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The committee also endorsed HB2001 to continue to pay for insurance and holiday-leave benefits for furloughed state employees.
The state estimates about 625 could be furloughed by month’s end, including 181 of the Utah National Guard’s 250 full-time employees, said Adjutant General Dallen Atack.
The committee also endorsed SB2001, which would retroactively OK the state’s payment of $1.66 million to reopen Utah’s national parks and would spend up to $7 million more to keep them open through Dec. 1.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said the $1.66 million expenditure has generated $12.7 million to $33.3 million in state gross domestic product through tourism.
"The tax revenue [alone] for the state is anywhere between $600,000 and $1.5 million," he said.
"We’re trying to maintain our economy," Adams added. "We need to send a message to those who want to come to the state that we are open for business."
After Oct. 28, he said, the state will send only weekly payments to the federal government for the parks — rather than the whole amount up front — and allow legislative leaders to halt payments when conditions warrant.
While Utah officials hope to be reimbursed by the feds for opening the parks, no guarantee exists. "If Congress appropriates the funding, then we will be repaid.
But that’s a big if," said legislative fiscal analyst Jonathan Ball.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, wondered what state programs would be hurt by spending state money for national parks. None, she was told, because the money comes from a Sovereign Lands Management Account, which has a $24 million surplus.
Funded by commercial operations on the Great Salt Lake, such as mineral extraction or brine shrimp harvests, the account helps fund state management of public lands.
Officials figure $8.7 million could be taken from that fund for national parks — an amount that would take five years to replace without federal reimbursement.
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