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State auditor worried about spending, warns Utah may be depending too much on federal money

Utah State Capitol. 1/27/20 (Colby Walker | KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s state auditor says the state may be relying too much on federal money after seeing how much of it Utah spent during the pandemic.

John Dougall’s new report says Utah spent a lot of federal money during the pandemic, and that might be a problem in the years to come.

Utah spent more than $6.7 billion dollars in federal funds during the pandemic. Dougall predicts Utah will start to have even more dependency on federal money over the next five to ten years as more stimulus comes here.

He’s urging caution with the ongoing spending built on an allotment of one-time money, because what do you do when that money stops?

The federal funds Utah spent in 2020 represented more than 25% of the total fiscal year 2020 expenditures. Most of that funding was the Unemployment Compensation program.

Auditors also were concerned about weaknesses they saw in the budget office’s monitoring how local governments spent COVID-19 relief funds.

Read the full audit here.

The Office of the State Auditor released two charts to show the spending information.

The first graph shows the historical percentage of Utah expenditures from federal transfers.

The second graph illustrates the historical growth of total state expenditures and of federal transfers. State expenditures are shown in blue on the left axis of the graph in billions of dollars, and federal transfers received by the State are shown in red on the right axis.

“The magnitude of the ongoing federal subsidy is troubling, due to Congress’ complete disregard for any sense of fiscal responsibility, said Dougall in the report. He also noted “the increasing dependence of state and local governments on federal subsidies, and the heightened economic and inflationary reactions from the magnitude of irresponsible federal spending.”

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