POLITICS

As the 2022 legislative session finishes, lawmakers say they still need to work on affordable housing and tax reform

Mar 4, 2022, 6:50 PM | Updated: 10:04 pm
(People waiting outside the House of Representatives Chamber after the morning session finished.  P...
(People waiting outside the House of Representatives Chamber after the morning session finished. Photo: Paul Nelson, March 4, 2022)
(People waiting outside the House of Representatives Chamber after the morning session finished. Photo: Paul Nelson, March 4, 2022)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL — What didn’t get done by the end of this year’s legislative session?  Members of the House say the final day of the session has been productive and running smoothly. However, there are things they will have to focus on over the rest of the year.

Last day of legislative session ran smoother

The final day of the legislative session is always one of the most frantic, lawmakers say.  There are usually a lot of bills that are waiting for final approval, and legislators are struggling to get those bills heard before the end of the session.  However, Taylorsville Rep. Jim Dunnigan says the process has been running more smoothly this year.  The House made a rule change prohibiting them from debating non-binding resolutions. 

Dunnigan said, “Those non-binding resolutions go straight to the consent calendar.  That means there is no debate, the person stands up and gets three minutes to present it, and it’s an up or down vote.”

He says debates on those issues wasted a lot of time.  For instance, earlier this session, Dunnigan says they wasted 45 minutes debating the value of Utah’s minerals for a non-binding resolution.

Despite the smoother process, House Speaker Brad Wilson says they still wouldn’t be able to finish their work for every bill that comes their way.  So, he says there will be a lot of issues they’ll have to work on in 2022.

Affordable housing

Lawmakers were called out by homeless prevention advocates for not significantly increasing funding for affordable housing.  The state had more money to spend than usual thanks to federal funding. However, lawmakers didn’t want to spend all the surplus on ongoing projects.  Wilson says the state has set aside more than $100 million for affordable housing over the last two years, and not all of the funding from last year has been used.

(House Speaker Brad Wilson speaking after the morning session finished on the last day of the 2022 legislative session. Photo: Paul Nelson)

Wilson said, “There’s a lag from when we put money into an issue and when the money can actually be absorbed up in use.  A lot of the money that we put into affordable housing a year ago is still being taken up.”

He says lawmakers will keep working on solutions over the next year while they watch how their funding was used. 

“There is going to be a lot more around both of those issues.  Housing and water are going to be the issues of the decade, I think,” he said.

Tax reform

Voters approved Amendment G in 2020, which allows income tax to be used on services for children and disabled people.  Some analysts say this allowed for a lot more flexibility in funding other projects while prioritizing public education.  Wilson says they were able to set aside one percent of the state’s sales tax revenue to fund recreation upgrades.

“We’ve had a billion dollars a year going into roads, but we haven’t had anything going into state parks,” he said.

Wilson claims the legislature was able to increase public education funding by nine percent this year.  However, he says they will have to find ways to change the state’s tax code so they can balance the needs of the state without hurting education money.

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As the 2022 legislative session finishes, lawmakers say they still need to work on affordable housing and tax reform