The Governor's Office of Planning and Budget and the Office of Legislative Fiscal Analyst announced Tuesday afternoon the most recent revenue estimates for the 2004 Fiscal Year, which ends on June 30, 2004. The consensus revenue estimates for the General Fund and the Uniform School Fund show total revenues at $3.5 billion.
This figure is $42 million higher than the estimates adopted in December by the Legislature, and means lawmakers will have $44 million of additional one-time money to appropriate in the Fiscal Year 2004 budget. In total, more than $92 million in additional revenue is available to legislators working on the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, which takes effect July 1.
Why the difference? Mainly an increase in how individual income and corporate franchise taxes are expected to add up. The General Fund and Uniform School Fund revenue estimates for FY 2005 show nearly $3.7 billion, about $30 million higher than Gov. Olene Walker's budget recommendations and $50 million more than estimates the Legislature adopted in December. Now the "allocating" begins.
On Thursday at noon, Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, and Rep. Patricia Jones, D-Salt Lake City, were set to discuss public education funding initiatives, including HB45, known as the Jones/Mascaro bill. School funding is at the heart of much debate on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers wrestle with how to hedge against Utah's ever-growing enrollment in public schools.
Members of the Utah House took one step this week regarding education, approving the idea of eliminating a central statewide nominating committee for state school board candidates. HB223, which was approved 69-3, would include businessmen and educators as part of the nominating committee.
Sen. Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful, saw his measure, SB79, pass the House Tuesday by a 67-8 vote. SB79 repeals child welfare worker designations. It repeals authorization of the Division of Child and Welfare Services to certify child welfare social service workers and child welfare social workers for purposes of calculating benefits and salary ranges, and changes how pay plans for certified child welfare workers are developed by the Department of Human Resource Management.
Rep. Dana Love's, R-Syracuse, HB128, a substitute DUI bill that has been widely discussed during this session, goes to the Senate after passing the House 68-7 on Tuesday. Her HR7 resolution on DUI also was approved by the House this week.
Love backed off her original version of the bill, increasing the blood alcohol content to .05 for any adult driving with minors under 18 (originally it was .04), and adding a zero-tolerance provision for those caught driving on revoked or conditional licenses that have any alcohol in their systems. Law enforcement officers suggested and support those changes.
"Floor time" for debate in both the House and Senate increased this week, with morning and afternoon sessions scheduled. Committees will do less and less meeting as bills finally come to the forefront in the traditionally final hectic days of the session.