Want to minimize the negative impact of spending cuts on public schools, law enforcement and other government services during hard economic times – while also keeping state spending under control during times of prosperity?
In the video report below, we review how the recent recession has created problems in some Utah communities, and what the state can do to prevent it from happening again.
This is our first video on the government spending amendment; watch part 2 here.
Here’s the script of the video:
STAND UP: Like every state in the country, government in Utah relies on the economy to drive its budget. For instance, during the current recession, the Utah State Legislature was forced to cut $1.3 billion in state funds. That’s enough to buy a 32-inch flatscreen TV and a Blu-ray player for every Utahn in the state, with money to spare. But these budget cuts are more than just numbers. Derek Monson with Sutherland Institute explains.
DEREK MONSON 18:10: “When we rely on the economy nearly 100 percent to drive government spending, government often becomes overextended in the good years, and then is forced in the bad years to either increase taxes or to make significant and painful budget cuts. For example, one small Utah town had to cut its police protection in half, some school districts in Utah permanently raised taxes – property taxes – to fill temporary budget gaps or increase class sizes. Some disabled Utahns in sometimes very difficult and dire circumstances have their government health care services put at risk. And it’s not that these are the best health care policies per se or the best educational policies; it’s just that we had a budget issue, and we had to close that gap.”
VOICE-OVER: Katie Rice is one of many moms who have seen their children struggle in school as a result of budget cuts. She spoke with Sutherland about her son Andrew, who has a learning disability.
KATIE RICE: “He’s in special education; he’s got some resource issues with math and reading. Some of the resource budgets have been cut; some of the resource teachers have been taken away, and they don’t have as many aides in the school to go around in classrooms that aren’t supported by resource to help them out.”
VOICE-OVER: Katie also explained what the budget cuts could mean for her family.
KATIE RICE: “I really don’t like it, ’cause I know my son is very social. And it’s not that I want his teacher to solely be paying attention to him, but he’s social, he can slip through the cracks very easily.”
VOICE-OVER: Utah communities, through their local police departments, have also felt the pain of economically driven budget cuts. Layton City Police Chief Terry Keefe has dealt with budget cuts for the last three years.
CHIEF TERRY KEEFE: “I have had to reduce my training budget. We have had a couple positions that have not been filled. One was an officer that left employment here, and that replacement position was frozen. And a crime scene investigator that was actually approved in the budget four years ago, but then when the economy took a downturn, that position was frozen till the city made a determination if we could afford that position, which we have still not yet reached that point, so that position is vacant.”
VOICE-OVER: There are some drawbacks for Utahns when government relies on a changing economy to paint the budget picture. But do Utah taxpayers and policymakers have another choice?
DEREK MONSON: “We don’t simply have to rely on the economy to drive government spending – there is a better way. There is a way that we can both keep state government from becoming overextended in the good years while also stabilizing important and essential government services like law enforcement and public education in the bad years. That way is to amend the state constitution to create limits on state government spending growth, based on population and inflation, and to save most of the surplus for a rainy day and for emergencies. We can make that amendment flexible, practical and workable. That is the way Utah will remain the best managed state in the nation.”