Appropriations Subcommittees – Week Two Reports

For the first few weeks of each session, the Utah State Legislature reviews base budgets and funding requests in appropriations subcommittees. These meetings occur daily until base budgets are finalized by each subcommittee. During this process, subcommittees hear presentations from agencies, fiscal analysts, and legislators about numerous funding requests. Each committee compiles a list of funding priorities, in addition to their base budget items, for the Executive Appropriations Committee to consider for final approval.

UPEA lobbyists attend appropriations subcommittees to track any potential changes for public employees as legislators and agencies make their priority requests for ongoing and one-time funding. During the process, UPEA lobbyists speak with legislators to protect, inform, and improve public employee jobs.

Click on the committee name below to read the full week two update.

The Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee heard from the Department of Government Operations (DGO) during the second week of the 2022 Legislative Session. Director Jenney Rees introduced the committee to the new department created by SB 181 last year, explaining the purpose of consolidating DTS, DHRM, and DAS into one new agency made sense because each of the agencies serves people in state government. The bill’s goal was to break down silos and create a more efficient way to provide services to employees. There are 1,300 DGO employees within the nine divisions (Office of Administrative Rules, Division of Archives and Records Services, Division of Facilities and Construction Management, Division of Finance, Division of Fleet Operations, Division of Human Resource Management, Division of Purchasing and General Services, Division of Risk Management, and Division of Technology Services). Since being appointed to the position, Rees has gone on “day in the life” tours of the divisions to learn what the employees do and find ways to improve the services they perform. She stressed to the committee the employees of DGO have a strong desire to serve Utah, and the state can’t do anything without its employees.

Rees emphasized the state’s issues facing recruitment and retention. The independent market study conducted by Gallagher showed a decrease from 2019 to 2021 in the number of highly competitive state jobs. The study showed Tier II employees more closely align with the private sector, and the state now has a majority of Tier II employees. Twenty-six percent of state employees are now retirement eligible. Gallagher advised increases for positions that are 15% or more below the market median to address recruitment and retention. Rees stated 315 DGO employees are on the governor’s proposed targeted list this year. Rees also asked the committee to fund two new positions in the executive director’s office, as DGO is the only department of its size without an internal auditor or finance director. She also requested the committee pass funding to increase the pay ranges for finance employees because of challenges in recruiting.

During the Division of Technology Services presentation, Director Alan Fuller referenced the state’s out-of-date technology, expressing that changes need to happen to support executive branch agencies. Fuller outlined the agency funding request to implement the Citizen Portal, a project included in the governor’s budget to integrate customer information, improve data privacy, and increase service delivery. Another agency request is funding for the Enterprise Platform and Innovation Centers. This funding aims to automate business processes, provide better agency support, allow easier access via the cloud, require no specialized skill set, and empower agencies. Fuller also emphasized the funding request for a new Human Capital Management and Payroll system to modernize core enterprise-wide systems and reduce/consolidate redundant systems.

Division of Human Resource Management (DHRM) Director John Barrand explained the statewide HR challenges the division is facing–attracting and recruiting, managing and developing, and rewarding and retaining. Barrand stated that DHRM needs to build a modern workforce to streamline and modernize. To do this, DHRM aims to increase investments in new and existing infrastructures to support modern workforce and remote work and increase employee and supervisor accountability by improving performance management culture, system, and processes. DHRM budget requests include funding for 6 FTEs to develop and implement the training for pay for performance outlined in HB 104 and support the five percent pay increase in HB 104 for supervisors/managers who forfeit career service status.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) presented to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee during week two of the 2022 Legislative Session. UDAF expressed staffing concerns, noting that additional compensation funding can help recruit and retain employees. The Laboratory Services Division is one of the divisions facing staffing challenges. UDAF explained lab employment requires scientific degrees, training, and understanding of testing regulations. During the pandemic, the division lost employees to higher-paying positions, moving out of state for lower cost of living, and choosing self-employment. The division stressed that if turnover continues at this rate, the testing capabilities will decrease. The Regulatory Services Division faces challenges in turnover, recruitment, training, and certifying new employees. UDAF also requests three additional FTEs for inspector positions to meet growing needs. UDAF shared with the committee that they are working with 5.5 dedicated inspectors when the Manufactured Food Program should have at least 15 dedicated inspectors. The UDAF administration also asks for funds for additional staff and compensation for financial support staff. The current team is stretched too thin and needs other staff to meet findings and recommendations presented in an audit done of the division.

The committee also heard from the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, and Division of Wildlife Resources. SITLA stressed the need for four additional FTE positions to meet the growing needs of the administration and the necessity of funding the suggested increases in the market comparability study. SITLA can’t hire people from the private sector to fill positions because of the salaries offered. The Division of Wildlife Resources is exploring a salary improvement plan to tie high performance to wage increases to retain talent and boost morale. The Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands presented in support and need for the targeted funding requests for their employees on the list.

The Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee adopted House Bill 7, Social Services Base Budget, co-sponsored by Rep. Ward and Sen. Anderegg on Friday,  Jan. 27, 2022. The Social Services Committaee meets daily and has the largest base budget, encompassing $6.6 billion in requests for appropriations. In the first two weeks of the session, agency heads from the Department of Workforce Services and the newly-merged Department of Health and Human Services were among those who presented before the committee. 

Since the 2021 Legislative Session, the Department of Workforce Services has made internal strides to increase the starting pay of some jobs to attract talented and qualified applicants. While the increase helped address recruitment, compression worsened among existing staff that are already paid below the market median rate. The Department is requesting $1,059,100 to fund the positions on the Targeted Funding list. Agency heads hope that the discretionary funding will help address compression and employee morale by incentivizing longevity and high performance. 

Employee retention and compensation were top priorities for the Department of Health and Human Services. The department currently has 5,536 employees and 2,165 position vacancies. The agency has an average 28% turnover rate and is experiencing critical staffing shortages at 24-7 facilities. Representatives from the agency focused on the Division of Child and Family Services, Juvenile Justice Services, and the care staff at the State Hospital and the Developmental Center. The department is requesting $7,819,900 from the General Fund to support increases for the positions listed in the Targeted Funding list. Of that request, $3,239,800 is specifically earmarked for the frontline staff at the State Hospital and the Developmental Center.

The Office of the Medical Examiner also made a request to the Social Services Committee to address a critical need for additional FTEs to address burdensome caseloads. In order to improve medical examiner investigation completion times, the office is requesting 3 autopsy assistants, 1 assistant medical examiner, and 1 medicolegal death investigator.

The Executive Office & Criminal Justice (EOCJ) Appropriations Subcommittee heard from the Department of Corrections (DOC) on Wednesday, January 26. Department directors provided an update on the new prison, which will be fully operational in July of this year, before going through their funding requests. Director Brian Nelson explained that the Department of Corrections is experiencing “critical staffing levels” with 187 combined operational vacancies between the Draper prison and community correctional centers. To address this issue, DOC is requesting $15,243,200 in ongoing appropriations to fully fund their Certified Officer Pay Plan.

DOC Deputy Director, James Hudspeth, further explained the priority request, “What we hope to do with this funding is to implement the pay plan fully, which will help us and help our staff. As we talk about recruitment and retention, we’re losing staff to other agencies – we have 17% turnover in our correctional officers. [When they move to other agencies] they’re being paid one-for-one for their years of service, and we have a hard time doing that.”

This request was included in the Governor’s budget recommendations, along with $1,237,300 in targeted compensation increases for the following 12 additional positions in the department:

  • Accounting Technician III
  • Administrative Secretary
  • Caseworker II
  • Criminal Information Tech II
  • Custodian I
  • Custodian II
  • Facilities Coordinator III
  • Office Specialist I
  • Office Specialist II
  • Program Specialist I
  • Warehouse Manager
  • Warehouse Worker II