Tag Archives: budget

Education facing the budget axe

It’s bad enough that Utah Legislators are attempting to destroy the public educational system in the state.  Along with bills that want to transfer control from the State Board over to the Legilators or the Governor (depending on which bill), the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed a total of  $257 million dollars to education programs for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ouch.  Double ouch.  Triple ouch.

What is making the situation worse is the shocker news about cutting programs at both ends of the spectrum – gifted and special needs.  As aresponse to a demand to prioritize cuts, the State Board inlcuded The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind in the amount of $20 million.  Double take.  $20 million.

"We’re going to cut some of these things, so you need to tell us in what rank of importance do you see (these programs)" Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said to State Superintendent Larry Shumway.

The State Board of Education approved a list of programs that could be cut if needed last week, and on the figurative chopping block was $20 million in funding for USDB. The board was emphatic that it doesn’t want to see education cut in any way and was only making the recommendation to assist the committee.

(Deseret News, February 8, 2011)

This axe would effectively kill early intervention services to students with sight and hearing impairments, along with services that are best delivered in the specialized setting of the separate schools.

Legislators have put state education officials in a precarious position.  Utah is already at the top of the list in class size and at the bottom in per pupil spending.  The system already operates on a bare bones budget.

What will be the sacrifice of these cuts?  What are the stakes for our future generations when education is sacrificed – for all students?  Mediocrity appears to be the mission.  Dare I say…..reminiscent of A Brave New World?  Maybe…….

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

The Guv’s Fiscal 2012 Budget Recommendations

Governor Herbert’s Fiscal 2012 Budget Recommendations can be viewed in their entirety here:

Links to more information, reviews and articles on the Budget Recommendations can be found at this Google Search Engine Page.

I will be posting on select budget items throughout the legislative session.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Micro-managing school budgets vs. the real issues

The two fundamental problems in our educational system in Utah are (1) not enough per pupil spending (Utah is last in the nation) and (2) top heavy spending in the school districts (administration, etc.) for what benefits students are actually receiving.  #1 is by far the greatest issue.  Yet some legislators are choosing what I consider to be minor issues on which to focus in the budget of Utah’s already suffering school system.

Yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune posted the piece Utah to reevaluate who pays for school supplies .

 

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, is sponsoring a resolution that would amend the constitution so schools could ask students to voluntarily provide their own school supplies.

Powell is quoted as saying the teachers “are afraid to ask students” to bring any materials to class, resulting in teachers paying out of their own pockets.

I do not know of any teacher who is “afraid” to ask the parents of students if they can bring materials in to class.  I think this statement is a generalization based on deductive reasoning that has no statistical basis.

 

His proposal is one that’s drawn vocal opposition from some state school board members who fear the proposal is one that would allow the state to shirk its financial responsibility when Utah already spends less per student than any state in the country.

 

“The idea of financing our education system by parents and children bringing in their own supplies _ that’s a diversion from what is really supposed to be happening _ that is the school system in this state is supposed to be financed by the Legislature,” said board member Leslie Brooks Castle, who represents Salt Lake City.

 

“It’s really a relinquishment. It really is a way to discriminate against people who don’t have as much.”

 

Utah is 14th in median household income.  This means that there are 36 states with lower median household incomes spending more per pupil in public education.   Wyoming is 19th in median household income and yet spends double what Utah does in per pupil spending.  Idaho is 37th in median household income and 49th in per pupil spending.  Mississippi is last in the U.S. in median household income and is 6 ranks above Utah in per pupil spending.  Why is it that Utah is last in per pupil spending?  There is definitely something wrong with this picture.  Micromanaging the education budget with things like who spends what for supplies is a mockery in light of  the real budgetary issues facing Utah’s educational system.

(statistics garnered from Wikipedia the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics).

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Taxing “deadly” products is proving “deadly” for business owners

The recent legislation imposing a hike in taxes on tobacco products is proving deadly for local business owners.  Legislators have effectively instituted measures that are forcing people having to turn to buying their "deadly" products out of state and forcing local businesses to close their doors.   One such business is Utah’s oldest smoke shop, Jeanie’s tobacco.  The business is being forced to close it’s doors as a result of 2010 legislation that imposed a significant tax increase on cigarettes.
 
 

July 1….is the date by which [owner] Klc must come up with $125,000 to cover the higher tax on his existing inventory. Klc says it’s too big an investment for products that will be taxed at some of the highest rates in the nation.

"When I think of my customers and suppliers, I feel like I’m losing my best friends. It’s like I’m going to a funeral.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who fought for years to raise Utah’s tobacco tax, said he understood that distributors would have to pay the bill, not retailers. But Charlie Roberts, Utah Tax Commission spokesman, said retailers indeed must pay the higher tax and yes, it will come due when the law takes effect this summer.

"If that’s the way it is, then so be it," Christensen said. "I’m sorry for some of the businessmen the law will impact, but they’re selling a deadly product."

 
(Salt Lake Tribune)

Well, let’s talk about what is "deadly" that also should be taxed.

Guns:  Utahns are big on guns.  Legilsators need to impose a guns and bullet tax hike:  100% hike on guns and $1.00 per bullet (government exempt)
Pollution:  All companies that contribute to the polluted air in Utah should be taxed even higher such as oil refineries and coal fired power plants (which put mercury into the air).
Alcohol:  Let’s close all liquor stores and have another prohibition!
Products with aspartagme:
Energy drinks
Fast food that is contributing to the ill health of Americans
(Utah should NEVER allow Big Mac’s into the state!)

Running local businesses out of town that have been in existence for a century or more is criminal in itself!  Legislators need to be equitable about which "deadly" products and companies producing "deadly" products are being taxed.
(see my previous post on Vice Taxing)

Vice Taxing

Utah’s legislators are about to set the stage for placing a tax on tobacco products.  But what about considering increasing taxes on all “vices”?

HB196 Tobacco Tax Revisions aims to increase the tax rates “on the
sale, use, storage, or distribution of tobacco products in the state for the 2010-11 fiscal year and allowing the rates to fluctuate in subsequent fiscal years”.

SB40 Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Amendments aims to
“increase the tax on cigarettes, moist snuff, and other tobacco products; deposit income from the permanent state trust fund into the General Fund; and
address the deposit of revenues collected from the taxes; make technical and conforming changes”.

HB71 Nicotine Product Restrictions “amends provisions of the Uniform Driver License Act, provisions relating to the state system of public education, the Utah Criminal Code, and the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure to place restrictions on the provision, obtaining, and possession of a nicotine product and to enforce these restrictions”.  Specifically, the bill is aimed to prevent the sale of nicotine laced candy and gum (not including smoking cessation products) in Utah, the products of which are currently not available in the state.

The sponsor of HB71, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has been the target by tobacco companies for possible court action should the bill pass, according to a Deseret News Article.

“Now they need to try to keep going by doping candy with the most addictive and deadly substance in tobacco,” he said. “Utah has made a point of protecting our youth from the hazards of tobacco use, and now that they are targeting a new market with lozenges and mints, we think that’s going to far.”

Read the rest of the article here.

In his piece in the Deseret News, Tobacco tax to hit those who can least afford it Lee Benson shares his encounter with folks addicted to tobacco who, despite raising taxes on the products and thus the consideration to stop the addiction, still are not able to stop.

“I know smoking’s not healthy,” he[patron at tobacco shop] says. “But every time I stop smoking, I gain weight — so I have to decide, am I going to die from obesity or from smoking?”

Smokers, he says, are a “scapegoat” for taxation.

“Nine percent of taxpayers smoke. Out of that 9 percent, they’re trying to take care of the majority. It isn’t fair. But what can you do?”

Benson interviews Sy Pham,  a tobacco wholesaler, who complains of the disparity between citizens actually paying for the tax increase:

 

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Education: Everyone’s “bag”

Education is always a hot topic in the Legislature and this year is no exception.  Issues such as how to keep our students safe, how to best educate them with the funding provided, what and what not to teach them, class size…..the list is overwhelming.  The education of our children is and should be high on the list of  priorities.  Here is a look at what’s shaking in Utah’s Education Legislation:

HB72 Utah School Seismic Hazard Inventory addresses the big safety issue – earthquake-proofing school buildings because it’s just a matter of time before the “Big One” hits.  To that end, experts say a “to-do” list is imperative.

An informal survey four years ago found that 58 percent of about 800 school buildings were constructed before the modern seismic standards started being used in the mid-1970’s. With about 560,000 students in public and charter school buildings, assessing earthquake-worthiness and tackling a statewide to-do list is urgent, earthquake experts say.

“It’s critical,” said Roger Evans, chairman of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, “because you can see what happened in Haiti and Chile can happen on the Wasatch Front someday when we have the Big One. It’s a real issue for all our school kids.”

The possibility that an earthquake could kill Utah schoolchildren has always been on the radar for commission members, but it became grimly real when members studied video of schools crumbling in the Sichuan Province earthquake of 2008.

(Salt Lake Tribune)

The bill did not pass the House last week because some lawmakers are hesitant to spend the extra money, even though it has been pointed out that funds were used recently to upgrade the State Capitol Building to seismic standards.

Salt Lake Tribune Columnist Paul Rolley highlights the provision in HB355 Legal Guardianship Amendments which addresses a school’s rights to challenge a guardianship of students:

During a year when public schools face tens of millions of dollars in shortfalls, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill that helps ensure out-of-state youth hockey players get a free education here at an estimated cost to Utah taxpayers of $500,000 to $1 million.

HB355, which would make it more difficult for a school district to challenge a legal guardianship in court, was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, whose son is a member of the Chadders Hockey Club, a main backer of the bill.

With the benign title of “Guardianship Amendments,” it moved stealthily through the House and now is in the Senate.

Read the rest of his post here.

Utah Moms Care, a blog dedicated to civil discourse on issues that affect Utah families, has a post on the Education Budget here, where they have this to say about HB166 Reductions to Education Mandates:

HB 166 Reduction to Education Mandates by Rep. Dougall is a mixed bag. The bill gives local school boards and charter schools more options to consider by making some education mandates optional for the next two years. For example, school districts will be exempt from administering the 10th grade basic skills competency test for the next 2 years. This is also the bill that pushes the busing boundaries out to 3 miles for a secondary school. That does not mean that if you live within the 3 mile radius that all bus service will be stopped, it only dictates that state money cannot be spent on routes within a 3 mile range – school districts will have to cover the cost of areas closer to the school.

The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools has posted a list of bills its members are supporting:

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SB44: Health care for “legal” immigrant children garners approval

Utah Senators gave their nod of approval yesterday for  SB44 Health Amendements for Legal Immigrant Children.  The bill would lift a 5 year waiting period for immigrant families to obtain health care for their children.

What is puzzling is the sentiment by adults towards children and tax paying workers.

Today’s Deseret News:

“These kids are kids, and they’re playing by the rules as best they can,” he[Sen. Chris Buttars R-West Jordan] reasoned. “So while I’m totally against illegals, these kids aren’t illegals.”

As if any children had control over their lives.

But while those kids might follow the rules, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who opposed the bill, said the five-year wait is there for a reason: Legal immigrants are expected to take care of themselves for that time.

“They need to play by the rules, the rules are set up, and you’re asking us to change the rules,” Christensen said.

Well, yes, because no human should be without health care and children in particular have no choice over their circumstances.  Legal or not, when someone needs health care they should be able to get it. Further, immigrants who have legal status pay taxes into our system and therefore should, without question, have access to, among other things, the health care system.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, bill sponsor says that this not about immigration:

SB44 isn’t about immigration, Robles said, but health care policy, and it opens access to preventative care that is more cost-efficient than letting problems grow until they end up in emergency rooms.

This is very sensible.  While it wouldn’t take effect until 2012, this bill is a giant step in the right direction for opening the health care access door for all.

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)