Lawmakers make their final recommendations for Utah’s $28B budget

The Utah Legislature has two days left in the 2023 legislative session. Here’s what bills they’re passing, and some they’re not, in the final moments.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

Legislative leaders made their final recommendations for Utah’s $28 billion budget next year, adding nearly $300 million in additional spending in ongoing and one-time funds that sprang from bills that appropriate $10,000 or more, plus additional items that made the funding list.

All of that spending will be rolled into what is known as the “Bill of Bills” that will be unveiled on Friday.

Some of the items that made the final list:

  • More than $400,000 for HB311, which aims to regulate the use of social media by minors in Utah. The money will go toward investigations and enforcement.

  • $12 million for SB153, which funds a one-year extension of rural film incentives.

  • $4.1 million for targeted salary increases in the attorney general’s office.

  • $6 million for electric train research at Utah State University

  • $20 million for water infrastructure projects

Additionally, the legislature’s top budgeting committee released “intent language” directing how certain funds will be spent, which will be incorporated into the forthcoming budget bill.

That language sets the governor’s salary for next year at $182,900, a raise from $166,000. The governor’s salary is used to calculate the salaries for other statewide constitutional officers, including the lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The intent language also seeks to expand program capacity in higher education for programs that deal with occupations like information security, software development, registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

Lawmakers call for review of military agreement with Japan after U.S. Navy officer’s imprisonment

The Senate signed off on a resolution calling on Congress and the National Security Council to review a military agreement with Japan in the midst of the ongoing imprisonment of Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis as his wife, Brittany Alkonis, wept in the wings.

Alkonis, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is serving a three-year sentence for a fatal car crash that killed two people in 2021.

Freshman Provo GOP Rep. Tyler Clancy’s resolution was passed on the heel of Utah’s senior U.S. Sen. Mike Lee using Twitter to threaten Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in recent weeks. Lee repeatedly said he would attempt to launch a review of the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Japan if the leader didn’t initiate a prisoner transfer.

Brittany Alkonis, Ridge’s wife, dressed in a T-shirt that said “Bring Ridge Home,” attended the Senate vote on Thursday.

After a brief stumble, lawmakers reach a deal on ‘historic’ tax package

The “historic” tax cut package that was speeding through the Legislature hit an unexpected roadblock on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday evening, the Senate changed HB54 to include language from another bill, HB101, which removes the state portion of the sales tax on food, but only if voters approve a change to the Utah Constitution that eliminates an earmark that says income taxes can only fund public and higher education and some social services.

The House voted not to agree with that addition on Thursday morning, and the Senate refused to back off.

The main disagreement was over a provision to temporarily increase fees for license plates by $1. After a short conference committee between the two sides, that part was removed.

The tax cut package is now on a glide path to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

What did Utah lawmakers pass on March 1?

Interested in learning what the Legislature did on the final Wednesday of the 2023 general session? Here’s our reporting from yesterday: ‘Historic’ tax cut, social media regulation, new abortion restrictions. Here’s what lawmakers decided on March 1.