Alright, let’s talk about the state budget. The responsibility of ensuring that our $12.8 billion budget is balanced, yet that we fully fund education along with all the other state entities is a major undertaking. Your legislators have worked hard for months, and a final budget is nearly ready for a vote by the Legislature. So let’s take thousands of hours of debate and boil them down to a few main points.
- Our public education system is being fully funded, period. Senate Bill 2 appropriates money to not only fund the growth in our public education system, but it also increases per pupil funding. The numbers actually reflect an overall 1.15% – roughly $200 per student in new money.
- Every department in the state is receiving a 1% increase in funding, which will allow the directors to decide what has the most immediate need. While 1% may not seem like much, we look to other states to find that many are still cutting budgets this fiscal year. An increase is a great sign of the strength of Utah’s economy and fiscal policies.
- House Bill 7 appropriates additional funding to school districts and charter schools to be used towards increases in teacher salary, along with other programs, such as the school lunch program.
- HB272 would create a pilot program for children with autism. This program is an attempt to curb the effects of autism in later life, and potentially save the taxpayer money in the long term. This program is being funded by not only the state, but many other organizations, including private insurers as well as donations from the community. This money donated by private groups is not mandated by the state, but strictly a voluntary basis.
- The state’s structural imbalance will also be addressed. The state will pay off $296 million of principal and pay $142 million of interest on general obligation bond debt.
- House Bill 173 changes the way transportation projects are funded in bonds. This bill is expected to save the state a significant amount of money in interest from bonds, due to the smaller amount of bonds that are allowed for transportation funding.
- The budget also increases the amount of money stored in the rainy day fund.
- Increases in the budget, as well as other obligations we are paying, have still led to no tax increases, and we have still managed to keep our budget balanced.
Keep in mind, these are not the final numbers, which will be approved this week.
Understanding the Budget-
- Numbers in parentheses are expenditures.
- Utah is constitutionally mandated to balance its budget.
- The Executive Appropriations Committee puts together a final budget, but the Legislature still must approve it.