ArchiveHow to Sound Smart About Utah Politics – September 18, 2013Bryan Schott·September 18, 2013· Share Countdown: There are 49 days to the 2013 municipal elections, 133 days until the start of the 2014 Legislature, 408 days until the 2014 midterm elections and 845 days until the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. Good budget news for Utah. The state finishes the fiscal year with a budget surplus of nearly $250 million [Utah Policy, Tribune]. The state’s debt load is pegged at nearly $8 billion [Standard-Examiner]. A legislative audit suggests the state is spending too much on food for female prison inmates [Deseret News]. Another audit says Utah needs to do a better job keeping probation and parole violators from going back to prison [Tribune]. Lawmakers consider scenarios for dealing with the possible closure of Hill Air Force Base [Standard-Examiner]. Utah’s tourism industry raked in $7.4 billion last year, which is up 8-percent from 2011 [Tribune]. Dust off those hackneyed Sammy Hagar references. Utah unveils nearly 300 miles of roads with 80 MPH speed limits [Tribune]. Oops! The Salt Lake County GOP schedules an event at the same time as Governor Herbert’s annual fundraising gala dinner [Tribune]. A new report says federal regulations about energy exploration on federal lands is costing states money and jobs [Deseret News]. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers are still steaming about a perceived snub from Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell [Standard-Examiner]. Salt Lake County officials want to do a better job with branding so residents understand what services the county provides [Tribune]. Environmentalists go to court in an effort to force the state to crack down on pollution in the Uintah Basin [Tribune].