Herbert says he will call a special session so lawmakers can make budget adjustments

Utah Capitol 27

Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that he will call a special legislative session within “two or three weeks” to deal with the growing coronavirus impacts.

Herbert made the announcement almost off-handedly as part of his new, daily, coronavirus update press conferences, held online to avoid reporters appearing with him in the Capitol.

Several items will be on the call, he said, which has not yet been made:

— Extending the state’s personal and corporate income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.

President Donald Trump has already extended the federal income tax filing deadline to July 15. Since the state personal income tax is based on the federal taxable income, Utah can’t really keep the April 15 deadline.

But, as reported previously by UtahPolicy.com, since the state’s fiscal year ends each June 30, by extending the filing deadline hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ income tax owed will mean money that normally comes in the current fiscal year will come next fiscal year — putting the current year in the red.

A new Utah Tax Commission “TC23” revenue report shows that up threw Feb. 24 state revenues are coming in “on target.” But the coronavirus impacts came after that date, and the report warns that the downside revenue collections — which are sure to come — will be seen towards the end of next month’s report.

— Opening up the state’s two Rainy Day funds — in the General Fund and in the Education Fund — for immediate use.

There is more than $750 million in combined rainy day funds, most of it, over $500 million, in the Education Fund, which the state Constitution says can ONLY be used for public and higher education.

The coronavirus crisis is a perfect example of why GOP lawmakers and Herbert want the Constitution changed, either to remove that earmark, or to include programs for children and the disabled in where income tax revenues can be spent.

In the 2020 Legislature, which adjourned in mid-March, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that will go before voters in November, adding disabled and children to the income tax earmark.

— There likely will be other items on the special session call dealing directly or tangentially with the coronavirus crisis.

Not clear now is whether Herbert will ask lawmakers to take any steps dealing with the spring/summer election deadlines.

As reported by UtahPolicy.com, if Herbert or legislators don’t act soon, in essence, the SB54 candidate signature-gathering route to party primary elections will be closed off this election year.

The signature-gathering deadline is April 10 — after Herbert plans to call the special session. A number of candidates, who planned on making their party’s primary via signatures, don’t appear to be able to make that deadline — since the coronavirus has drastically impacted their ability to collect signatures in a normal manner — going door-to-door getting signatures and/or gathering signatures at large-crowd events, like standing outside of grocery stores or at the late-March neighborhood party caucuses, which were canceled.

In any case, the upcoming special session will be held in a new manner — online streaming.

It is not clear how this will be done, but lawmakers passed a bill the final days of the session — as they faced the coronavirus crisis themselves — allowing for online legislative meetings, including special or general session meetings, where debates will take place and votes taken.

The Utah Constitution demands that all legislative official action be taken in public.

House GOP leadership tells UtahPolicy.com that is how this upcoming special session will be conducted — online, without lawmakers physically gathering at the Capitol — although it is still not known how that will take place.