Lawmakers sweep the corners to fund the final spending bill of 2017

budget5It’s always fun (not really) to read through the final budget bill of each session – the so-called “Bill of Bills” — which balances out budgets and passes the session’s last night.

One looks, year in and year out, for some last-minute spending that can be odd – like the year a former House speaker got $1 million put into the B of B for a new state golf course in his district – and he didn’t even play golf. (The money was never used and was later returned to the state after no golf course was built.)

So, with apologies to anyone offended by being listed in this year’s Bill of Bills spending found in SB3 (58 pages, or 2173 lines, long):

The state is starting a new Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Fund and put $500,000 in it. Special districts/groups can apply for grants.

But in the B of B, $200,000 of it is earmarked for the “Kanab Trial and Jackson Flat Reservoir.”

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, is the House Rules Committee chair and a member of leadership. He is also the manager of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, which owns the reservoir.

The money doesn’t go to salaries, so Noel won’t get paid from that allocation; it only goes to infrastructure improvements.

Noel said the money would nearly complete a biking trail around the body of water – the only lake in the area that boaters and swimmers can use.

“The state has given funds for the project before. The water district will throw in some as well,” said Noel.

$1.5 million will go into mitigation/study efforts to keep the Utah sage grouse off the Endangered Species list, and deal with wolves (even though there are no known wolves in Utah), wild horses or other “public land issues.”

Intent language says state wildlife officials will study and report back to legislative bosses how a former contractor spent his sage grouse study taxpayer dollars.

$1.4 million will go to economic development for a Davis County rail manufacturer. This is connected to a controversial legislative/Utah Transit Authority trip to Switzerland to study light rail, which is whole other story.

Legislative budget staffers are expert as sweeping various fund corners to come up with monies available to spend – which includes unspent money that was appropriated previously.

And that can make for some strange bedfellows:

Lawmakers moved $2.5 million from the Public Utilities Restricted Account for various projects, including paying for a $20,600 study on the effectiveness of medical marijuana, which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with public utility infrastructure.

In explaining the B of B in the Senate Thursday night, Budget Chair Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said $78 million was spent in SB3.

A “blue paper” was passed out to senators, and Stevenson said it detailed spending. And a look-through of the listings should give each senator something “you will have an interest in.”

One only hopes so.

Much of the B of B spending is for clean air initiatives, agreed to in the final session days – which brings praise from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In fact, the B of B in recent years has been relatively free of the kind of shenanigans of years gone by.

The B of B passed both the House and Senate with no debate; one vote against in the Senate, only 3 against in the House.

Overall, said Stevenson, the 2017-2018 budget, which starts July 1, is $16.2 billion.

On the state’s official budget site, the current year’s budget is listed at $15.1 billion. So, the new budget grows by 7.3 percent, all funds considered.

The Legislature’s Fiscal Analysts Office has a cool metric link that allows average citizens to read specific budgets and totals —