For being a former Democrat, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, is turning out to be a pretty conservative legislator.
Take a look at SJR22, Joint Resolution on State Spending Limitations
It’s a constitutional amendment that if passed by the Legislature and approved by citizens would limit state budgets from one year to the next to growth in population and inflation.
In times of an official emergency or disaster, a budget could grow greater by majority vote.
But in other times, the budget couldn’t grow above population and CPI (as determined later in law) unless there was a 3/5ths vote of both the House and Senate.
“First and foremost,” Reid told UtahPolicy, “we must be budgetarily responsible; not allow government to grow beyond what is reasonable for our population.
“We need to stand for prudent management for all of our state spending.”
The 3/5ths vote would be a high bar.
But that is needed so the Legislature didn’t let state spending grow quickly because of good economic times and natural tax revenue growth.
“The 3/5th threshold is required to change the spending dynamic” that the constitutional limit would propose, says Reid.
Every year, of course, public education advocates, college and university supporters, as well as special interests for Human Services and other state programs, come to the Legislature asking for more money.
And it’s well known that Utah spends less per public education pupil than any other state in the nation.
So, why would it be wise to have a constitutional spending limit that could well curtail growth in these vital programs?
If there is a real, vital need, there will be 3/5ths votes for a growing budget, said Reid.
Public education “would have to come and make their case,” to the Legislature, he added.
And that super-majority will get the media and public’s attention: In other words, citizens will know when the Legislature is making the extra-ordinary step to grow a state program by more than population and inflation, and get the credit (or, in some cases, the criticism) for doing that.
Too often now, said Reid, the state budget grows – and individual legislators vote for that growth – with citizens not really understanding what is going on.
“There are always reasons to grow government. But we have to live within our means. This resolution (if adopted) says that government – like all Utahns in their businesses and private lives – are expected to live within its means.
“And if we act beyond those limits, there must be extra-ordinary reasons.”
Since Republicans have held majorities in both the House and Senate since 1978, why would they endorse an amendment that could place the minority Democrats in a position to have any say about state spending?
Reid doesn’t worry about such hard politics, saying it may be true that Democrats tend to vote for more spending, it would still take a super-majority of lawmakers to increase spending, regardless who is the majority in power.
On the political side, Reid has cause to espouse conservative ideals.
Years ago he ran for Salt Lake City mayor (a non-partisan post) as a Democrat and has sought, as a Democrat, legislative seats as well. He also served on the Salt Lake City Council as a moderate/conservative Democrat.
A smart guy, Reid played a chance in 2010: He filed to run as a Republican against then incumbent GOP Sen. John Greiner. Greiner, then chief of police for Ogden City, was under fire for violating the federal Hatch Act, a law that says a public official who oversees federal spending/grants can’t seek partisan office.
Greiner, found in violation of the act, filed to run but then announced he would drop out.
So Reid, as the lone Republican in the race, automatically won the party nomination.
Reid won over some Weber County Republicans who weren’t initially happy with being stuck – as they put it – with a Democrat running for the seat as a Republican.
Reid went on to win the 2010 general election, and has been welcomed into the GOP Senate caucus over the last several years.