Utah Legislators Skeptical of Governor’s Tax Proposal

By: - December 15, 2010 12:00 am

Utah ‘s Republican governor and its GOP legislative leaders are sparring over the state budget, the Salt Lake Tribune reports . Governor Gary Herbert , who won a full term last month, is proposing that self-employed people report tax returns quarterly, instead of annually. That move would accelerate tax collections in the short-term, helping balance the budget. Some legislators view the shift as a tax increase, though. Both Senate President Michael Waddoups and Speaker-elect Becky Lockhart -a conservative stalwart who ousted the previous speaker last month-are opposed. They want more spending cuts. “I think we need to start killing some programs,” Waddoups said.

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder isn’t ready to commit to building a new publicly financed second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario-a controversial project that the state has been considering for years. Snyder met this week with a Canadian official, who said his country is willing to pay Michigan’s share of the joint project upfront, with the money to be paid back from toll revenue. “I reiterated to the Canadians that I am generally supportive of a second span, but I also made it clear that I want to make sure the project is financially sound, and Michigan taxpayers are not burdened with the construction or maintenance costs of a new bridge,” Snyder said, according to the Detroit Free Press . Outgoing Governor Jennifer Granholm had backed the new bridge, but it has competition. The current span, the Ambassador Bridge, is privately held, and owner Manuel Moroun would like to build his own new bridge as competition for another public one. The Ambassador is more than 80 years old but it handles more commercial traffic than any other crossing on the United States’ northern border.

While he was a state senator, Vermont Governor-elect Peter Shumlin crusaded against the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. But he’s not demanding that his pick to lead the utility-regulating Public Service Department take up the same cause, the Burlington Free Press reports . Shumlin chose Liz Miller , a lawyer whom he touted for her lack of ties to the utility industry. But he also said he hasn’t told her what decisions to make with regard to Vermont Yankee, which has earned the ire of state lawmakers for safety and environmental violations. Vermont’s government has unusual power over Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear power plant, which provides a third of its energy. Nuclear power generally is regulated by the federal government, but Vermont has a say in whether the plant’s lease extends beyond its 2012 expiration date thanks to a 2005 deal that allowed Vermont Yankee to store spent fuel above ground. So far, the legislature has opposed any extension.

Faced with a $28 billion combined budget gap in the current and forthcoming fiscal years, California Governor-elect Jerry Brown is making his budget strategy clearer, the Contra Costa Times reports . Brown is sending signals that he will support a budget next month that relies on huge cuts in public services, then ask voters to approve tax increases to blunt the cuts. In recent days, Brown has sought to dramatize the state’s dire budget problems, as he prepares to introduce his budget. “Please sit down if you’re reading the stories on the budget on Jan. 10,” Brown said at a forum. “If you’re driving, fasten your seat belt because it’s going to be a rough ride.”

Medicaid payments to doctors in South Carolina are hanging in the balance. It will be up to Governor-elect Nikki Haley to decide what should be done, the State reports . South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services faces a $228 million deficit in the current fiscal year, which will prevent it from paying doctors under Medicaid starting in March if nothing is done. The agency has asked the state Budget and Control Board for permission to run a temporary deficit, but the Board delayed action yesterday. That means it won’t act until after Haley is sworn in-the governor is one of five members of the Board. No matter how the shortfall is resolved, South Carolina is planning to cut some Medicaid benefits in February. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman helps lead research on fiscal management and place-based economic development programs as part of Pew’s state fiscal health project. Goodman has served as a primary author for Pew studies that examine how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.