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Utah commission would assess federal government's budget cuts

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would establish the Federal Funds Commission to prepare a plan to address cutbacks in federal money to the state passed 59-14 Wednesday in the House.

SB70, sponsored by Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, would require that a commission, comprised of legislators, city and county leaders, representatives from chambers of commerce and others, bring a comprehensive plan of how to respond to a reduction in federal funds to the governor and legislators.

"What we face is the most predictable economic crisis in world history," said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, the bill's House sponsor. "We've never been here before."

The bill is the centerpiece of the financial ready bills that aim to prepare Utah for federal fund withdrawal, Ivory said.

"Nearly 40 percent of every dollar spent in Utah comes from the federal government that is borrowing and printing more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends," Ivory said. "They are telling us they are unsustainable. … They have, in their words, pulled the fire alarm."

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the plan would be easier to stomach if legislators were willing to both cut spending and increase revenue.

"The one tool is completely off the table," King said. "It's difficult for me to take this kind of proposal. A two-word phrase comes to mind when I hear this talk: fundamentally unserious."

There are no predetermined solutions for the commission, Ivory said.

"I think the good representative from Salt Lake misunderstands the language of the bill," he said. "We are looking at this in a comprehensive fashion."

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, asked what this group would do that is different from what other state agencies have done in determining what will go first?

Ivory said the committee will work with the raw material from state agencies.

Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, stood in support of the bill: "We have to not only look at reducing spending, but also have to look at how to increase revenue."

Barrus suggested unleashing the energy resources that are locked up through administrative issues.

"We have a way forward. We have a way to put resources on the table," he said. "We just have to have a federal government that is willing to unleash it."

Ivory said commission wages are not added to member salaries.

E-mail: rlowry@deseretnews.com

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