Archive for the ‘budget’ Category

New Hampshire gears up for pension reform

December 1, 2011

Facing a $4 billion unfunded liability in its retirement system, New Hampshire is getting ready to introduce pension reform measures in the 2012 session.  As they gear up, the Speaker of the NH House, William O’Brien, invited “National pension reform leader” Dan Liljenquist to address a special committee.

The New Hampshire “Union Leader”, well-known for their political punditry, covered Senator Liljenquist’s presentation.  They write:

The 2008 stock market crash was a disaster for the once fully funded Utah state retirement system, but it set the stage to change the system from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system.

The main architect of the change, Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, briefed the New Hampshire House Special Committee on Public Employee Pensions Reform Tuesday. He talked about changes made to Utah’s system as New Hampshire lawmakers decide if reforms enacted this year and several years ago will be enough to put its system on solid ground.

A special legislative committee released a report last month recommending two retirement systems, one for current workers, and one for those hired after the new plan goes into effect.

Some lawmakers want to pass a law this spring switching all new public workers into a 401(k) plan meant for public employees.

The plan would be a defined contribution plan, where the level of money going into the plan is pre-determined. A defined benefit plan delivers a set of promised benefits in retirement no matter how the financial winds change over time.

The New Hampshire Retirement System is a defined benefit plan.

Senator Liljenquist was also interviewed by a local blogger.

As Senator Liljenquist is fond of saying, these are not partisan issues – these are reality issues. And “reality is not negotiable.” That is why Rhode Island – a Democrat-dominated state – has joined Utah and other states in reforming their pension programs. RI Treasurer, Gina Raimondo, was the architect behind that state’s reforms and spent months consulting with Senator Liljenquist on Utah’s model. Both Raimondo and Liljenquist spoke this week to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on their reforms. Pension reform will be a top priority for multiple states in the 2012 legislative session.


Gov Christie to Obama: “What the hell are we paying you for?”

November 29, 2011

I heart Chris Christie

Senator Dan Liljenquist wins Legislator of the Year

November 2, 2011

Governing Magazine recently named Utah State Senator Dan Liljenquist (R-Bountiful) the legislative Public Official of the Year. Dubbed “The Change Agent” by Governing, Liljenquist was honored for his work as the architect of two of Utah’s most significant pieces of legislation in recent memory – pension and Medicaid reform.

The Public Officials of the Year awards – given out to a handful of national leaders every year since 1994 – have become the nation’s preeminent honor for state and local officials. Congratulatory messages came from all over the state and the nation, including Governor Gary Herbert, Senator Mike Lee and Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop.

Senator Liljenquist was quick to praise his fellow legislators. “I’m proud of all my colleagues who put long term financial responsibility above short term concerns,” he said. “This is a victory for the State of Utah.”

His colleagues were equally quick to praise him. Senate President Michael Waddoups, (R-Taylorsville), who said “This recognition says a lot about Dan, but it also says a great deal about the State of Utah.  In other places, innovators like Dan are relegated to the back bench.  Here, smart ideas carry the day.” Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero offered his congratulations and remarked: “Senator Liljenquist’s leadership, attention to detail, and focus on fiscal sustainability has served the State of Utah well.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins stated the obvious – that Senator Liljenquist was willing to tackle some of the “sacred cows” in today’s political arena. “Dan has crafted articulate solutions to intractable problems – said by some to be political suicide – and he has done so in a
way that has become model legislation for others to replicate,” said Senator Jenkins. “Fiscal responsibility is an issue that is at the forefront of every state in the nation right now. We can find solutions. All we need is the courage and good will to make them work.”

The Standard-Examiner ran a story with the headline “Sen. Liljenquist tabbed “Best and Brightest” while the Trib noted that “State Sen. Dan Liljenquist was named the top legislator in the United States.” The Deseret News ran a glowing editorial about Utah’s success story, saying in part that “Utah has managed to take care of long-term systemic problems in ways that make other states envious.”

It is this type of real reform and forward thinking that make Utah the best-managed state in the nation. It’s time we had that kind of political courage and leadership in DC.

Wall Street Journal: What Austerity?

August 25, 2011

Wednesday’s Wall Street Jouranl contained an editorial piece titled “What Austerity?”

The very pointed piece starts like this:

With the recovery sputtering, the White House and its allies have been blaming government spending cuts, or what the neo-Keynesians call “fiscal contraction.” This is a dubious economic theory even if spending were being cut, but yesterday’s mid-year report from the Congressional Budget Office shows definitively that there’s been nothing close to contraction in Washington.
That’s the real news in the CBO numbers, which show that spending in fiscal 2011 (which ends on September 30) will hit a new high of $3.6 trillion, up $141 billion from 2010. That’s higher than the previous record in 2009 of $3.5 trillion, which was supposed to be the peak of the “temporary” stimulus spending.

Ouch. Did you realize that total federal outlays have increased by about one-third in just four years, something unmatched since the “Great Inflation” of the 1970’s.

The piece continues:

Give President Obama and the two Pelosi Congresses credit for this much: They said they would spend our way out of recession, and they sure gave it the old Beltway try. The problem is that we got the spending without the promised economic growth.

Double-ouch. Spending is up again, and while there are relatively modest increases in military spending (and make no mistake – defense spending absolutely needs to be scrutinized) the biggest increases are “Medicare, Medicaid, and the usual panoply of entitlements and other payments to individuals.”
Referencing the recent CBO report, the authors point out that the slightly sunnier picture (very slight) is “based on assumptions that will never come true.” It assumes, they said, that federal spending will suddenly come to a screeching halt and grow by only $12 billion in 2012. Right. Both Obama and the Demorat-controlled Senate want to INCREASE spending.
They continue:

The rest of CBO’s fantasy forecast comes from what it says will be “the sharp increases in revenues that will occur when provisions of [the Bush era tax cuts extended last year] expire.” So CBO estimates that federal taxes as a share of GDP will leap to 19% in 2013 and 20.2% in 2014 from 15.3% today. And we are supposed to believe that economic growth will soar to 4.4% and 5% in 2014 and 2015 after huge tax increases on capital gains, dividends, small businesses and workers in 2013. Beam us up, Scotty.

The editorial concludes like this:

The real story told by the CBO report is that the federal government is still pursuing a very loose fiscal policy, despite lamentations from Democrats and the Keynesian economists who populate Wall Street. The best that House Republicans have been able to do so far is to battle Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats to a draw, delaying tax increases until 2013 and preventing even larger spending increases. To really control Washington’s appetites, the voters are going to have to back up their message in 2010 with reinforcements in 2012.

I couldn’t agree more.

Daily Fix, July 25

July 26, 2011

Let’s cover the political news outside the debt limit debate, since that surely deserves its own post.

*Rep Wu (D-OR) is in trouble once again, this time for an unwanted sexual encounter with a teenaged daughter of an old high school friend. He says it was consensual, she says it was not. He says he’s not resigning, thank you very much – but he probably won’t run again. Nancy Pelosi is still working on draining the swamp by referring him to the oh-so-effective ethics committee that will act swiftly and decisively….oh wait… Politico BREAKING: Wu has decided he will resign from the House after all. CNN

*Yet another Democrat is retiring rather than run in an increasing Republican arena. This time, it’s Mike Ross from Arkansas. Once a stronghold for Democrats – including a governor who became president – the GOP is now well-positioned to sweep all 4 Congressional seats. The last time that happened was the end of the Civil War….. Oh, and he’s another “Blue Dog” that won’t be coming back. Could we add Jim Matheson to the mix? Politico, Trib

*Since launching her bid for POTUS, Michele Bachmann has missed over 1/3 of the votes in the House, significantly higher than the other two House members running for Prez. When reporters asked if she would be returning a portion of her Congressional salary, she had no comment. It does point out the difficulty of running for higher office when one already holds office…hard to campaign full-time and still be a full-time lawmaker. The Hill

*Closer to home, Rep Steve Sandstrom has hired Alan Crooks to run his Congressional campaign. He’ll be running for the 3rd Congressional district (assuming Jason Chaffetz runs for Senate). He will be in a crowded field. Very crowded. Trib

*Sen Orrin Hatch could wield new-found amounts of power if he is re-elected, says Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU. I wonder, though, that if it takes 36 yrs to begin to wield influence, is it more a reflection on the person than the system? I’m pretty sure we’ve seen some remarkable freshman on both a state and federal level. D News

*Speaking of Hatch, he was against, then for, then against raising the debt ceiling. On Friday, Hatch said on Fox Business Network that he suspected there would be a short-term debt limit increase. “And I’m certainly for that,” he said. Later that afternoon, he went on the Senate floor and said he would not vote for any debt limit increase without passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Trib He has also praised Mitch McConnell’s plan to give the President carte blanche authority to raise the debt ceiling, calling it ingenious. KCPW, Politico. Congressman Jason Chaffetz called it ridiculously stupid. RightScoop

Daily Fix, June 20

June 20, 2011

*On Wednesday, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will release their 4th annual “Rich States, Poor States” and for the 4th year in a row, Utah is ranked #1. Written by Dr Art Laffer, Steve Moore and Jonathan Williams, there is a special shout-out to Utah state Senator Dan Liljenquist for his work on pension reform. The move from defined benefit to defined contribution is now the national model. Deseret News

*Continuing the rosy outlook, today Governor Gary Herbert announced 200 new jobs will be coming to Utah via IM Flash and an additional 500 via EMC Corporation. Fingers crossed that the upswing continues. Daily Herald

*Entrepreneur and tea-partier David Kirkham was profiled in the DNews. Did you know his cars start at $100K and that’s without the engine? Sen Orrin Hatch is on speed-dial. They talk several times a day as Hatch tries to hang on to his seat.

*Speaking of Senator Hatch, a recent Deseret News/KSL poll shows he’s in trouble. Big, big trouble. Dan Jones (Hatch’s pollster) found that only 38% think Hatch should be re-elected because of his seniority. A whopping 59% say it’s time for someone new. If that wasn’t bad enough, that number comes from a pool of registered voters, not just Republicans and certainly not Republican delegates. Ouch. (Unless you’re part of the 60% who is ready for new blood….)In other interesting findings, a Hatch/Matheson match-up in the general is a draw, a Chaffetz/Matheson general election has Chaffetz slightly ahead and a Hatch/Chaffetz primary has Hatch slightly ahead. Tossing a 3rd candidate in the mix could really make things interesting…. Deseret News And you gotta love the picture…..

*Saturday’s GOP convention saw chair Thomas Wright re-elected, then a new vice-chair (Lowell Nelson) and new secretary (Drew Chamberlain). Interestingly, the two new officers are also involved in a lawsuit against the state party. Can you be both plaintiff and defendant? In the other news of the convention (besides that it lasted seven freaking hours), was that the non-binding resolution asking the legislature to repeal HB 116 passed by a narrow margin. DNews , SL Trib, Fox 13, Daily Herald

*Sen Dianne Feinstein and Sen Tom Coburn agreed on one issue recently, but to no avail. Both favor ending ethanol subsidies. However, a recent Senate vote to end the subsidies went down in flames 40-59. Why? According to an editorial in the LA Times, it was “devotion to rigid party orthodoxy [which] trumps common sense even on those rare occasions when Democrats and Republicans widely agree. That’s grim news for anybody hoping for problem-solving by Congress.”

Daily Fix, April 12

April 12, 2011

Budget, budget and more budget – and an exclusive opportunity to see “Atlas Shrugged” on the big screen.

*As we talk about the budget, free markets and entitlement programs, Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” is frequently referred to as an example of what happens when the government takes over and the free market dies. The Utah Young Republicans are bringing the movie to the Jordan Commons in Sandy at 7:30 PM, Saturday, April 16. We’ll start seating at 7:10. There is limited seating for the first 225 individuals. RSVP by emailing Dan Burton at and he will give you the payment information. I’ll be there. You should be too. Utah YRs

*The debt ceiling increase looms.  Timothy Geithner says we much increase by early July or the government “will” begin defaulting on its loans.  Republicans say there is no chance of passing a debt limit increase without significant cuts.  The White House wants a “clean” bill.  So what happens if we don’t increase the debt limit?  One possibility is that we begin raiding pension funds.  Kinda like we did on Social Security… WaPo

*Meanwhile, the American people has helped to create a “suicidal” government, where the majority of citizens want to increase spending, but think their taxes are too high. According to an article by Robert Samuelson, few Americans realize the extent of their dependency. In addition to benefiting from one or more government programs, we now try to be all things to all people. “Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything,” writes the eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson in a recent collection of essays (“American Politics, Then and Now”). The concept of “vital national interest” is stretched. We deploy government casually to satisfy any mass desire, correct any perceived social shortcoming or remedy any market deficiency.Des News

*Wall Street is getting used to high drama in Congress, but the fight over raising the debt limit will test even that seasoned resolve. If the recent funding tussle over less than 1% of the budget was playing with matches, then “the fight over the debt ceiling as playing with plastic explosives,” said Steve Bell, a former staff director with the Senate Budget Committee and now with the Bipartisan Policy Group. “What markets typically dislike the most is uncertainty,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “The more it drags out, the greater that impact will be, and that’s not a good thing.” The Hill

*GOP leaders got 4 of Obama’s czars axed – except three of the four had already moved on. The language in the short-term budget agreement seeks to put four of President Barack Obama’s policy czars out of jobs — those appointed to assist the president on health care, climate change, autos and manufacturing, and urban affairs. Sigh. Politico

Daily Fix, April 11

April 11, 2011

The federal government did not shut down on Friday, the BIG budget battle is still ahead and Pignanelli and Webb wonder if the tea party influence is waning in Utah.

*Since all of you were undoubtedly on the edge of your seats late Friday night waiting to see if all non-essential government services would grind to a halt, you already know that a deal was reached. $38.5 billion in cuts in exchange for dropping the policy riders that would have defunded Planned Parenthood and put restrictions on the EPA and Obamacare. Politico

*Much bigger battles loom as the debt ceiling will be reached in May and the Ryan 2012 budget is on the table. During last week’s impasse, Boehner’s political cred went up, but it remains to be seen if GOP unity will remain intact when dealing with the GOP’s budget plan. The Hill

*Obama is now trying to get ahead of the budget battles by hinting at entitlement reforms – and tax increases. Republicans are skeptical, saying that they’ve had to bring the president “kicking and screaming” to the table to cut spending. Politico // WaPo

*Many tea party activists are unhappy at the compromise, wanting the cuts to go much deeper. Congressman Jason Chaffetz joined 69 of his colleagues in voting against the deal, saying it did not go far enough. “We have to be more aggressive in tackling our debt. At least we are talking about cuts, but these are not nearly big enough.” (Remember, the cuts aren’t even 1% of the proposed budget.) SL Trib // CBS

*Speaking of the tea party, Pignanelli and Webb wonder if their influence has peaked. Webb, a long-time Republican says “It is a sign of political naivete to attack someone you agree with 90 percent of the time. Some on the far right would burn down the house because they don’t like the paint in the bathroom.” Pignanelli, a Democrat, says he is both amused and vindicated. DNews

Daily Fix, April 7

April 7, 2011

Government shut-down is the topic of the day. Isn’t it great that Utah balances its budget every year? We won’t be shutting down. In the meantime, take a look at this pie chart. (Literally – a pie chart.) The numbers driving the impasse? Cuts equaling 0.86% of the budget vs cuts equaling 1.59% of the budget. For crying out loud……

*Talks between Obama, Reid and Boehner, while called “productive” have not led to an agreement on keeping the government afloat. “I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism, but we’re further along today than we were yesterday,” Obama said in his second late-night visit to the White House briefing room in about 24 hours. Boehner and Reid issued a joint statement after the meeting but did not speak to reporters. “We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences,” the statement read. The Hill

*Utah’s National Parks would be closed – just in time for spring break. Tax refunds may be delayed as 4,100 IRS employees based in Utah are furloughed. Congressional offices will be closed. Trib

*Utah’s Jason Chaffetz would have to find a new place to shower. A House Administration committee spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that the House gym, where the legislators who sleep in their offices go to wash up, would close down during a government shutdown. Chaffetz said there were a lot of things more important than where he showers in the current budget negotiations. Trib

*Utah legislators have mixed opinions. Rep Carl Wimmer favors the shut-down, while Rep Ken Ivory, a “crusader for limiting the size of the federal government, said there is no question Congress needs to get spending in check. If the shutdown means Congress is serious about tackling spending, he welcomes it, but he’s not convinced they are. Nor is he convinced that the shutdown and the squabble over short-term reductions will have any real impact. Until we’re ready for the 12-step program, it’s not going to do anything. It’s political theater, and nothing will come of it,” he said. “They’ll dip their toe in the water and then they’ll end up caving and paying everything retroactively.” I agree with Ken on this one – it’s political theater. SL Trib

*And for those who think Paul Ryan’s plan did not go far enough, have no fear – the Republican Study Committee has proposed their own plan. It would balance the budget in 2020 and make “huge” cuts in discretionary and non-discretionary spending, going from $409 billion in 2012 to $218 billion in 2021.
They are proposing cutting many “mandatory” spending programs to their 2007 “pre-stimulus” level. The RSC plan would also would make big cuts in farm spending and student assistance and would increase fees for mortgage loans. Politico

Daily Fix, April 6

April 6, 2011

Continuing yesterday’s theme of the newly unveiled GOP budget proposal, here are some additional links.

*Predictably, the left claims Rep Paul Ryan and the GOP hate old people and are stealing “their” Medicare. The Hill, Politico

*And plenty on the right claim it does not go far enough. They want it fast-tracked over a ten-year period instead of 20, say it’s light on entitlement reform, The Hill, Rick Manning, Daily Caller, Ace of Spades

*A conservative view of Paul Ryan’s plan breaks down the excellent, the good and the “needs improvement”. Excellent includes: Medicaid reform, the repeal of ethanol subsidies and reform of farm subsidies, permanent repeal of earmarks. Good includes: Medicare reform, food stamp reform. Needs improvement: Social Security must be addressed, the death tax repealed and we need to do more to address the debt and the deficit. Red State

*The entire Utah delegation praises Ryan’s plan – including Congressman Jim Matheson. “The approach that he takes is maybe not the approach that I would take,” Matheson says, but “maintaining the status quo is unsustainable.” SL Trib

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