House Budgetary Overseers Release Proposals – March 5, 2016
Of the many duties making up each legislative session, nothing is more important than producing a balanced budget. Collectively, thousands of hours have been spent hearing, sifting, debating and refining hundreds of funding requests to determine how to most responsibly spend taxpayer monies.
As is the case every year, higher and public education funding needs dominate Utah’s $14.5 billion budget for 2016. The total funding package for both higher and public education is more than $440 million – $18 million more than originally recommended by the governor.
Other educational funding highlights include:
- $94 million appropriated to public education for growth to fund an estimated 9,700 new students this fall;
- 3% increase (nearly $74 million) in Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU);
- $20.4 million in ongoing funding for equalization; and
- $15 million to improve technology in the schools.
Higher education is also front and center in the 2016 budget, receiving $23.8 million for compensation increases for instructors. This money is meant to help offset potential tuition increases based on recommendations from the various public universities and colleges across the state.
Campus building construction is another big-ticket item in the 2016 Utah budget, featuring:
- $41.5 million for a Technology Education Center at Salt Lake Community College’s West Point campus;
- $39 million commitment for a new biological sciences building at Utah State University; and
- $33 million commitment for a new performing arts building at Utah Valley University.
Additional budget highlights:
- After seeking a solution for several sessions, legislators are setting aside $17.5 million to fund Medicaid expansion for Utah’s poorest residents – the chronically homeless, those involved in the justice system and individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse problems. The budget also fully funds consensus Medicaid growth estimates.
- State employees will receive a 2% salary increase and 1% health insurance cost increase.
- Three million dollars dedicated to the creation of an action center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in education. This initiative is aimed at stimulating economic development throughout the state and keeping Utah economically competitive in the world’s job market.
Three quick reminders:
- These are not the final numbers; those will be approved sometime next week.
- Utah is constitutionally mandated to balance its budget.
- The Executive Appropriations Committee puts together a final budget, but the Legislature still must approve it.