Proposed Spending Cap Amendment Moves to House Floor

(KCPW News) A proposed constitutional amendment to cap state spending narrowly cleared a House Committee yesterday. The measure, sponsored by Republican Representative Carl Wimmer, would limit what the state can spend each year to the amount the state spent the previous year, but allow adjustments for inflation, deflation and population growth. It also requires surplus money to go into a rainy day fund and a modest refund to taxpayers. Wimmer says if a spending cap were implemented years ago, the state wouldn’t have to slash the budget today.

“We would have the rainy-day fund set aside, and we would have not grown the government and grown the state budget so large and out of control that we’re now having to cut so deep,” says Wimmer.

Wimmer argues political pressure in boom years causes overspending, although Utah is consistently labeled the best-managed state in the country.

But some lawmakers believe essential programs are currently underfunded, and capping spending now would mean shorting them for years to come. Republican Representative Kraig Powell says Wimmer’s plan only assumes that Utah is spending too much money on government services, and that may not be the case.

“I think there are some people who believe that and some people that don’t and therefore I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to write into the constitution that we cannot spend any more next year than we spent this year,” said Powell. “I think that should be left to the democratic process.”

Wimmer acknowledged a spending cap could mean cutting social service programs he believes are not essential. The committee passed his resolution on a 6-to-4 vote. If passed by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House and Senate, it would have to be approved by voters as well.