With Utah experiencing unprecedented prosperity during the last six years, the legislature in it's wisdom decided to significantly reduce taxes. Now that the economy has turned south, well, I guess it was inevitable that budget shortfalls would occur. And during this period of prosperity, how much was put into a rainy day fund? My guess is probably far too little.
This creates quite a challenge for conservative lawmakers, because, first of all, they won't admit they made a mistake by voting for the tax decreases during an election year, so they will look to other options. Many critical services (they say education will be held harmless) will likely take a serious hit. And that is just for this particular year. Next January, when a new crop (most likely, the same crop) of legislators meet in January, they will also have to decide additional budget cuts based upon projections just as gloomy as the ones that predicts the budget shortfall for this year.
This Republican legislature, which already helped pay for their tax cuts by retro-actively cutting the benefits of state employees at retirement, will probably also look at these employees as the ones who will take the hit for their fiscal mismanagement. That is just my guess based upon what they've done in the past.
All in all, I'd say that Utah is in trouble. We are one of the last states to be hit, but we'll have to wait to see if we will be one of the hardest hit. But like Bush's doctrine regarding going into Iraq, where best case scenarios become the basis of future action, this legislature has acted on the basis of projections of future revenue growth that in a historical framework were outliers, and not typical. They went too far with their tax cuts, and have endangered the funding of many state services. And will the public hold them accountable? Based upon past performance of Utah's electorate, I'm not holding my breath.