Every once in a while the political stars align when a great issue gets the attention that great issues deserve. Such is the case, right now, with Senator Stuart Reid’s government spending amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 22. This government spending amendment is the most important public policy I’ve worked on in all my years at Sutherland Institute. And it’s very interesting how the politics surrounding this great bill are playing out.
This government spending amendment would amend the state constitution to add a provision saying that the Utah Legislature would keep state spending to a certain limit each year unless they vote, by supermajority, to raise spending above the limit. The limit would be set by the Legislature based on increases in population and an inflation formula also set by the Legislature.
The benefits of this government spending amendment are several. First and foremost, this bill prioritizes debt reduction and the rainy day and emergency funds ahead of current spending. In other words, if state revenues increase beyond the percentage of population and inflation growth, the extra tax dollars would go towards debt reduction, savings and investments. Current spending would only increase if our state population and inflation increase, or if the Legislature felt to override the limitation.
Another key feature of the government spending amendment is that it further protects the sacred relationship between citizens and their elected representatives from the pressures of special interests that are never satisfied with current spending. The government spending amendment puts power back in the hands of citizens and their elected representatives and takes power away from special interests who aggressively lobby our legislators with money, flattery and dirty politics.
Opponents of the government spending amendment will argue that it’s not needed. After all, we’re already the best-managed state in the nation. But that argument is exactly why the time is right for SJR 22! Fiscally prudent legislators, like we have now, won’t always be around. One political cycle could change the government landscape for decades. It wasn’t long ago that Utah was controlled by Democrats. Things change. It’s precisely our current legislators who can recognize the wisdom and prudence of putting their conservative spending habits in the state constitution. This government spending amendment can be their legacy for future generations to come.
Special interests will scream bloody murder that this bill would cut essential funding. They’ll say this bill would hurt education spending, welfare projects and Utah businesses. They’ll say it would handcuff future legislatures. They call it “TABOR,” after Colorado’s failed measure. Many of these opponents will lie, cheat and steal to keep this from becoming law.
Opponents have already unleashed the hounds and have ordered their paid lobbyists to swarm the Capitol to intimidate our representatives into keeping things the way they are – into keeping power in the hands of lobbyists, unions, public employees and other special interests. If you thought immigration and gay rights were huge political fights, you haven’t seen anything yet. So buckle up!
With this being an election year – a year in which even responsible conservative legislators will be challenged from the extreme right and a year when the economy is on the rise – now is the time to pass this government spending amendment.
Once the Legislature passes SJR 22, it goes on the November ballot where the people of Utah decide it all.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.