starting to sweeten up. It usually takes a good frost to really set the sugar.
In our press conference today President Valentine and others discussed how trying to live up to our reputation of being the best fiscally managed state demands informed, timely, decisive action - even when it's not very fun. It's important that we address financial challenges before they become a crisis.
Here on the Senate Site we've been discussing that Utah's revenue forecast has changed since the legislative session. The increase in state revenue (sales tax, gas tax, income tax) we projected will still be an increase, but it will be less than we anticipated. Last winter we allocated about $322 M for increased state spending. We'll probably need to scale that back to the tune of between $100 and $200 Million.
Thanks to the governor's initiative, each state agency has already been asked to define how they would handle a 1%, 3% and 5% decrease from what they were slated to receive. We'll work closely with the state agencies. Hopefully the careful analysis they have already done will make it easier to find the right places to scale back funding.
Depending on the new numbers, Public Education may also need to scale back last year's increase, just like the other agencies. However, we can authorize them to use the non-lapsing balance in their account to, in effect, hold them harmless for 2009. Public Education will be able to spend the increased amount we specified during the session, at least for the next year. We hope and expect that the natural growth in the economy will catch up by 2010 and allow us to maintain the funding increases of the past several years.
Some people have asked why now?
We've been here before. We learned in 2001 that waiting makes it more difficult. It is easier to save money over 9 months than 3. If we were to wait until the legislative session the fiscal year would be nearly 3/4 of the way over - and any change at that point would have to be fairly dramatic to hit the new target.
This won't be much fun, but it is the job we were elected to do. Waiting would be irresponsible.
Let's not lose site of the fact that our economy (and the state of our budget) is the envy of our legislative colleagues nationwide. Timely, responsible action now will ensure we move forward with a budget that continues to be balanced.
Whatever we do now can be adjusted in the next legislative session – hopefully upward, but you never know.
Things change. That said, here's the probable scenario for the next nine days:
Today through Monday: State economists, fiscal analysts and bright non-partisan staff will work to calculate new ranges for a modified revenue forecast. Difficult task. They will do it admirably. Then they will all meet and work out consensus numbers.
The next ten days will be fairly intense. As you are no doubt aware, the increase in state revenue is turning out to be less than we anticipated back in February.
Over the next week or so we're going to revise the forecast and scale back last year's budget increases to reflect the new reality. This is tentative, but we're probably looking at a Special Session next week.
Leadership teams from the House and Senate Majority held a press conference today to discuss what we need to do to maintain a balanced budget. You can listen in on Senate Radio.
Lyle Hillyard, Senate Chair of Exec Approps, will post more detail sometime tonight.
In November, Utah citizens will vote on five proposed amendments to the Utah State Constitution. Our staff has prepared the Ballot Titles and Impartial Analysis (as required by law) and I thought you might be interested in a preview.
You'll see this again when the 2008 Voters Guide is mailed out in a few weeks. I hope you'll read it. State government is a weighty matter but it goes pretty smoothly when voters are informed and paying attention.
Identity thieves will find it much tougher to ruin your life when you prohibit access to your credit. And the freeze is password protected so when you need someone to access your history, you can unfreeze it in 15-minutes.
Utah's urban corridor is at the forefront of the "new economy."
So much so that three Wasatch Front metro areas are in the Top 25 in the United States in the annual Best-Performing Cities index compiled by the Milken Institute and Greenstreet Real Estate Partners. Provo-Orem is in the No. 1 spot, with Salt Lake City at No. 3 and Ogden-Clearfield 18th.
The rankings speak to Utah's combination of institutions of higher education that spin off research into commercial products, the concentration of high-tech and medical science companies and a competitive pool of capital.
Report author Russ DeVol, an economist and director of Regional Economics at the Milken Institute, also cited the low cost of doing business in Utah, a pro-business attitude and the state's comparatively small exposure to the subprime mortgage crisis.
"So Utah overall has been the best performer in the past few years," said DeVol.
The Provo-Orem statistical area is the nation's "best-performing" city, according to a report out today.
The Milken Institute, a California-based economic think-tank, says the area jumped from eighth place last year to first this year based on strong job growth, wage appreciation and the health of the high-tech industry. Much of that can be attributed to its rapid recovery from the dot-com bust of the early 2000s from which other places are still recovering, said Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Institute.
"Provo actually has seen its high-tech employment rise above its previous peak in 2001," he said. "There aren't many places in the country that can say that."
Wednesday Buzz Written by LaVarr Webb & Associates
Right Way to Decentralize
In a Tuesday New York Times op-ed essay, former IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson suggests moving whole federal agencies and numerous federal workers out of Washington to “decentralize the executive branch of government.” He says it would “help limit the undue influence of Washington” and improve the economies of other parts of the country.
Here’s a much better idea: Don’t just move agencies out of Washington. Downsize the federal government by turning over much of what the federal government does to the states. Return to a balanced federalism as the founders of our country intended. Leave tax dollars and authority with the states. States would do the work less expensively with more accountability to citizens. There would be less partisan gridlock in Washington, less red ink, and the federal government wouldn’t be running every aspect of our lives. The federal government could do what it was designed to do and what it does best. States and local government would do the rest.
"The top 1% of filers paid 39.9% of all federal income taxes...the highest 5% paid 60.1% of total income tax and made 36.7% of all AGI. They each had adjusted gross incomes of at least $153,500. And the top 10% of filers, those with AGI's of $108,900 or more, bore 70.8% of the total tax burden while pulling in a little more than 47% of the total adjusted gross income.
Note that the bottom 50% of all filers paid 3% of the total income tax bill. The lowest-income earners actually had a NEGATIVE income tax rate because they get the earned income credit, which refunds income and payroll taxes."
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This morning I attended a very tender, touching, and inspiring event at the Capitol. I joined with hundreds of others on the south lawn of Capitol Hill for the Dedication Ceremony of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial.
Even as I approached the gathering, I sensed the significance of the impending ceremony. There were multitudes of uniformed peace officers in attendance. Greeters passed out lapel pins that were replicas of the Law Enforcement Memorial Plaque. Families and friends of the law enforcement community displayed a sense of reverence as they gathered. A bagpiper high on the hill was playing 'Amazing Grace.'
Gov. Huntsman gave tender tribute to the law enforcement community and their families - and he commented specifically on the first name on the Memorial wall, the last name on the wall, and also a Huntsman name on the wall.
Robert Kirby acknowledged the 125 names of The Fallen with Department Roll Call. There were other appropriate prayers and comments including a 21 gun salute and taps and the release of white pigeons - all part of the tribute paid to those who have died in the line of duty. The statues that were unveiled created an increased sense of the significance of the sacrifice made by The Fallen. It felt like a sacred occasion. Indeed, President Packer (President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in his dedicatory prayer, indicated that the Memorial is 'a sacred place.'
Those in attendance shared many significant moments. Of course, those attending also had their own meaningful personal moments of reflection. I would like to share two of mine. There is a name plate on the wall for each peace officer who has given his or her life in the line of duty. They were listed in the program in chronological order according to death date - starting with Rodney Badger from Salt Lake County in April 1853. The final name, Stephen R. Anderson, (Department of Corrections, June 2007) was added today by members of his family. Watching them participate in that process, I am sure I was not the only one who hoped and prayed that there would be no more names added.
The other reflective moment actually encompasses the entire ceremony because of my location. I was standing near the area where the late peace officers' family members were seated. I was near the flag - and stood next to one of my senate colleagues, Ogden City Police Chief Jon Greiner. It was the first time I had seen Jon in his uniform. I could not thank all the peace officers that were there today for their service, but I did thank Police Chief / Senator Greiner. I am pleased to serve with him in the senate - and felt honored to stand by him during this important ceremony.
All Give Some * Some Give All Plaque at the Law Enforcement Memorial Photo by Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune
By Jon Greiner Utah State Senator and Ogden City Police Chief
Business Intelligence (BI) Mashups, or the idea of bringing together relevant data sets from a host of places, has been a pet project/dream of mine for 10 years. The Ogden City IT department even wrote such a program for me several years ago but it just wasn't user friendly or robust as I wanted.
What a small company of gamers called Universal Mind has done for me is take the most important crime analysis pieces of my Records Management System (RMS) and put it on a map.
Not just any map - it's a combination map of satellite images, street map, and my geographically assigned patrol beat map in layers. The company has made it so user friendly that I can literally research and plot over 400,000 calls for service in the last 5 years in about 30 seconds. The system is web based so quickly analyzing What-Ifs can be accomplished anytime, anywhere, on any computer with an air card. You can begin to see how this would be valuable to me and my law enforcement team.
Universal Mind has incorporated things like CompStat research by Uniform Crime Rate (UCR) code so that any police agency in the nation can start with the same base line. They have incorporated heat maps for crime like those you see on TV for the weather.
They created this program so I can simply choose a crime (for example, vehicle burglaries), use a drop down menu to define time lines wanted (example: in the last 7 days) and it will give a breakdown of that crime in a specified area on the map. As mentioned before, the heat map shows where those crimes are most saturated (red being the most occurrences). I even have an AVL component where I can go back and see where a patrol car was at the time of the crime, for the purpose of training (by pointing out how they might better use their patrol time and save the city some gas expense).
A huge plus in this equation is that I can also add the name, address and other information of current Parolees/Probationers/Sex-offenders to the maps.
At the end of the day I want to give each of my officers the ability to do What-Ifs from home. My newest officers are gamers raised in a world of video games. I want this to become their new game of choice in helping solve crimes and arrest suspects more quickly. OPD officers work the same area for a year and this gives them a tool for their area to use during their un-committed time.
Chief Burbank of Salt Lake City and Sheriff Winder of Salt Lake County are on the same RMS system as I am. They have looked at this product and are now negotiating for the same service. It literally is the first of it's kind in the nation. It has so much potential that we have barely scratched the surface in our abilities to serve our customers, our citizens, in the future.
[Utah State Senator and Police] Chief Jon Greiner recently expanded his staff of crime analysts from one to 11 without hiring a single new officer at the Ogden Police Department in Utah.
Instead, Greiner equipped his existing force of eight lieutenants and two assistant chiefs with new, easy-to-use, Web-based business intelligence tools that enable the police veterans to combine and manipulate data from arrest records, court documents, probation logs, jurisdictional maps and other sources to identify patterns and pinpoint hot spots so they can stop crimes before they happen.
"My police officers — who are 30 years younger — are gamers, and I thought that if I could put something user-friendly in their hands, they could do great things as crime analysts," explains Greiner. Today, the officers are using the new BI tools to perform geographic profiling of crimes and analysis of police data "in seconds," he says. Before, it could take days for the department's single crime analyst to fulfill a report request. An added bonus is that experienced police officers with extensive street experience are now able to apply their firsthand knowledge to crime analysis.
"You have practitioners asking the what-if questions, which has changed the way we police," Greiner says.
Welcome to Business Intelligence 2.0, a world in which one of BI's original big promises is finally being met, and a broader class of everyday business users — as opposed to statisticians or data analysts — are tapping into innovative technologies and Web-based BI capabilities.
Just a quick word to announce Utah's newest political talk show:
Inside Utah Politics - Setting the Record Straight Saturday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. K-TALK 630 or online at http://www.k-talk.com
In the first program, conservative legislators John Valentine, Margaret Dayton, Steve Urquhart, Greg Hughes, John Dougall and others will join me to provide insight into what really happens in the Utah Legislature.
Regular features include The Grammar Guru, Economics 101 - From the Mouths of Babes, Conservative Book Report, Political Bloopers, Little-known Personal Tales of Elected Officials.
For those who are tired of sissy garden shows on Saturday mornings
For those who want Red Meat Radio
For those who want the Truth about Utah Politics directly from Conservatives in public office
For those tired of getting their news filtered by the liberal local media
For those who want Inside Utah Politics, Setting the Record Straight
The other evening while in Salt Lake for legislative business, I left my meeting at 8:30 pm to walk to where my car was parked. As I was walking across the street, I ran into my former colleague, Ralph Becker, who was walking home after a busy day being Mayor of Salt Lake City. As we briefly chatted, I thought of two things: First, government work is not a "8 to 5" job. There are always more things to do than time to do them. Second, Mayor Becker is really committed to using less energy and his walking proved that. A leader leads by example. I felt a little guilty that I had driven my car about 5 blocks from where I was staying. Next time, I will be more careful and enjoy the air and exercise by walking whenever possible.
It also reminded me of complaining to my father when I had to walk to and from school (a full 5 blocks - but remember this is in Smithfield where blocks are really big) or from church (the full 3 blocks). When I said, “Do I have to walk?”, he would either say, “No. You can run!” or “You don’t have to, you get to”. When I have said that to my children as they were growing up, they reacted about as positive to that as I did. I wonder how their children will react.