POLITICS & ELECTIONS

2023 Legislative session ends with ‘historic’ investments

Mar 3, 2023, 11:45 PM | Updated: 11:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The 2023 Utah legislative session ended Friday with the lawmakers passing the largest budget in the state’s history.

In all, the budget totaled $29 billion.

Gov. Spencer Cox said one of the most important parts of that budget is a record-setting tax cut.

“The citizens of Utah will be getting the largest tax relief in our state’s history, by multiples,” he said during his post-session news conference.

In all, the legislature passed 575 pieces of legislation. As of Friday the Governor  had signed 26 into law.

Some of the bills address will address saving the Great Salt Lake.

“There are several water conservation bills including over $500 million in funding when combined with the $500 million last year,” Cox said. “That’s over $1 billion in water funding and could not come at a better time or more important time with all the snow that we have in the mountains and our ability to get that water to places where it’s desperately needed, most notably the Great Salt Lake for generations to come.”

Lawmakers also set aside more money for education.

“We are excited that we were able to get a significant increase in teacher pay as well as optional all day kindergarten, something that we have been working on for several years,” Cox said.

He was especially animated when it came to the two bills sent to his desk that are aimed at social media companies.

One would allow parents to approve new social media accounts for their children.

“We’re also focusing on holding social media companies accountable for the damage that they are doing to our young people. One of the ways that we’re doing, that is a presumption of harm to kids under the age of 16,” Cox said. “So that it would be incumbent upon that the social media companies to try to overcome that presumption, and it empowers parents the private right of action to sue social media companies or for damage that is done to their children.”

Those bills will likely face a challenge in court and Cox said he is ready for it.

“I can’t wait to hold them accountable. I can’t wait to get in front of a judge and jury with these media companies, it will be one of the happiest days of my life when we get to show the world what they’ve known and what they’ve been doing to our kids.”

House Minority Leader Angela Romero called it a whirlwind of a session where they did about $28 billion in funding for projects that are important to the community.

She also had some concerns about some things that passed.

“I really had concerns about what happened with abortion this year and us trying to limit who can get an abortion,” she said. “The other thing is when we tie scholarship money—$8,000 to kids to leave public school to go to private school, and we tie that with teachers raises.”

Representative Romero highlighted some of the good also including millions of dollars toward domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

She said she agreed they did a lot for protecting and improving the Great Salt Lake but she added more needs to be done.

Cox has 21 days to sign or veto bills.

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2023 Legislative session ends with ‘historic’ investments