Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams presented his 2016 budget to the Salt Lake County Council Tuesday morning, saying it’s time to work differently in order to deal with an increase in crime and a broken criminal justice system that has long frustrated police, prosecutors, probation officers, court employees, mental health workers, crime victims and the community as a whole.
“This balanced budget supports my belief in taking on tough issues and solving problems. It prioritizes the county’s core responsibility – public safety,” said McAdams.
McAdams outlined a plan to re-dedicate proceeds from an existing jail bond tax levy—passed by voters in 1995 to construct a new jail—to help address the overcrowded jail and understaffed District Attorney’s office. The approximately $9.4 million a year would be used to build a new Community Corrections Center, as well as support several new Pay for Success initiatives that are designed to reduce recidivism, address homelessness and work with low income mothers and their children to gain a good start in life.
“My conviction is that we can limit the number of new jail beds by finding the courage today to seize this opportunity to fund immediate needs now, while figuring out how to interrupt the projected flow into the criminal pipeline,” said McAdams.
In the speech, McAdams is critical of the state legislature for moving ahead on a new prison and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative without also adopting a Utah plan for Medicaid expansion. When Justice Reinvestment took effect on October 1st, McAdams said that the county jail became the new incarceration option for non-violent drug offenders who used to be sentenced to prison. That reform – in the short term – adds to jail overcrowding without providing sufficient funding for much-needed jail diversion programs that provide sentencing alternatives that deal with substance abuse and mental health issues.
“Without a plan to provide health care and behavioral health treatment to Utah’s neediest residents, the data underlying the fundamental assumptions and decisions justifying prison relocation is flawed. The three-legged stool of Justice Reinvestment, prison re-location and Medicaid expansion is tipping over,” said McAdams.
Nevertheless, McAdams said the county will meet its obligations to public safety. He said the two-pronged approach will support the jail, the Sheriff and the District Attorney while adopting evidence-based programs that are shown to work, or the funding is discontinued. In order to focus on the public safety prioritizes, McAdams said he requested and received approximately $34 million in cuts from department heads and independent elected officials’ offices. He said this year’s new growth in sales and property taxes –approximately $8 million—will be used to pay for next year’s presidential election, cover the county’s higher costs for health insurance coverage, fix some pay inequities and give county employees a two and a half percent pay increase.
“This year’s budget takeaway is summed up in two words: conviction and courage,” said McAdams. “It takes conviction to set goals and ask whether our county government functions meet the needs of our residents today. It takes courage, under budget pressures that force tough choices, to follow our analysis, our data and analysis and deliver on our commitment that we will change. That’s what the 1.1 million residents of Salt Lake County expect and deserve,” said McAdams.
Read the Mayor’s budget speech as prepared for delivery at www.slco.org.