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2014 Begins With “Budget Week”

January 30, 2014

The House and the Senate faces off this week in a friendly game of “Family Feud” hosted by Chuck Wollery!

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Utah is one of the lucky states with a part-time legislature. Being a part time legislator means that after the session is over, I go home and go back to work — just like you. Having a part-time legislature is one of the things that makes Utah great because lawmakers have to work and live under the laws we create. (If only Congress did the same …)

Like every year, creating and adopting a balanced budget is the most important task I will face as a legislator this session.

Utah has a unique budgeting process that has earned us the ranking of one of the best-managed states. Here is how the process works: each legislator serve on at least one of the eight issue-oriented appropriations subcommittees. The subcommittees are:

-Business, Economic Development and Labor
-Executive Offices and Criminal Justice
-Higher Education
-Infrastructure and General Government
-Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality
-Public Education
-Retirement and Independent Entities
-Social Services

I am on two: the Retirement and Social Services committees. We discuss funding for over $4 Billion in programs.

On the very first day of the session, I receive a copy of the “base budgets” for my committees. They are not the final working budget, but a skeletal version based on last year’s numbers. During the first weeks of session, the appropriations committees make decisions about how to prioritize their allotment of the general budget.

Each of those committees will eventually submit their budget requests to the Executive Appropriations committee. That committee combines the smaller budgets prices together to create the full budget.

The final budget is eventually voted on as the “Bill of Bills.” Once passed, it becomes the working budget for the next fiscal year. Utah’s budget from all sources totals $13 billion!

A transparent budget process is critical to responsible spending. Utah is also unique in revealing to the public an easy way to see how the money in spent in the Compendium of Budget Information or COBI:

http://le.utah.gov/lfa/reports/cobi2014/COBI2014.htm

COBI is an encyclopedia of the state’s budget. On this link you can find see the last seven years of budget history, see where the funds for each part of the budget are coming from, who gets the money (which department or agency) and the purpose for which the funds are allocated. You can follow funding sources, see any changes between any actual and appropriated funds and see names and descriptions of specific line item expenditures.

Here is a YouTube video from the Office of Legislative Fiscal Analysts that provides a simple overview:

Here is another video that explains the various types of appropriations that we consider:

Here is an article sharing some of Utah’s economic growth predictions:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865592733/Utah-economy-expected-to-grow-in-2014-analysts-say.html?pg=all

Budgeting can be difficult. Every program has passionate advocates. My priority is to always remember that it’s YOUR MONEY and it must be used prudently to provide only essential services. I do my best to represent you in making those expenditures.

I chair then Retirement Committee. Did you know that Utah’s Retirement Systems was ranked as one of the Top 10 in the nation for its private equity returns? The ranking comes from a study done by the Private Equity Growth Capital Council. Here is a link to an infographic showing the results:

http://www.privateequityatwork.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/10/PEGCC_Infographic_PublicPensionFund.pdf

Pensions have proven problematic issue in a number of states. Utah addressed this problem four years ago and we were able to alleviate the detrimental funding problems that many states face today.

Utah is the second fastest growing economy in the nation right now. Our population increased 1.6% between 2012 and 2013 or the equivalent of adding a city the size of Murray.

If you would like to keep track of any sort of legislation or any particular bill, you can do it very easily on our website:

http://le.utah.gov/asp/billsintro/index.asp

Every floor session is live streamed and every committee meeting is broadcast. The links will be on the main web page http://le.utah.gov/#iframe each day under the Audio/Video tab.

This week, I got to meet Anthony Robles, who was a national collegiate wrestling champion — with only one leg! (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Robles)

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