Herbert: Adjustments To State Budget Needed Due To Coronavirus

Jun 11, 2020, 6:35 PM | Updated: 8:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced that he will call a special legislative session so state lawmakers can meet and modify the budget, after state revenues have fallen short because of the coronavirus response.

He made the announcement during Thursday’s press briefing with the Utah Department of Health.

“Because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, our state revenues have taken a hit,” he said.

Even with declining revenues, Herbert said the goal for lawmakers will be to adjust the budget for the next fiscal year without taking money away from public education.

“With a little bit of tightening of our belt—which is going to be necessary—my hope is that we’ll be able to keep education held harmless,” Herbert said.

The governor said Utah is more prepared than most other states to weather the storm because leaders have saved for a rainy day, and have stress tested the budget. Also, Herbert said Utah’s budget does not have any structural imbalances.

“We’ve been recognized as the (state) that had the least negative impact economically, and the state best positioned to recover,” Herbert said.

For eight consecutive weeks Utah saw declining jobless applications but that ended with the latest numbers. This came at the same time economists said the United States is officially in a recession.

“There are some positive signs of some return of economic activity but it is just going slower that what we had hoped,” said Kevin Burt, director of Utah’s Unemployment Insurance Division.

The announcement of a recession marked the end of the country’s longest period of economic expansion that lasted more than 10 years.

About 5,500 Utahns applied for unemployment last week – a nine percent increase from the week before. A total of 91,000 Utah residents filed for ongoing unemployment benefits.

“Whether that’s a trend or not it yet to be determined. I think one week is not a trend, so we just kind of have to sit and evaluate that and make sure,” Burt said.

He talked about some of the reasons for the increase.

“Maybe some employers that were able to hold on to some of their employees have seen that they are unable to continue to hold on to some of those employees,” Burt said.

The special session to tackle the budget has been targeted for next week.

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Herbert: Adjustments To State Budget Needed Due To Coronavirus