Balancing the budget
The legislature convened for a special session at the end of September and balanced the budget for the current fiscal year which commenced July 1 and ends on June 30, 2009. It was not an easy process, but it is constitutionally mandated. If we would have waited, it would have increased the pain.
We accomplished the task without dipping into the "rainy day" fund which has been accumulated over the last few years. While it had begun to sprinkle, it appeared to us that the real rainy days had not yet arrived. That has proved correct. The challenge we faced in the special session is likely the forerunner to a more difficult challenge we will face next February.
When finances tighten, we are compelled to prioritize. We made the decision to maintain the funding for public schools. That will remain a priority next February, but we will all likely have to tighten our belts to ride out this storm.
Pilot education program
We also approved a pilot program in Sevier and Juab counties that will employ a new testing approach in secondary schools. It will be less invasive of class time, more easily administered, and facilitate corrective action by teachers designed to assist individual students.
The testing program was developed in the Northwest and has been advanced in our area by Sevier School Superintendent Brent Thorne and his staff. Hats off to them. If the program works well, and I think it will, it will probably spread throughout the state.
Handling tough times
To our good fortune, Utah has prepared well for tough times and is less vulnerable than many other states as well as places around the world. That said, we will not come through the next few years without some difficult decisions both in government and in our personal lives.
It strikes me that we will all need to be a little more careful with the use of credit cards and other things that compromise our financial independence. In government, we are going to have to set aside debates about ideology, turf, and partisan politics and focus on what works.
We are in the midst of a time when problem solvers with solid common sense should move to the forefront. Thanks for your continuing support.