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Utah’s $21 Billion Draft Budget Prioritizes Infrastructure And Education

Gov. Spencer Cox released his first recommended budget during a virtual press conference Monday.
Renee Bright
Utah lawmakers voted to approve the state’s draft budget Friday.

Utah lawmakers settled on a $21 billion draft budget Friday evening. Legislative leaders have $1.4 billion in one-time funding available this year, despite the economic impacts of the pandemic. Infrastructure and education were big winners in the budget this year.

“Last year at this time, if you told me we were going to fund education, infrastructure and cut taxes in the midst of a pandemic, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton.

Speaking to reporters Friday, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said there are some items that still need to be settled by the end of the session, particularly around a massive infrastructure package.

“We hope to be making historic and unprecedented investment in infrastructure in the state,” Wilson said. “These things are only happening in one place in the whole country, and they are happening here. It's a good time to be in Utah.”

The budget includes $115 million in one-time money for an infrastructure development account and around $100 million for state parks and trails. The state also plans to spend $10 million on increasing internet access in rural areas.

Lawmakers approved an increase of around $400 million for the public education base budget plus an additional $76.5 million in the General Session budget.

Higher education institutions are set to receive, in total, more than $100 million for new buildings and to purchase new land.

The budget sets aside $50 million to address housing and homelessness issues, including refunding an affordable housing bill that lawmakers cut funding for over the summer.

The Legislature have also opted to refund several bills that were defunded last year due to pandemic budget cuts. Those include a bill that created a new higher education initiative that gives grants to “deep technology” programs in higher education — like artificial intelligence and biotechnology. They also include $5 million of ongoing money to give salary increases to child and family services caseworkers.

The budget package still needs to be voted on by the full Legislature by next Friday night.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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