2019 Bills

HJR 18: Zero-Based Budgeting Use in Legislative Subcommittees

This bill passed the House unanimously and the Senate 24-3. 

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it is aligned with our principles and merits support.

Utah’s state budget has ballooned to nearly $17 billion a year. While some of that increase is tied to the growth of the population in Utah, much of it has to do with increased taxes that result in more unnecessary government programs, pet projects, and waste.

One idea has been floated for years to fix this problem: zero-based budgeting. The idea is quite simple. Instead of starting the budgeting process with last year’s budget and simply adding (and very rarely subtracting) to it, legislative committees would start fresh, from zero. The most important programs would be identified and funded first, thereby beginning to make it clear what programs are essential and what programs are not.

Instead of department heads coming and asking the Legislature for a standard 2% increase, they would need to justify every dollar that they spend.

Representative Jefferson Moss’ Joint Rules Resolution, HJR 18, encourages this practice by requiring every budgetary subcommittee to engage in zero-based budgeting on 20% of its base budget review every year, thus ensuring a thorough review of the entire state budget every five years.

This would be a solid step in the right direction to rein in unnecessary government spending and help legislators become more used to the concept of zero-based budgeting. Someday in the future zero-based budgeting might be used in every level of government in Utah every year.