The Dissenting Voice: Rep. Hutchings

As often happens in any well-argued debate, a dissenting opinion is a thought-provoking statement that leaves the door open for future change. Debate over House Bill 210 was such a case. The bill effectively moves money from the general fund to a trust fund. It would lower the amount of money immediately available for government programs, but would allow for long-term fiscal sustainability by providing interest payments from that trust fund long into the future.

Rep. Eric Hutchings stood up to speak in favor of the bill, which would eventually fail 36-39. His comments, slightly edited, appear below and an audio link is being provided for your listening pleasure.

Rep. Hutchings on HB210 (MP3 file)

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February 6, 2012
Day 15 – House Floor

Thank you Madame Speaker Pro Tem.

It’s been a great opportunity for me to have developed my career in finance, mostly personal finance, and it’s interesting to me to see the correlations that we have between what I do in that world, and the discussion we’re having today.

Anytime anyone ever wants to start getting ahead, they run into exactly this problem. If there is extra money on the table there is always some place you can put it. There always will be. Forever and ever there always will be. And if you guys remember when we were talking about creating some of these other funds that we’ve worked on, the Rainy Day fund is a great example.

When we started pulling money out of the budget to create a Rainy Day fund, were there not children that needed to be feed? Yeah.

Were there not people that needed hospital care? Yes!

Were there not roads that needed to be built and programs that need to be funded? Yes.

And there always will be.

There will never be a day in the State of Utah, and you guys know this, you’ve been here, there will never be a day in the State of Utah where we’re standing there going, “Everything’s funded. Nobody needs any money. We’ve got extra money that we can do whatever we want with, because nobody needs it. There are no critical needs left.”

But let me ask you this, the Rainy Day fund: good or bad? By taking that money off the table and putting it where it needed to be, we made sure that we had the revenue when we needed it. When you sat down and you started working on your 401k or when you started putting money away in an IRA for your retirement, were there not places where you could have put that money that you felt that it was needed? Were there not people that came to you at some point and said, “There is a service or charity or something?” Yes. And there always will be.

Until the end of time, in the State of Utah, there will always be a need that must be funded. But let me ask you, after we created the Rainy Day fund, the Education Rainy Day fund, after we take money for the school trust lands and put it away so that we have money for the future – how has society in Utah fared?

Pretty decent. Have we funded our hospitals? Yeah. We have done the things that we’ve had to do, but at some point difficult decisions had to be made. At some point a decision was made to take all of our income tax and put it to education. Were there not other priorities? Yeah. But the point was, that at some point we looked at it and we said if we don’t do something now — and there is a great quote — that the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. Well when is the second best time to plant a tree? Today.

… I work with young people all the time and you guys know how this goes … When you are in college and you get a little bit of extra money what comes up? Right? You need an apartment. You need a car. There are things that have to happen. And then what? You get married. And you need to pay for the wedding. And you got to pay for that and so you’re going to put off retirement for a little bit. And then, you have children. And so you put it off a little bit longer, right? Because you have those expenses. And then, your kids go to school. And then kids have to go to college. And before you know it — citizens of this state and across America — tell me how many people that you know that have waited and waited and waited and waited and are freaking out right now because they’re 60 years old and there was always something more important to spend their money on instead of putting it away and beginning to invest and beginning to save.

That’s the decision we are making here. Is it easy? No. Are there other places you could put it? Yes. And there always, always will be. It’s a basic fundamental question that we have to answer at some point. The money’s coming in, are we going to spend it as fast as we get it? Or at some point are we going to say, “Some of this has to be put aside, or we are never going to get ahead the way we need to.”

Thank you Madame Speaker Pro Tem