The Issues


"I have known Dean both professionally, politically, and personally for years and I know that he will be a great asset to the district and will represent us well. We'll do more than well to have him representing us."

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Perspectives from the House

2011 Session Week 1

The 2011 legislative session will be a critical year for the State budget.  As we look back at the past two years of extensive budget cuts due to the Great Recession, we are now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While the light is still out there in the distance, how we handle difficult budget decisions this year will define the future of Utah’s fiscal state.   

Though not as dramatic as the budget shortfall of the past two years, the state is short $313 million dollars to meet on-going expenses. Over the past two years the state has used the state Rainy Day Fund and one-time federal dollars in addition to budget cuts to provide a band-aid solution to the problem. Similar to the process we undertake to balance our personal budgets, the Legislature will be working hard over the next 45 days ensure our budget is balanced. As a state we are not exempt from the laws of prudent finance.  

Utah’s approach will be different from those other states such as California, Illinois, and New Jersey who are running budget deficits and raising taxes as the short-term solution, which only digs those states deeper into long-term economic despair.  I understand it is not an easy challenge to balance a multi-billion dollar budget, pair on-going expenses and on-going revenues and to use credit sparingly. But in the interest of our financial future it will be one I gladly accept  

2011 Session Week 2

One of the highlights this week was the base budget passed the House. Congressman Rob Bishop visited the Legislature and joined the Republican Caucus for lunch to discuss federal issues affecting the state and his role in the new session of Congress. Congressman Jim Matheson spoke on the House floor Thursday, his message praised the Utah Legislature for working together as Republicans and Democrats for the best interest of the state, a lesson that should be work its way back to Washington DC. Later, Governor Gary Herbert joined the Republican Caucus to discuss his budget proposal and the legislature’s budget approach. Friday Sen. Orrin Hatch was a guest on the House floor; he spent the majority of the time answering questions from members of the body that included immigration reform, federal spending and public lands policy.  

The medicaid reform I have been promoting and working closely with Senator Liljenquest on received a preliminary fiscal note this week. It is projected to save the state $770 million over a seven year period increasing further in subsequent years.  Passing this legislation will be the start to the work that then must be done.  But momentum and support are growing each day.    

2011 Session Week 3

Week 3 began with a visit from Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Representative of Utah’s 3rd District. Congressman Chaffetz addressed the nation’s multi-trillion dollar debt, “the nation's security is threatened by a debt that's growing by almost $4 billion a day, about a third of Utah's state budget. You know the size of the Utah state budget. Look what's going on, on the federal side of the equation," he said. "We don't have a revenue problem in this county, but we do have a spending problem." Congressman Chaffetz also discussed illegal immigration: "If we don't fix legal immigration, we'll never solve this problem," he said. 

The Utah House voted Tuesday to do away with the unpopular Salt Lake County police fee in unincorporated areas. The House voted 54-17 for HB226. The bill, by Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, now goes to the Senate.

The medicaid reform bill designed to save the state 100's of millions passed through the Senate Committee unanimously and now moves to the full Senate for debate.  

2011 Session Week 4

At the beginning of the session we began to address a $315 million hole in the budget called the “structural imbalance.” Over the first four weeks we put together a base budget with cuts across the board to address that problem. The understanding has always been that the base budget is a starting point, like pouring the foundation of a building before you can build the walls.

Since we introduced our base budget, the rumor mill has been buzzing with stories that the Legislature will not fund new student growth and is making “draconian” cuts public education funding.

I thought it would be best to set the record straight: Many lawmakers have children, grandchildren, not to mention thousands of constituents using Utah public schools. So it is an issue that is very personal to us. Balancing the budget and correcting the structural imbalance while funding quality education is a difficult process, but we have spent countless hours reviewing, discussing, debating and preparing the public education budget.

The final budget will be different from the base budget and part of that is anticipated to be funding millions of dollars for new growth. Two weeks ago in our Republican caucus meeting, we released our top three priorities, which include a focus on accountability and excellence in educationUtah has unique challenges with an exploding student population; this requires serious solutions on the part of the Legislature. Excellence is about improving student performance and exploring the best possible ways to deliver quality education. Accountability means that the state, school districts and teachers must be responsible for ensuring the ongoing success of the students  We will assuredly be doing all we can to assure that they have the tools they need to be successful in that endeavor.

2011 Session Wrap Up

During the 2011 legislative session we accomplished a number of key items including:

1) Balanced Budget: the structural deficit (one time money used to pay for ongoing expenses) was reduced from $313 million down to $50 million without raising taxes.  

2) Education funding: first time in 3 years that some enrollment growth was funded.  There was an increase in overall funding of 2% (which equates to funding for an additional 14,700 students).  We were able to allow school districts to keep optional extended day kindergarten, continue early grades reading improvement programs, continue funding for arts education program for elementary schools, and slightly increase funding for school libraries. 

3) Medicaid reform: we passed a significant roadmap to reforming Medicaid incentives such that if successful in our execution we should save the state $770 million over 7 years increasing further over time.

4) Immigration: four major bills were passed that collectively comprise a model that the federal government could look to for inspiration.  Obviously states can't deal with this issue without federal help, but when the federal government fails to act - Utah did what it could to address this important issue.  The bills include enforcement and a worker permit bill that requires undocumented individuals to be subject to criminal background checks, learn English, and carry a state issued permit to live, work and pay taxes in Utah.

5) Government Records Access Management Act: this is a bill that is 20 years old and needs to be updated.  It does not address many current forms of electronic communication (such as texting, instant messaging, etc.) as those forms of communication did not exist 20 years ago when the bill was adopted into law.  A proposed reform to GRAMA was repealed in a special session due to the need to evaluate options to updating GRAMA in ways that do not negatively impact the rights of the public to have access to government records.  An open process for evaluation has now been established and will occur during the legislative interim.

With any of the above, or on any other issues - contact me with your input, suggestions, or for more information at: or (801)979-5711.