What would you do if you had reason to believe that one-third of your family income was at risk of going away? Distressingly, this is the situation of most states … including ours.
Nearly one-third of Utah’s revenue comes from federally sourced funds. It’s the single largest source of our state revenue. Every year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issues a stark report that federal finances are “unsustainable”.
Preparing for my first legislative session, I learned that most state agencies had no idea the amount of federal funds they receive, nor did they have any plan for any reduction of federal funds.
So, in 2011, I passed HB138 Federal Receipts Reporting Requirements. This bill requires all state agencies to report annually (i) their total federal receipts, (ii) the percentage it is of their budgets, and (iii) their contingency plan in the event federal funds were reduced by certain amounts.
Later that same year, S&P downgraded the credit rating of the United States. Later, Congress passed the Budget Control Act that provided for automatic funding cuts, including funds to states.
Thereafter, the ratings agencies began reviewing states for downgrade. When they asked what Utah was doing to reduce our dependence on federal funds, our fiscal analysts shared my HB138 efforts. These rating agencies said Utah was the only state actively preparing for the risk of a reduction in federal funds. Because of this, they said they would not even review Utah for a credit downgrade. This saved our state millions of dollars in interest costs.
In 2012, we passed legislation creating the Federal Funds Review Commission, which I chair. In 2013, working with the West Jordan Chamber of Commerce, the Western Growth Coalition and the Utah Association of CPAs, we passed a package of bills to increase our state’s financial self reliance known as Financial Ready Utah.
Of these efforts, Dan Griffiths, local CPA and chairman of the Government Affairs Committee of the West Jordan Chamber, had this to say:
“I have had the pleasure of working closely with Ken Ivory on a number of bills aimed at helping our state better prepare for future fiscal shocks. I have found him to be bright, capable, hard working, and truly sincere in his desire to serve our state.
“In my service with the American Institute of CPAs and the Utah Association of CPAs, I have the opportunity to discuss state fiscal issues with individuals that are active in advancing these issues in other states. The work that Representative Ivory has done here in Utah is truly ground breaking in this regard. Future generations of Utahns will owe Ken a debt of gratitude for his foresight in helping to prepare our state for the fiscal shocks that seem increasingly likely given the unsustainable fiscal situation in Washington.”
The national debt has risen trillions of dollars under the past few administrations. We know by definition that which is “unsustainable,” will end. While we can’t know when federal funds to our state may be reduced, we certainly do know the risk is greater today than it was when I first passed HB138 in 2011.
Much more preparation is needed to increase the financial self-reliance of our state. Just as we prepare in our families when we know there are risks to our family finances, I am committed to prepare for the risks that face our state.