All signs are pointing to a healthy Utah economy, but concerns over federal mismanagement and growth in public education and health care costs requires we be even more cautious when using taxpayer dollars.
Our new budget projections are:
$264 million in ongoing revenue
$161 million in one-time revenue
It’s also important to recognize the difference between the two types of revenue. We can expect ongoing revenue to remain about the same year to year, but one-time revenue can only be used once. Except in cases of emergency, the state of Utah does its best to avoid paying for ongoing costs with one-time revenue.
Utah’s budget projections have become increasingly accurate in previous years. But this year there are multiple reasons for concern. The first is that projected growth in public education funding is nearly $130 million in ongoing funds.
State employee health and retirement increases could be an additional $80 million in ongoing funds. Other requests, such as jail reimbursements ($19 million) and lagging capitol improvements ($55 million)
Without really trying, then, new ongoing costs would potentially be $284 million, already above projections.
One-time revenues can easily disappear just as well. Several needed buildings across the state run into the 10s of millions of dollars each, not to mention road projects needed to keep up with population growth. Include $20 million in fire-related costs from last year’s devastating season, and the one-time money disappears quickly, as well.
Frustrating is that the federal government’s tax increase earlier this year had a $100 million impact on our revenue projections. And in the event the federal government choses sequestration, as much as $50 million will disappear from Utah’s budget.
There are many tough decisions ahead when it comes to funding, but we are required to balance our budget, and we will.