Today’s Deseret News reports that legislators have been able to get an official preview of Utah’s budget proposal in approrpriations subcommittee meetings on Tuesday.
Meeting in their respective appropriations subcommittees, they essentially reviewed last year’s budgets for state agencies. Unlike last year, however, they are not being given the opportunity to propose increases to those “base budgets” beyond what is already approved by legislative leaders.
House budget manager Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley was quoted as stating that the only budget increases that were granted were “non-controversial” increases – budget increases that wouldn’t generate any “debate” in discussion of granting them.
This is the second year of the “base budget”. Last year, the Executive Appropriations Committee, which is made up of Senate and House leaders from both parties, asked the appropriations subcommittees to submit their base budgets — including any proposed changes— within the first couple of weeks for approval. But this year, the leaders simply approved the base budgets, and any changes that need to be made can be tackled later in the session.
This year’s submitted base budget proposals have elicited concern from some agencies, such as education, that growth would surpass the budget. Rest assured however, “more money is coming”.
The hot issue with this year’s budget, however, will be how to spend the $1 billion in new money. Legislators are considering using that money for tax cuts, increasing transportation and/or education funding.
My votes: No to tax cuts; No to legacy highway and the short-sightedness of that project; Yes to using legacy highway money for long-term insight into streamlining mass transporation, including increased bus routes and fee-based parking lots; Yes to education and Yes to other social causes such as domestic violence and heat assistance, to name just a few.