Insights on Utah’s 2015 Budget Strategy
By Lyle Hillyard
Utah State Senator, District 25
Yesterday I shared the following thoughts on the Senate Floor. (Starting at 1:00:16).
In Utah we are known for exercising fiscal prudence. We’re known for that – and it has helped us a great deal. Our tax revenues are up, but before we spend new money, we should carefully scrutinize the money already being spent. Thanks to our Fiscal Analysts’ Office, we have available to legislators and the public our COBI – or Compendium of Budget Information.
Smart fiscal management includes long-term planning, stress testing, and preparing.
With these basic principles of good government to back us, this year we are asking Appropriations Subcommittees to participate in a budget effectiveness review, with a soft target of finding two percent in savings.
We’re doing the review for three specific reasons:
1. To report on and evaluate existing programs – before rushing to spend new revenue, we should carefully consider $13.5 billion already in the budget.
2. To stress-test the existing budgets; revenue is not up every year. This is important to remember in years when we do have an ‘up revenue’ – let’s build our budgets carefully and plan for the future during this time.
3. To find real savings.
The exercise will help is better understand how state agencies are spending the $13.5 billion currently in our state budget. If done right, it may identify areas for more efficiency. It will allow us to better understand what the impacts would be if revenue were to decline and cuts need to be made. We think it will also yield tangible budget offsets. In a similar exercise last year, we found $70 Million.
Subcommittees are encouraged to participate in this budget effectiveness review by developing in their first three to four meetings a list of options for reaching a target equal to 98% of their base budget. This budget effectiveness review is NOT the end-game. On the contrary – it is the starting point for further deliberation toward a final budget, which we will pass at the end of the legislative session.
It is very likely that subcommittees which find efficiencies will be able to reallocate these funds toward that committee’s budget priorities. We expect that new or expanded programs requiring new money will also be at least partially funded from internal reallocations. Additionally, subcommittees that participate in this effort may receive additional allocations of new one-time revenue.
It is our hope that as we conduct this review we will find ways to make the people’s government more fiscally solid and more efficient – and that as we move forward and consider where the new money should be allocated, we’ll do so with a deeper understanding of our roles as servants of the people of this great state.
Utah citizens – we’d love to hear your take on this year’s budget strategy. Please feel free to share them below in the comments section.
Click photo above to visit the 2015 COBI online. The COBI details Utah’s budget and related financial transactions. It contains summaries of issues faced by legislators, performance measures, background information, financial history, and references to statutory authority. It is provided as a companion to appropriations bills considered.