As reported previously by UtahPolicy, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is one of the new financial-crisis organizers, a follow-up effort from his original fiscal warning bill of two years ago.
The group is calling itself Financial Ready Utah, and has a new web site here. It’s Facebook page is here.
The group held a kick-off press conference, packed with lawmakers and supporters, at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Seven bills and resolutions have been introduced, all leading to help/require state and local governments to plan for the coming federal aid cutbacks.
“It is not an issue of if, but of when,” said Ivory, one of the noted conservatives in the House.
Actually, said Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, “It is here. We’ve lost $10 million in (federal) youth-at-risk dollars over the last two years.”
The federally-funded program – the state picked up with extra costs in 2012 and 2013 – helps youngsters who otherwise probably would be put in juvenile jails or prisons.
But now we’re talking billions, not millions of dollars.
Ivory said that 40 percent of the state budget comes in federal dollars.
And 40 percent of every dollar the federal government spends comes in borrowing money from outside sources, usually foreign governments who buy U.S. government bonds and treasury bills.
Speaker after speaker said the federal government can’t continue as it has. And the ultimate result will be drastic federal program cutbacks and money sent to the states.
The seven bills are: SB278, SJR7, SB138, HB195, HB205 and SB158. A yet unnumbered resolution is still coming from Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.
One tough political question still not answered is whether GOP legislators will actually turn down federal money before it is actually taken away; or will this group – and the state agencies ordered to conduct federal funds studies – just plan for what exactly to do as federal funds are withdraw here or there over the next few years?
Kent Thomas, head of Utah’s association of certified public accountants and one of the founders of FRU, said it will take state and local government agencies; business groups, like local Chambers of Commerce; CPAs; and regular citizens to bring about the change that must come as the federal government makes an effort to reign in spending.
“The question to all these groups is what happens if?” federal funds are cut back, Thomas said.
First, individual Utahns need to get their family budgets in order, he said.
Then we all have to tell our elected representatives, both in Congress, the Legislature, city hall and school boards, that we are concerned and are here to help guide them in the tough decisions that are coming.
“Finally, our representatives need to know that we will back them in the very difficult decisions coming,” said Thomas.
In other words, state and local officials can’t worry about the political consequences of losing re-election when they make tough fiscal decisions – which may include some tax hikes or other revenue adjustments to make up for lost federal funds.
“You need to get the word out to your neighbors and friends. Get them involved. It is about time.”
The state lawmakers encouraged citizens to get on the Financial Ready Utah web site, sign up and help out with the coming fiscal crisis.