Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy to report back to you on the hard work of the Legislature this past session. This is the first of four 2021 General Session recaps where I cover our state budget, business and economic development, education, energy & air quality, health, higher education, taxes, transportation and water.
Please continue to reach out to me as you see issues of interest. Your perspective is very important to me. Enjoy!
It is our Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget each year. Early in the session, we pass smaller, bare bones base budgets to ensure our state continues running even if there is a breakdown during negotiations. Near the end of the session, the Legislature passes what is referred to as the “Bill of Bills,” which allows us to supplement the base budgets with expanded appropriations based on the latest revenue estimates shared mid-way through the session. You can learn more about the budget at budget.utah.gov.
Our total state budget this year was a remarkable $23.4 billion, including both state and federal funding. In this recent session, the “Bill of Bills” was more specifically known as S.B. 3 Appropriations Adjustments.
This year, the budget provided historic levels of education funding, with over half our state funds appropriated solely for public and higher education. This funding included providing $121 million for teacher and staff COVID-19 stipends, restoring a 6 percent (WPU) increase in per student funding and allocating $127 million for future education spending to ensure we keep our commitment to fund public education enrollment growth and inflation. After all is said and done, we will have put aside nearly half a billion dollars for public education ongoing funds. That’s half a billion dollars each year, every year, from now on.
Transportation and Infrastructure
The Legislature appropriated $1.1 billion for transportation infrastructure to be spent over the next several years to fund infrastructure projects in every corner and region of the state. Investing in roads and transit over several years will help limit new debt while reducing overall debt over time.
During the 2021 General Session, the Legislature fully funded Medicaid growth and inflation. At the same time, we fixed a $56 million structural imbalance in Medicaid expansion.
We passed legislation that will provide $100 million in tax cuts to aid families, veterans and elderly citizens and will further boost Utah’s economic success. Here are the three major pieces of legislation passed:
S.B. 153 Utah Personal Exemption Amendments, restores part of the dependent tax exemption, which was reduced in the 2017 federal tax reform and increased taxes for many Utah families. In 2018, the Utah Legislature brought back a portion of the exemption and is now seeking to restore even more of the exemption to further reduce taxes for families.
S.B. 11 Retirement Income Tax Amendments, helps men and women who served in the armed forces by eliminating individual income tax on military retirement pay.
H.B. 86 Social Security Tax Amendments, eliminates income tax on some social security income, benefitting many Utah seniors living on a fixed income.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26