Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has a plan to address new criminal justice demands on the county. He presented his $1.1 billion budget to the county council Tuesday morning.
McAdams says he supports the state’s newly adopted justice reforms that reduce sentencing for some drug crimes and enhance reentry and treatment services. Those efforts are expected to keep non-violent offenders out of prison and save taxpayer dollars.
“But make no mistake, it represents a significant unfunded mandate on us that was based on the assumption the legislature would also act on a plan to expand Medicaid coverage,” McAdams says.
County programs like indigent defense and behavioral health services will shoulder the burden of these reforms. That’s why the mayor proposes the county continue collecting tax dollars from an existing bond that’s set to expire at the end of the year. McAdams wants to dedicate the $9.4 million-a-year levy to a new treatment center and Pay for Success initiatives designed to lower recidivism, minimize homelessness and improve maternal and child health.
“We cannot continue to lock everyone up for decades without bankrupting government and perpetuating human misery and family destruction,” McAdams says.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton supports spending more money on public safety.
“How that breaks down, I’m still looking into,” Newton says. “I want to make sure all of that $9.4 million that we’re asking taxpayers to fund is going directly into criminal justice reform.”
McAdams budget proposal also includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for employees. In order to do that, he proposes eliminating the county’s contribution to the retirement accounts of Tier 1 employees. The council will consider the Mayor’s plan and possibly change it. A final vote on the budget will take place in December.