Education has been a top priority for Gov. Gary Herbert's administration, and this year’s budget is no different.
Herbert unveiled a $16.7 billion budget for next year during an event in Kaysville on Wednesday, where he announced most of the state’s new revenue would be funneled into education.
With $382 million more in additional ongoing revenue, Herbert wants 72 percent of that money, or $3 out of every $4, going to K-12 and higher education.
“The most strategic investment we can make in Utah is people... and that’s in education,” he said. “We cannot continue to have success in quality of life and economic growth if we don’t have a skilled labor that lines up with the demands of the marketplace of today and into the future.”
Even though more high tech companies are moving to the state, Utah faces a skilled labor shortage.
That’s why Herbert, standing inside a machine-filled workshop at Davis Technical College, said he’d be funneling more money, about $7 million, to vocational colleges, which he called a good value.
“You can spend a little less time in school, it’s a little less expensive, a little less debt, and you can get in the marketplace and find really rewarding with technical training,” he said. “In fact, we’re calling 2018 ‘The Year of Technical College Education.’”
Besides education, Herbert detailed money for air quality, water use and social services - that includes $10 million more for the drug and crime crackdown Operation Rio Grande.
In a policy shift, the governor is also calling for flexibility in transportation funding. He wants the money pot normally dedicated to roads, called TIF, opened up to all modes of transportation, including light rail and bus.
There are no new tax increases proposed in this year’s budget, but Herbert wants the legislature to seriously consider closing loopholes and revamping the state’s tax code.
Lawmakers will have final say on budget during the next legislative session beginning in January.
- $170 million increase in flexible education funding distributed to school districts through the weighted pupil unit (WPU)
- $34 million WPU directed toward at-risk children
- $35 million for higher-ed compensaiton, including $24 million for Board of Regents
- $500,000 to conduct Utah-specific air quality research
- $350,700 for regulatory enforcement, including hiring of more air quality personnel
- A full review of suicide prevention programs
- $10.3 million to improve and expand state parks and $5 million for Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Grant
- 2 percent pay increase for the 21,500 state employees.
- $5.9 million to upgrade Olympic venues ahead of another possible bid for the Winter Olympics.
- New buildings: Department of Agriculture, Nephi National Guard Armory, Davis Applied Technology Allied Health building