Falling Leaves: It Must Be Budget Time

Autumn in the Governor’s office means more than colorful leaves. Fall means (ta dum) “The Budget”.  A governor’s budget is the best proof of his priorities.  There are a million needs, and as with your budget at home, the Governor’s budget is all about priorities.

To help us prioritize our spending, we ask the following about each spending request:

  1. Should state government address the issue under the Utah Constitution and the law?

  2. Is it consistent with the Governor’s philosophy of limited government, low taxes and personal self-reliance of our citizens?

  3. What alternatives have been considered to address the problem?

    1. What would happen if it were not funded?

    2. Could a partnership with other agencies provide efficiencies?

    3. Would new technology be more efficient and save money?

    4. Is there a private sector initiative addressing this issue?

    5. Could a public-private partnership better address the problem?

    6. In some cases, we ask if the intended beneficiaries of the program are paying their fair share. Do the program incentives move people toward self-reliance?

  4. If this program is truly a priority, what funds could be redirected to pay for it.

  5. Are we growing government, and if so, is this a wise investment over many years because government rarely shrinks.

Our goal is to ensure that the taxpayer gets more and more value for every dollar invested. Accordingly, Governor Herbert launched an aggressive and comprehensive approach to enhance performance and to connect the budgeting process with operations better. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) was recently reorganized to ensure the office had the necessary skills-set and expertise. Specifically, GOMB consists of three specialized teams–each focused on a critical part of performance and the budget.

  • The GOMB operational excellence team works closely with agencies to help them improve their quality, capacity and costs.

  • The budget and policy team has expertise in economic and policy analysis.

  • The financial operations team focuses on the technical requirements for building a high-quality budget and seeks to ensure the integrity of the actual budget process.

Our re-vamped processes and new GOMB team will give state leaders more insight into prioritizing program funding in their existing base budgets and intelligently reviewing agency performance.

The biggest constraint in budgeting is how much money there is to allocate. Tax revenue does not grow consistent with the increase in demand.  For instance, demand for Medicaid and unemployment benefits increase dramatically in a bad economy just when tax receipts normally drop. There are some constants in a growing state like ours.  It will take about $70M just to finance growth in the number of students in public education.

We will soon begin a round of “budget hearings” in which the Lt. Gov. and GOMB director meet with department and agency heads to hear their requests. One large department is building out their new IT system over a period of years. The Governor will need to balance that request with the entire budget. It’s actually a fun process and nicely emphasizes the priorities the Governor will pursue for the coming year, especially during the 2014 legislative session.