Top Utah lawmakers recommend $24 billion budget. Here’s what’s in it.
Top Utah lawmakers released the state’s $24 billion budget Friday and passed it through the Executive Appropriations Committee. It makes big investments in education and water preservation.
“We've done a great job of taking care of the big needs in the state,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
Fiscal analyst Jonathan Ball said a more than $1 billion investment in infrastructure is expected to be voted on next week.
“One of the key functions of government is to make sure we have a good transportation system,” said House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper.
Per-pupil funding is increasing by 6%, which will cost the state about $124 million.
A proposal creating optional full-day kindergarten is getting $12 million.
In total, the public education budget is getting a boost of roughly $169 million in ongoing funding and $271 million in one-time money.
Higher education is getting an additional $87 million in ongoing funding and $43 million in one time money. That will go toward things like the veterinary school at Utah State University, enrollment growth for Salt Lake Community College and rebranding for the newly-renamed Utah Tech University.
Wilson listed water preservation as one of his top priorities for the legislative session after Utah experienced a historic drought over the summer and the Great Salt Lake reached its lowest level in recorded history.
That priority is reflected in the budget, Wilson said.
His $40 million request for Great Salt Lake preservation was approved by the committee. Another lake in the watershed — Utah Lake — is getting $30 million toward its preservation.
“I have never, never seen a year where the Legislature has spent as much time and as much money into the natural resource needs of the state,” Wilson said.
The Legislature plans on spending $250 million in one-time money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to install secondary water meters. The idea is that if people know how much water they’re using on their lawns, they’ll opt to use less. Rural drinking water projects could also get a $25 million boost from ARPA funding.
A bill requesting $127 million in ARPA funding for deeply affordable housing will only get about half of that.
In addition, the budget appropriates $15 million for “housing preservation” and $5 million for cities to mitigate the impacts of homeless shelters.