Lawmakers flip budget process

By Jed Layton, Asst. News Editor

A failing economy is causing the 2009 Utah Legislature to function differently than it has in the past.

Paul Brinkman, U associate vice president of budget and planning, said the Legislature typically hears testimony regarding its budget for the first few weeks, forms a budget and then spends the remainder of the session passing bills giving money to various agencies and departments.

But tax revenue shortfalls have reversed the procedure.

“This year the process is upside down,” Brinkman said. “Instead, we expect that within the first week, the Legislature will vote on an overall budget plan.”

Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, said this year, lawmakers have to deal with the current budget year.

“We got less revenue than we had anticipated, so we have to revamp current spending before we can go into next year,” Daw said. “It is a big challenge and there are some pretty hard decisions.”

The Legislature already cut this year’s budget by 4 percent during a special session last fall. Brinkman said the additional cuts could be any

where from 1.5 percent to 7.5 percent, although those cuts will be one-time reductions.

Daw said it is extremely unusual to have to spend time redoing previous budgets and that typically the Legislature jumps straight into making plans for the next year.

“It has been an unusual challenge,” he said. “It should take a couple of weeks to finish the new budget for this year and then we can focus on next year’s plan.”

Kirk Jowers, a Republican who supports Huntsman’s plan and director of the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, said this year’s legislative session is also complicated because Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and the Legislature have different opinions on how to handle budget cuts.

“It looks like the Legislature wants deep cuts right up front,” he said. “But the governor wants to make lighter cuts and focus on using other methods to curtail the

shortage. The Legislature has more of a hacksaw mentality and then stitch it up later. The governor wants to go in as a surgeon and methodically negotiate the budget.”

Jowers said this political friction impacts the entire legislative process. He said the Legislature could be wary of passing bills the governor might veto, especially because Huntsman has highly favorable ratings.

Jowers also said both the House and the Senate have new leadership this session. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, is the new speaker of the House and Michael Waddoups, R-West, Jordan is the new president of the Senate.

“New leadership always causes a level of chaos,” Jowers said. “Different styles, constituents and philosophies change the way people interact and work. There will be some adapting on Capitol Hill for the first little while.”

Brinkman said he encourages students to be active in following the Legislature, especially because a lot is at stake for the U. To learn more about the 2009 legislative session, visit

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