Revenues could be down more than a billion dollars in Utah’s budget next year due to the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating effects on the economy, lawmakers learned as they prepared for widespread budget cuts during a Wednesday hearing.
State agencies will face cuts of up to 10% at a special session, likely next month amid a steep economic decline as businesses close to halt the spread of the virus. It causes flu-like symptoms that can be fatal. More than 6,600 people have been infected in Utah, and 75 have died.
The education budget could also take a hit, likely dissipating much of a hard-fought funding increase deal announced a few months ago.
Democratic Sen. Luz Escamilla questioned the plan for widespread cuts to things like social services at a time when many families are especially in need. Republican Rep. Brad Last acknowledged those concerns and said discussions about those and other programs will be key in coming weeks.
State analysts estimate that revenues will drop by a low of nearly $600 million and could mount to $1.3 billion during fiscal year 2021, which starts in July. This budget year could see its own losses of up to $600 million.
The state does have a significant rainy-day funds worth up to $5.4 billion, though not all that money is easily accessible.