Governor Unveils $14.8 Billion Budget
Governor Gary Herbert has released his proposed state budget for fiscal year 2017 totaling $14.8 billion dollars.
Herbert’s new budget proposal is not what you would call flashy. He’s not asking for any tax increases or cuts, and 70% of the new revenue the state has to spend will go toward education. As part of that education spending, Herbert says he’d like to increase the weighted pupil unit, or WPU, by 4.75%. That’s money that would go directly to school districts.
“I’m putting the money into the WPU to give the school districts the ability to decide, do I want higher teacher salaries?," he says. "Do I want to have smaller classrooms? Do I want more technology? Do I want more professional development for my teachers? Do I want to have a little bit of all of the above?”
Other highlights from the proposal include $6.5 million to help improve the collection of water data, $250 thousand for air quality research, and several million more for state employee pay increases.
Billy Hesterman is the vice-president of the citizen’s watchdog group, The Utah Taxpayers Association. He says the budget is a good starting point, but after seeing more than a billion-dollar increase in revenue during the past two years, it might be time for government leaders to start talking about making some tax cuts.
“If we see these continuous revenue numbers that are so high, It’s probably time for the citizens to say it’s enough, and we’d like to see some of this money back in our pockets, and our wallets, and in our bank account,” Hesterman says.
Legislators will now take a look at Herbert’s proposal and take it into consideration as they craft the actual state budget during the 2016 legislative session.