Hillyard warns budget cuts are going to sting

With a $313 million structural imbalance in the Utah budget, state lawmakers are considering multiple options for cuts – and regardless of which option the Legislature chooses, some agencies are going to hurt.

“There’s going to be people impacted and hurt,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, Tuesday during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Hillyard had earlier distributed a document to members of the media outlining more than $500 million in potential budget cuts that would help Utah regain solid budget footing.

Hillyard, flanked by other senators in the office of Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, described many of the suggested cuts as “haircut-style” budget reductions that take, for instance, a program receiving $50,000 and reduce the budget to $45,000. Hillyard noted that as chairman of the executive appropriations committee, he is often approached by people telling him how important their program is. He said he tells them he knows their program is important because the Legislature funded it in the first place, but at this time, cuts have to be made.

“I have the practical reality that I only have so much money and I don’t print any,” Hillyard said. “People in Utah are just not interested in a tax increase. I don’t think the vote would ever be there to do that, so now we have to live within what we have.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, was part of the press conference Tuesday. He said pinpointing areas where the budget could be cut is a large part of what the people elected members of the Legislature to do.

“We’re trying to get into some detail of duplications and, you know, this is what the public has invited us to do,” he said. “They’ve elected us to do that, to come down here and keep government accountable.”

Jenkins said the attitude of the Republican caucus is to drive deep into areas that can be cut and try to bring more accountability to government.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said he’d like to see solutions for the structural imbalance beyond just cutting programs.

“I don’t think that it should start and end with cuts,” Romero said. “I think we need to be creative. I think we realize that there are challenges.”

Full details of the programs that have been identified as candidates for budget cuts can be found in the document below.

Budget Deficit