Highlights from Utah’s $19 billion budget

Utah Capitol 31There is always a lot of spending/last minute bills that UtahPolicy.com likes to watch and report upon. Here are some, unrelated as they are, that came up the last day of the session:

GOP legislative leaders took away $1.5 million from a newly-created former Sen. Orrin Hatch Foundation, which is planned to be across the street from the Kem C. Gardner political policy institute on South Temple, which is in a beautiful old mansion that used to be the LDS Church’s business college.

There is money in the governor’s office budget to conduct presidential primary elections on “Super Tuesday” next year – $2.9 million to be exact.

In 2016 the state gave NO money for presidential primary in Utah. Both the state Republican and Democratic parties tried, with varying success, to hold primaries during March caucus night, resulting in very long lines at their caucus meetings and some really unhappy voters.

The money would be used reportedly for Super Tuesday regular primary voting in March of 2020.

  • $50,000 for Gigi’s Playhouse.
  • $900,000 for “judicial recruitment and retention,” which is really pay raises for Utah judges, which was recommended by a special executive and judicial compensation commission.
  • $250,000 for a pilot program on ranked choice voting education. This is actually a very interesting idea, where you place candidates on your ballot in a ranked priority, so if one drops off by not getting enough votes, you in essence pick the next person you would like to see in office.
  • $1 million to the State Board of Regents for a special three-year bachelor’s degree, instead of the traditional four-year degree.
  • $4 million to replace wood-burning stoves/fireplaces that are the only way to heat a building/house and replace them with natural gas appliances – a serious move for air quality.
  • $5 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for the continued “elephant p53” promising work in cancer treatment.
  • $500,000 to the new Inland Port Authority. The group may need some new funds since Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has just announced she’s suing it.
  • $200,000 to renovate the Camp Williams shooting range.
  • $360,000 to special programs aimed at denying gun purchases and concealed weapons permits to persons who otherwise are barred from gun ownership and concealed weapons.
  • $4.7 million for indigent defense funding.
  • $3 million for the K-3 reading improvement program (new software).
  • $1.5 million for the Home Health Care Services, aimed at keeping senior citizens in their homes longer, and at a lower cost than institutionalization.
  • $200,000 for the Warriors Over the Wasatch air show at Hill Air Force Base.
  • $500,000 for the Thanksgiving Point Farm Country program.
  • $25,000 to “illuminate” the Utah Light Art and Creative Technology Festival – hard to have a light show without lights.
  • $1.4 million to tear down the old Road Home homeless shelter on Rio Grande Street that will close this summer.

The state and Salt Lake County and City have spent millions of dollars helping get homeless people off the streets and into various treatment programs. New homeless shelters will open this summer in lieu of the Road Home.

$1.3 million to the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, which continues the fight for Utah getting control of federal lands.

Utah nursing homes will see a slight increase in their state assessments, from 5.4 percent to 5.9 percent (0.5 percentage points), and in return, with increases in Medicaid funding, will actually get a 3 percent increase in their state funding overall – pay a little, get back a little more.

And you have to love this one, $60,000 for a special program that helps veterans get dental work, the New Smiles for Veterans program.