Source: CVDaily Feed
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lawmakers worried about Utah’s reliance on U.S. government funds unveiled an online calculator Thursday that shows how the state would be hit by various federal budget disasters like a shutdown.
The tool at http://federalrisk.le.utah.gov was released by Utah’s Federal Funds Commission. The panel was formed in 2013 to study the state’s reliance on federal money in the wake of broad spending cuts.
Utah receives $3.8 billion in federal money, which makes up about 26 percent of the state budget.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who chairs the commission, said that while much of the threat is out of Utah’s control, the tool gives lawmakers a way to explain to Congress how its votes can hurt Utah and likewise show local officials what they’re staring down.
The calculator comes with several built-in scenarios that the commission says are “extreme but possible,” such as broad federal spending cuts and or deep slashes to Medicaid money.
On the website, the public can access a slimmed down version of a more sophisticated tool that legislative budget staff can use.
Jonathan Ball, the director of the legislature’s budget office, said no one knew what to do during a partial shutdown of the federal government two years ago.
“We just sort of tried to wing it,” he said.
Utah lost $3 million in visitor spending during the first 10 days of that shutdown as national parks and other sites were closed. Thousands of federal workers and civilian defense contractors were furloughed.
Ten days in, Utah dipped into state funds and spent more than $1 million to reopen five national parks and three other sites for six days.
Had Utah anticipated the shutdown with the tool, it could have had the money ready and a deal in place to keep the parks open, Ball said.
Meanwhile, leaders in Congress are working to avoid another shutdown next week because of a budget battle.
This year’s budget dispute stems from a conservative push to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The effort follows the release of secretly recorded videos from a California anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing ways to obtain tissue from aborted fetuses and compensation for shipping it to researchers.
A stopgap spending bill that would keep the government open only if taxpayer money is stripped from Planned Parenthood failed in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
Congress faces a deadline at midnight Wednesday to avoid a shutdown.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s office said Thursday that if Congress does not resolve the issue by Monday, he will direct state agencies to start carrying out back up plans to prepare for a partial shutdown. Herbert’s spokesman Jon Cox said the governor will take any steps needed to mitigate the shutdown in Utah, including reopening national parks.