Governor Gary Herbert released his projected 2019 Budget this week. UAC has sifted though the details and calls your attention to several items of county interest, including additional funding for Corrections, Public Safety, and Recidivism; Elections; Transportation and Land Use; Tax Modernization; and Social Service Programs and Support.
Commitment to Counties
All in all, the Governor continues to demonstrate his engagement and commitment to county issues. This year’s budget shows that strong support – we commend him for his efforts and encourage members of the Association to extend their thanks to him and his staff for listening and considering county needs.
In a global note, it was announced this week that the consensus budget projections have the State of Utah with an additional $480 million in available dollars for programming due to economic prosperity of the state. This is split between the Education Fund (income tax) and the General Fund (all other taxes). In short, it will be a good year for appropriators, as we have the largest surplus that we have had since the 2007 recession.
Here are a few notes on some key county areas of interest. For the sake of readability, we have kept it brief, but click here to review the budget and get more details.
Corrections, Public Safey, and Recidivism
The Governor’s office recognizes that the daily incarceration levels and lengths of stay continue to decrease, as does the complexity and composition/demographics of inmates – many of which are struggling with a range of behavioral health issues. The Governor has included $1.725 million in ongoing funding jail reimbursement to maintain the 86% of the statutory rate, along with $1 million for the jail screenings, $463,400 for inmate treatment in county jails, and $1.5 million in ongoing funding for the Indigent Defense Commission.
Social Service Programs and Support
In support of the recently-approved Medicaid Extension waiver, which maximizes state control and federal cost sharing to provide benefits to vulnerable populations, the budget includes the Medicaid Match funding appropriated last year and $2.6 million for increased capacity at the Utah State Hospital to expand the forensic competency restoration activities, and $10 million for Operation Rio Grande. Another important inclusion is a that the Governor has ordered a thorough review of suicide prevention programs to determine if they are comprehensive and provide necessary supports to reverse the trend.
The Governor included $4.5 million in one-time funding for a statewide replacement of the existing equipment. An additional $7.5 million will be needed for a total of $12 million over ten years to adequately replace, maintain, and train on the new election equipment. The system provided by ES&S was selected by the Lieutenant Governor’s office by RFP process and would allow for statewide consistency.
Local Government Attention
On a few policy issues, the Governor indicated some real local government need for attention. Here are those areas:
As dollars for infrastructure become scarcer, the need to be prudent with spending has increased, and the Governor encouraged a strong linkage between land use patterns and infrastructure demands. The Governor also encouraged UDOT to prioritize projects for funding based on broader criteria, to include economic development potential/patterns. It should be noted that the Governor encouraged local governments to look at multi-modal transportation solutions that more effectively link roads to trains, trails and other infrastructure that improve mobility and quality of life. If there is one take away from this budget item, it was the need for local government to better coordinate our land use planning to our infrastructure “wish-list.” We can no longer develop, and then just hope the infrastructure will follow.
The Governor also had some local recommendations in the area of tax policy. Here are a few of the highlights:
- We need to rely more on user-charges for specific services (transportation, water, sewer, etc). The tax base is being overwhelmed with these demands, where a specific user-fee may be more equitable and commensurate with the services being delivered.
- In recognition that our demand for services and shopping patterns are changing, there is a need to broaden our tax base and lower the rate to encourage more business development while also recognizing we have become a service-based economy, and many of those services are not taxed.
- Local tax structure needs to emphasize high-paying jobs and not sales tax generation, there was little solution offered here, but a recognition that the local incentive for development is not aligned with job recruitment efforts of the state.
It was also suggested that we simplify the personal property tax system, allow for some inflationary increase in the property tax to meet basic service needs, and a need to increase transparency in the property tax, to include RDAs.