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October 2012 Interim

October 26, 2012

The revenue estimates provided in June showed a surplus of $46 million, but now it looks as though that amount will be slightly larger.  However, these are only one-time funds — meaning that we won’t use them for any ongoing expenditure.

We still have no idea what will happen on a federal level in terms of the tax hikes and spending cuts that are set to take place in the next few months. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if the tax hikes and budget cuts to go through, it could cause another recession.

Utah is doing quite well in many areas. One new study from Opportunity Nation, an organization that looks at expanding economic opportunity and mobility in and between the states, ranked Utah as 16th in the nation for opportunities of upward mobility. We had a record year for adding jobs and keeping jobs from leaving the state–meaning that businesses want to relocate here and tend to expand once they get here. Certain sectors like technology and finance industry jobs are expected to see an increase in starting salaries.

Utah’s unemployment has dropped and personal income increased last year–a direct inverse to what is happening nationally. All of these good indicators are because our state follows sound management principles and operates on a balanced budget.

Here are a few highlights from some of the interim committee meetings. If there is something you are particularly interested in you can find it here: http://le.utah.gov/#iframe

The Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee heard a report on intergenerational poverty from Rich Little, a research analyst from the Department of Workforce Services. He explained that there are two types of poverty–situational and intergenerational. Situational poverty is caused by unplanned events such as temporary unemployment, illness or accidents. Intergenerational poverty is caused when people and families become reliant on what was intended to be temporary help for a temporary problem. Currently, forty percent of the people on public assistance in Utah are classified as intergenerational.

Legislation will be introduced during the 2013 session to help break this cycle and rescue the children from this lifestyle. If you would like to read the report you can download it here: https://jobs.utah.gov/wi/pubs/Poverty_Report_web.pdf

More information from Senator Stuart Reid is here: http://www.senatesite.com/home/welfare-reform-actions/

The committee also heard a report on how the implementation of ObamaCare will affect Utah’s Medicaid program. This is a complicated issue. Here is a link, if you would like to listen to this meeting: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1920

The Education Committee heard several proposals of draft legislation. One was a proposal that might help school districts get a small budget infusion at the end of each year by slightly changing how the money is distributed from leeway tax funds.
http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1929

One of the main purposes of interim committees is to consider different pieces of legislation to be heard in the coming session. The Government Operations Committee heard proposals for six different bills. “Elections During Declared Emergency,” “Boards and Commissions Amendments,” “Candidate Amendments,” “Lieutenant Governor Candidate Amendments,” “Absentee Ballot Amendments,” and “Personal Use of Campaign Funds.” Here is a link to the meeting discussions and the handouts: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1932

The annual report on DUI-related data was given to the Judiciary Committee. There were 13,031 DUI arrests in 2012, 785 fewer than last year. But DUI related deaths were up in the same time period. There was decrease in underage DUI arrests of nearly 28 percent since 2010.

The Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee finished hearing descriptions from each of the departments that manage state lands. In many cases, our state departments are only regulatory agencies because the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that owns the land and therefore makes all the land use decisions.

Department of Environmental Quality gave their annual report on electronic waste recycling explaining, the many ways available to recycle T.V.s, computers, phones and other electronic equipment. In addition to that report, the Public Utilities and Technology Committee heard a report from the Governors Office of Economic Development on the coordination of broadband services across the state. They were shown several maps that showed broadband speed and capacity for public safety, general and education needs. They also discussed the marketing challenges of getting broadband services to some parts of the state.

Water was discussed again in the Revenue and Taxation Committee. Water is such an important issue here at the legislature; it is discussed regularly in many committees. In this committee they discussed the actual costs of the proposed Lake Powell pipeline. The goal is to determine if it is possible to fund the billion-dollar project without putting the burden on taxpayers across the state. Several economists warned the committee that there are many unreliable variables that could cause the project to become a huge tax burden. This is an issue that will need to be considered with great care.

In addition to attending committee meetings, we met briefly on the floor to confirm the new gubernatorial appointees. Here is a list of who was confirmed:
http://www.senatesite.com/home/october-confirmations/

You can find information on candidates, the proposed amendments and where to vote at www.vote.utah.gov

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