Politics
3:25 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Legislature Will Have a Modest Budget Surplus

  Final revenue projections for the legislative session show the state will have a little more money in the coming year.  For some legislators, though, the numbers were a disappointment.

Budget co-chair Lyle Hillyard announced the new revenue estimates on the floor of the state Senate Friday morning.  One-time revenue – only available in this budget year – was up by 11-million dollars over earlier projections.  Ongoing revenue is expected to rise by 47-million dollars.  That will give the state a surplus just under 200-million dollars out of a total budget of about 13-billion.

Senator Gene Davis, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, said these were “terrible numbers."

“It’s flat," Davis told reporters after Friday morning's floor session.  "I mean, it’s not as high as we would love to see it.  It’s not where we can grow ourselves out of the problems that we’re having in the state yet.”

That new money is needed to pay for growth in the public school budget and pay raises for teachers and state employees, and there are many more demands to be sorted out before the end of the session.  Senator Hillyard says the House plan for substituting state money for an expansion of the federal Medicaid program could be shoe-horned in if it passes.

“I can find 35-million dollars," Hillyard told reporters.  "I’ve said all along, you may not like where I find it.  But I suspect, as we narrow toward the end of the session, that as things start to develop and coalesce, we can set money aside.”

Neither the Healthy Utah program outlined by Governor Gary Herbert yesterday nor the limited Medicaid expansion proposed by Senator Brian Shiozawa this week would require new state spending in the short term.