The head of the Utah National Guard says he is dread-ing what he sees as inevitable should one of the tax initiatives be approved this fall - laying off employees paid with state rather than federal money.
Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews said he isn't sure yet just how many of the nearly 30 employees in that category would be laid off if the rollback initiative passes.He said that he analyzed the effects of the tax initiatives on his budget in response to a request by Gov. Norm Bangerter. While his efforts produced no surprises, they have given him cause for concern.
"It's a step backward as far as our agency is concerned," Matthews said. "We've got to be smart or we're just going to have less of everything."
The People's Tax Reduction Act, which would roll back the state income, sales, gasoline and cigarette tax increases passed by the 1987 Legislature, could trim as much as 13 percent from the state's share of the guard's budget.
The state contributes about $2.7 million toward the more than $100 million spent on guard activities in Utah, much of it to qualify for so-called matching funds, said Matthews.
The term refers to federal funding that is based on the level of state support. The "match" can be dollar-for-dollar or, as is often the case, the federal government may provide several dollars for each state dollar spent.
Raiding matching funds for the estimated $300,000 budget reduction that would be required if the rollback initiative passes may "be killing the goose that laid the golden egg," Matthews said.
So, instead, he said he has planned to take the budget reductions only from areas that are completely state funded, to prevent any loss of federal dollars. Those areas mainly involve personnel and maintenance.
Of the guard's approximately 1,150 full-time employees at the state's 24 armories, fewer than 30 are paid entirely from state money. They are administrative employees and include clerical and maintenance workers as well as security personnel.
Matthews said he is still trying to determine how many of those employees would have to be laid off because of the rollback initiative. He is also looking at reducing much of the maintenance done on guard buildings.
Under its agreement with the National Guard, the state pays 25 percent of the cost of constructing guard facilities and then handles all of the upkeep, repairs and utility costs.
Should the state money used to maintain the facilities be reduced, Matthews said the condition of the buildings "will just go downhill. That's just what happens - that's reality."
Much of the problem centers around the state's responsibility for paying utility bills. Since utility costs are not likely to drop, Matthews said repairs and upkeep would have to suffer.
One way to reduce utility costs would be to stop renting out armories to non-guard groups in the evenings, he said. Currently, the facilities are made available for a nominal fee as a service to local residents.