Legislative actions have ramifications for Carbon County
The cost of that six pack of beer on the store shelf will be going up along with some other state fees while higher education will receive a one percent cut in their budgets.
The news from the latest legislative session could have been much worse for Carbon County residents however, had the projected money figures not come in higher than expected and had money not been restored to aging services and Medicaid.
Brad King, representative to the state house from District 69, which encompasses two thirds of Carbon counties residents, was upbeat upon his return from the 45 day meeting of state lawmakers, even though things certainly weren't all rosy.
"You know you work on all these bills and for the first three weeks it is fairly easy to keep up on things," stated King seated in his office at the College of Eastern Utah Tuesday morning.
"But that last two weeks gets really confusing. Once the budget is released, things really get hectic."
King went on to say that both good and bad things happened for the county during the past session.
"I like the fact that the cuts weren't made to aging services,' he stated.
"The poverty level was kept where it was and that was good. Eligibility almost got moved to 70 percent of the federal level which would have cut off a large number of Carbon residents from meals on wheels and Medicaid dollars."
The body of representatives approved approximately $30 million for the Medicaid program.
As for the meals on wheels program, the legislature reinstated over $800,000 they had cut in an earlier special session.
Public education was also largely held harmless from any budget cuts which would affect the Carbon School District.
The legislature appropriated $11 million for growth in the schools across the state and raised the weighted pupil unit from $2132 per student to $2150.
During the session, the legislature also increased charter school funding $1,575,000. They also appropriated $1.8 million to begin implementing the educational reform package.
"But everyone needs to remember that we cut $8 million out of next year's budget already and that will affect Carbon schools based on a formula that will distribute the reduction amongst all the school districts in the state," he noted.
As for higher education, the one percent cut could affect CEU slightly with the school having to find a way to either cut or make up the $20,000 it may lose.
"It really doesn't hurt us much," King said. "What is really hurting the states higher education system is that there is no money budgeted for growth, which is the same as a cut if the student body of a school is expanding. CEU is not growing, so that doesn't affect us much, but some of the other schools will really feel the pinch."
Some schools are solving the shortfall by increasing tuition. In fact, it was announced last Monday that seven of the nine state schools would also raise student fees as well.
Fees are used to support campus activities, athletics, computer systems and in some cases medical insurance coverage and other items. It is expected however, that CEU's fees will remain the same this year.
"Overall for public employees, there will be no real raise on their paychecks," stated King.
"But there is a 1 percent increase that will cover benefits such as medical coverage."
But King was disturbed by one development. Even though the legislature decided to keep enough money in the system to not have to close the Lone Peak facility in Salt Lake, they did cut youth corrections in a big way.
"I'm not sure exactly what will be closed in our facility here, but I would guess it would be the secure schooling program," he sadly reported.
"I didn't know that until the last day of the session. We have had one of the best programs in the state. It looks like they will have to cut about one third of the beds at the center."
As for road funding, nothing was taken away and the body of lawmakers passed another $60 million to continue with the Centennial Highway Program.
The legislature failed to pass any kind of general tax increase to help the budget, but did increase some kinds of fees and taxes on certain items.
"Of course there was the beer tax increase of about a penny per bottle," said King. "Probably the one that will affect most people is the sales tax on satellite and cable television bills. There were a variety of other fees that went up as well."
While in most years there is never any special sessions called by the governor, the last couple of years, the months between the regular sessions have been replete with them.
Last year, there was six special sessions called, largely because of budget concerns.
"I expect we will have a few this year too," concluded King. "But I hope they wait awhile. I'd just like to be home for few days."