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Utah Lawmakers Are ‘Oversubscribed’ With Funding Requests As They Work To Finalize Budget

A close-up view of stack of US dollars.
The Utah Legislature has around $1 billion in one-time money for next fiscal year. But they also have a lot of requests to prioritize for those dollars.

Utah’s economy has fared better than expected during the pandemic.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said Friday there’s a little more than $1 billion in one-time revenue.

But he said the Legislature is “oversubscribed,” because the Infrastructure Appropriations Subcommittee alone has more than $1 billion in requests.

“We’re going to have some tough decisions to make over the course of the next week about how to appropriate whatever new revenue we have,” Wilson said.

Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, is on the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee. They fund things like Medicaid, disability services and housing.

She said they’ve looked for ways to stretch their dollars.

“If we can turn over every rock and find cuts that can be made without people being harmed, we do that,” Dailey-Provost said.

This year, the subcommittee has recommended almost $160 million dollars more in ongoing and one-time state funding.

A big chunk of that is $55 million to fix what Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, called a “structural imbalance” in the state Medicaid expansion fund. Anderegg is the chair of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee. At a presentation to the Executive Appropriations Committee, he said the number of Medicaid participants has increased from 2,500 to 75,000 over the past three years.

“Based upon this growth, we’re probably going to need to put some provisions in place to continue to keep up with enrollment,” Anderegg said.

But the reality is not everything will get funded.

Republicans have proposed about $100 million worth of tax cuts. Dailey-Provost said if she had her way, though, she would prefer that money be spent on services.

“If you're talking about the difference between a couple hundred dollars a year for a middle class family or getting 100 or 200 people into treatment and back to taking care of their families, I would say that the overall impact is better spent on the latter,” she said.

The Executive Appropriations Committee will ultimately decide how much money gets spent. Wilson said he anticipates most of the budget decisions will be finalized in the next two weeks.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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