Utah Legislators Moving Away from Earmarks

17 March 2015 Written by  

Voices for Utah Children Applauds Legislators’ Stated Commitment to Use New Transportation Revenues to Reduce Earmarks 

The closing day of the Utah Legislature saw strong statements by leading legislators committing to use new transportation revenues to reduce reliance on dollars earmarked (diverted) from the state’s General Fund to finance our transportation needs.

In a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives in the final hour of the 2015 legislative session, House Transportation Committee Chairman Johnny Anderson argued in favor of HB362 saying, “This bill signifies a significant shift in policy for the state of Utah. For the past 17 years, we have relied more and more on the General Fund to meet our transportation needs because of this flawed user fee. This bill fixes that problem so that as we move forward in the future other important programs like education, public safety, courts, social programs, etc. etc. will not need to continue competing with transportation for the funding that they need like they have in the past. This is a generational shift for us.”

In its Friday, March 13th edition, the Salt Lake Tribune quoted Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, and Technology Committee Chairman Alvin Jackson as saying, “We are robbing from the general fund and education for transportation needs," and arguing that highways should be funded more fully by the user-fee gasoline tax.

While the Legislature took no direct action to reduce earmarks in the current legislative session, Voices for Utah Children is hopeful that future sessions will prove that legislative majorities share the stated desire of Senator Jackson and Representative Anderson to use the new transportation revenues to restore these still-growing earmarks to the General Fund, where they are very badly needed.

On February 27, 2015, a coalition of social service providers and advocates released an open letter to the Utah Legislature calling for restoration to the General Fund of a significant part of the over $500 million annually of earmarked revenues that are currently being diverted for other purposes. 

Last fall Voices for Utah Children published a report, “What’s Still Eating Utah’s General Fund: How Unfunded Earmarks Are Undermining the Budget Process and Affecting Utah Families and Children.” The report documented specific areas that have been given short shrift due to the diversion of earmarked revenues.

In his FY2016 budget proposal, Governor Gary Herbert called for restoring $94.2 million of transportation earmarks so they could be used for education purposes.

Voices for Utah Children applauds the Legislature for taking this first important step toward a sounder fiscal policy and looks forward to working with policymakers to take concrete steps to reduce earmarks in the future.

 Voices for Utah Children works to make Utah a place where all children thrive. We start with one basic question: "Is it good for kids?"

lugu-isolatedPolicies affect children—but children don’t vote. At Voices for Utah Children, we raise our voices on behalf of children, informing policymakers that government can and should act to keep kids safe and help them succeed. A Love Utah Give Utah gift to Voices for Utah Children will help us ensure that all Utah children are able to reach their full potential in life and contribute to Utah’s future prosperity. Learn more: bit.ly/loveUTchildren

Matthew Weinstein 300Matthew Weinstein, State Priorities Partnership Director, joined the organization in 2014. As State Fiscal Policy Director, he conducts analysis and advocacy focused on the state budget from the perspective of what's best for Utah's children. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Political Science from Amherst College.