The other evening, as I was helping my wife go through our storage to find a special Christmas decoration, I saw our old ice cream maker packed away. As a boy, our family would make homemade ice cream using a hand-turned maker. Everyone would take a turn spinning the handle until they became tired. It seemed like hours, but slowly the churner got more and more difficult to turn until dad would call the process to a halt and the great joy of opening the canister and devouring the treat would begin.
This process was repeated by my wife’s family so, years ago, she insisted we get an ice cream maker. I was far more supportive when I saw that they now made electric ones. We have had a great time over the years with our children in deciding what type of ice cream to make and then working on the process together. We would listen as the churn became more and more labored until it almost came to a stop and we could rush in to pull out the beater (everyone always had spoons to make sure it was cleaned properly and nothing was wasted). Then we would pack-in the canister with more salt and ice so the ice cream would harden. My favorite was always pineapple but the chocolate chip was a close second. Now that the children have gone, it seems easier to drive the few blocks to USU Dairy and buy that great Aggie Ice cream. But the old way was so much fun as everyone worked together to make a great treat.
Growing up, I also enjoyed helping my mother make fudge, divinity and other goodies every Christmas season. My favorite was pulling taffy. While it was still warm, I had to scrub my hands and cover them in butter so the taffy would not stick. I would stretch and pull the taffy before it cooled and make long, snake-like strands with the knife mark every few inches so the pieces would be easier to break off.
Baking has always been a great Christmas tradition in my life. May you all enjoy great treats this holiday season!
-- "This is a matter of doing good fiscal management …. The longer we wait to make those cuts, the longer we burn money that we don't have at $2 million dollars a day, the deeper the respective cuts need to be at the other end, because we are constitutionally bound to manage and to balance our budget. That is the sense of urgency."
-- "It is sort of the longitudinal haircut of 7 or 8 percent, without any thought given to programs and how they would be affected, that I don't think represents good public policy for the people of this state. …What you're forced to do during the legislative session is to convene the various subcommittees that would then evaluate very carefully what these cuts would mean to real people in human services, higher education, public education, and so we all understand through these open hearings what a cut of 3, 5, 7, or 15 percent would mean."
"Since private and publick Vices, are in Reality, though not always apparently, so nearly connected, of how much Importance, how necessary is it, that the utmost Pains be taken by the Publick, to have the Principles of Virtue early inculcated on the Minds even of children, and the moral Sense kept alive, and that the wise institutions of our Ancestors for these great Purposes be encouraged by the Government. For no people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders."
--Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, 4 November 1775
DNews: David C. Case is over: "John F. O'Toole, director of the National Center for Youth Law, said Utah had 'one of the most troubled foster-care systems in the country' in 1993...'Now, it has one of the best'"
Saturday the Senate Republican Caucus spent six hours talking about priorities for the upcoming Legislative Session. It should come as no surprise that the primary area of focus was the state budget. Tax revenues are coming in lower than anticipated and it is critical we re-size expenditures to match income.
We are painfully aware of the affect cuts in State agencies will have. We also recognize the example of States around us who refuse to live within their means and the circumstances they now find themselves in.
Here are the basic building block principles to which the Senate Majority agreed:
1. The budget must be structurally balanced. That means we use ongoing income for ongoing expenses and one-time money for one-time expenses. Much like you have to run your household budget, you can only rely on money in your regular income to pay for your ongoing expenses. It is never wise to plan on one-time bonuses to make future mortgage payments.
2. We will adopt an 85 percent base budget at the beginning of the Session. Why? There's a chance the economic slide hasn't hit bottom yet, and we won't have updated numbers until February. Chances are we won't have to cut a full 15 percent, but it makes sense to plan responsibly now and add money back if the numbers hit anticipated targets
3. Transportation funding should take a proportionate hit, but not bear the full weight of a budget scale back. Road infrastructure is key to our economy. It seems as if many have adopted a philosophy of utilizing transportation funding as an additional rainy day fund. This may have sufficed in a time when the Federal Government was able to keep its transportation funding commitments – how times have changed. Many of our neighboring states who relied heavily on the Federal Government by pledging bonds to future Federal funds now find themselves in a unpleasant and uncertain position.
4. Economic Development must be a primary focus. We discussed economic development at length and asked our committee chairs to analyze their areas and be cognizant of how their actions will effect Utah’s economy. We are also interested in finding opportunities to work with GOED in utilizing one-time funds to assist in capital for companies who could create new jobs in the immediate future thus generating new ongoing state tax revenue. If you know of significant opportunities we would love to hear from you.
5. Local decisions in cuts to Public Education. Unfortunately, Public Education will feel the effects of budget cuts this year. It is not our desire to entirely dictate where these cuts will be made. We wish to determine the right percentage cut and provide a menu of options for local school district boards to determine what works best for their circumstances.
The House Majority is holding a similar session-prep caucus meeting on Monday. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House, and our colleagues across the aisle, over the next several months. This next Session is sure to be challenging as we bring the State budget into balance.
I’m confident there will be critics of certain aspects of the budget cuts that must be made. However, this outside pressure is no reason to abandon our responsibility to make the decisions that assure we don’t simply leave the financial clean-up work to our children and our grandchildren. Utah’s designation of best managed state didn’t happen by accident and we plan on maintaining the strong fiscal supervision that delivered that designation in the first place.
I recently returned from Oakland where I had attended some business meetings. I rode the BART into San Francisco and then back to catch my flight home. I caught the shuttle from the BART station to the Oakland Airport and was astounded as I watched the road that the shuttle was using. It was in a well used area of the city but the roads were absolutely atrocious. They were wavy and full of ruts and holes. I felt that these were the roads you would expect to find in a third world county.
I mentioned this to my wife who was riding by me and she shared her observations when several days before, she had riding from Sacramento to San Francisco with our daughter on that freeway. It was also in terrible shape. This really drove home to me how hard the choices are going to be in the upcoming sessions with where to put the limited funds that we will have to spend. The legislature has worked hard the past few years to identify funds that are needed to address the huge problems with have as a State with not only new construction but also the upkeep of our roads. We have put in place an on-going funding mechanism based on the sales tax collected from cars and related parts so have some funds to build and to bond for needed road construction.
Many legislators who can see on a daily basis the dire need for expanded roads are reluctant to transfer all of this funding for programs that have been taking these road funds for many years and leaving the roads left out. Sure, there will be some transfers and cuts like the other agencies but to decimate the on-going funds that give us the capacity to bond for more projects will be a hard sale. We are now being informed that the federal money which has traditionally been used for maintenance could also be cut. People need roads and access just like they need other things that government can provide. Again, we will have to balance the reductions so that no one program suffers the full brunt of the downturn of our economy.
"Utah is no Chicago, and probably doesn't need to change the way an open U.S. Senate seat is filled here, state political leaders say.
"State legislative attorneys say that should a U.S. Senate vacancy occur in Utah, as it has in Illinois, the Utah governor wouldn't be able to choose the new senator all on his own, as is the case with the Illinois governor now making headlines."
Governor Huntsman Appoints Second District Court Judge
Salt Lake City - Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has appointed Michael D. Di Reda to fill the vacancy on the Utah Second District Court resulting from the retirement of Judge Roger Dutson.
“As a long-time prosecutor in this very community, Mike brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the bench,” Governor Huntsman said. “Mike has been a true public servant to his community and believe he will continue to serve the Second District well.”
Di Reda received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University in 1990 and his law degree from the same in 1993. He worked as a judicial law clerk in the Second District Court before joining the Davis County Attorney’s Office as a Deputy County Attorney where he worked as a prosecutor, serving as the lead attorney over domestic violence, juvenile drug court and adult drug court, as a Section Chief over the Narcotics Division and as the Litigation Section Chief over the Criminal and Juvenile Divisions. He also works as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah.
“I am honored to have been chosen from a group of such talented and accomplished lawyers,” Di Reda said. “I’m grateful for Governor Huntsman’s trust and confidence in me, and I’m looking forward to serving as a judge in the Second District Court.”
Di Reda’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Utah State Senate.
Stupid in Utah: How the Utah State Office of Education hurts kids and teachers
Utah's Red Meat Radio will take a new twist on Saturday Morning, December 6, as host Senator Howard Stephenson unveils mismanagement and deceit in Utah Public Education.
This special edition of Red Meat Radio is entitled "Stupid in Utah: How the Utah State Office of Education hurts kids and teachers." Stephenson says he's had a gut full of the subversive acts to overturn the legislature's education reforms by the bloated 500-plus employee organization and will give specific examples of how too many career bureaucrats don't give a damn about the law, education improvement, or providing teachers the tools they need to do their jobs. He will show case by case how the educrats work to prevent money from reaching the classroom and how they try to punish the most qualified and highest performing classroom teachers.
There is a great deal of anticipation about the release of the Governor’s budget recommendations for FY 09 and FY10 this week. When I was first elected, Gov. Matheson would release his budget the second day of the session and that was the first time we heard about his revenue projections. That's not how we do it anymore. Now, we have consensus revenue projections so the Governor and the Legislature begin the session from the same page.
This year, I was told by the Governor’s staff that they wanted to release the projections the first week of December, two weeks earlier than past years. This will give everyone time to begin the difficult process of lowering government spending to the new reduced revenues.
While we worked together very closely in arriving at an agreement for the Special Session, it became obvious that if the revenues continued to slide that a real disagreement could result. How much of the on-going general fund revenue, now being put into roads, would be pulled out to prevent further cuts in other governmental programs?
Let me point out several things to which you should pay attention when the Governor unveils his proposed budget.
First, what revenue shortfalls will the Governor be using? The same figures will be used by the legislature. Remember that $50.0 M represents 1% of the state portion of the state budget, so if we are $200.0 M down, that is 4% reductions.
Are those shortfalls in income tax (education fund) or sales tax (general fund)?
What is in one-time or in the current FY 09 budget that ends June 09 (we will be half way there so shortfalls can only be made up over 6 months) and what is on-going FY 2010 (begins July 09)?
What happened to the gasoline tax revenue?
Will shortfalls there make it even more difficult to take away the on-going revenue in the transportation fund?
Second, how does the Governor propose to fill in the short-fall? There are several ways: cut programs, raise taxes, or switch revenue. There will probably be some combination but raising taxes would be the most difficult. The Executive Appropriations Committee will meet on December 16th and adopt the same revenue figures and, hopefully, have some suggested budget moves.
The Legislative rules require us to pass a base budget the first 10 days of the session, so we will be looking at a base budget as a guideline for the committees to address at the beginning of the session. We also have to make room for any adjustments in mid February, when later estimates are made. This is usually based on the year-end sales and income tax returns that have been filed. The State Tax Commission has stated that one of the reasons that our income collections have been down so far this year is an error in the withholding, so that less is withheld than should be. That will mean more will have to pay taxes come April 15th than get a refund.
Another difference between the Governor and the Legislature may be the perception that we have bottomed out and the economy is coming back. If we are still not low enough, I am concerned that the revenue figures in February will be lower and we will be forced to go back and make more adjustments. I would rather be too low now and be able to say that things are not as bad as feared and put some money back. I have found it much easier to add money than take it away near the end of the session when new revenue figures come out.
I am telling most groups who are coming to see me that I don’t need to hear of a new program to fund. What I need to hear is how they can cut theirs back so that we can use the money where we may feel it is more needed.
I am glad to be working with Rep. Bigelow again. I have found him easy to work with and one dedicated to spending money wisely and for what Government must be doing. This will be a session where experience will come in very handy.
After serving eight years in the Utah Senate and eight years in the Utah House of Representatives, Hickman said it was simply time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of legislators.
"I just felt it was time to step aside and let some other very good people step up and take on the responsibility of representing these people," he said. "I've done what I can do and there are others who will seize the opportunity."
Hickman said he is looking forward to spending the winter in St. George, miles away from the bitter cold of Salt Lake City.