Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December Caucus 2011



We met as a Republican Caucus today to review some up and coming issues regarding state business.  Here are some highlights:

The Budget

The Governor made his budget proposal recently.  Interestingly, his budget contains about $30 Million more than our consensus budget figures show.  This is an interesting discrepancy.  It appears that the Governor believes that there are accounts somewhere that can be tapped to cover this difference.  If so, the House and Senate are not privy to the whereabouts of these funds and will be allocating funds accordingly.

The State is now at 90% of our constitutional borrowing limit due to a 7% decline in property tax assessments statewide this year.  The state is also running at a $52 Million ongoing budget deficit that needs to be corrected.  Also, student population growth increased 12,000 that needs to be funded.  Even though it is widely reported in the press that we have a $120 Million surplus this year, this "surplus" will likely be consumed entirely in funding student growth, correcting our ongoing budget deficit, and paying down our debt.

Interestingly, a comparison was also given to us today showing how much we have eroded away at our Rainy Day Funds.  In 2007 our Rainy Day Funds and reserves totaled $1.56 Billion.  Today we have just $348 Million.  Rainy Day Fund renewal should be a budget priority as well if possible.

Health Care

We heard a presentation on the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare).  I didn't like what I heard.  You won't either.  Here is what you have to look forward to:
  • Those aged 25-34 will have their premiums increase 40% by January 2014.
  • Those who choose not to purchase a policy will be fined 1% of their yearly income.
  • If an employee chooses a wrong policy, their employer will be fined.
  • Transgender assignment surgery will be covered in all policies.
  • As your premiums increase, the Feds will subsidize your premiums (with money they taxed from you.)
  • ...and more unsettling regulations.
We also discussed that Utah has 600 individuals on high risk state funded insurance called HIP.  This small group of people have consumed $40 Million in just two years ($33,360 per individual per year).  The Federal government granted Utah the $40 Million to help this group a couple years ago with the idea that the funds would last through 2014.  Today, the money is gone and rather than discontinue the program, the Federal Government has cut Utah a check for another $40 Million in order to prevent embarrassment and discrediting of the program.   

Public Education

The Legislature discussed the concepts of merit pay for school teachers and some of the dynamics at play.  Although no details were discussed, it appears that the body is leaning toward this type of compensation plan for teachers.  Of course, the devil is in the details.  Keep your eyes peeled on this issue in the weeks to come...

Note:  Federal funds equal just $280 Million of our $3.4 Billion public school budget.  Is it worth the strings that are attached?  Let's figure out a way to jettison Federal dollars and exercise freedom to teach under our own recognizance.  

Land Issues

In a big push back at Federal overreach, Ken Ivory is proposing a bill that will force the Federal Government to sell public lands to private owners.  The National Parks would be deeded to the U.S Government but the remaining land would be sold off with 5% of the proceeds going to school funds.  The remainder would be revenue for the U. S. Government (and hopefully would pay down the debt.)

It's a bold idea.  I support it.

Look for more updates to come....


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