Utah Budget 01

Even with a $1.3 billion budget surplus, there’s not enough money to cover all of the spending requests from lawmakers this year. 

At the end of last week, lawmakers had more than $600 million in spending requests, with more still to be tabulated. Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, Senate chair of the powerful Executive Appropriations Committee says the eye-popping surplus is bringing the funding requests out of the woodwork.

“When Gov. Herbert announced that $1.3 billion in extra funding, everybody went to work on their budgets,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of enormous requests this year, including from education and economic development.”

Stevenson warns that the final amount of money they have to spend could be less as January revenues are reportedly down from projections, owing to many Utahns who pre-paid their taxes to avoid changes from the federal tax reform passed by Congress. New revenue projections are expected sometime around the end of the month.

Stevenson added the first concern for lawmakers is finding money to fund growth in public education enrollment and boosting the WPU, which is the basic unit of school funding. That will take priority over all the other funding requests on the table.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s $19 billion budget proposal for next year includes $445 million in new spending for education and a 4% increase in the WPU.

Legislators are also weighing some sort of a tax cut, either in the sales tax or income tax or a combination of the two which will eat into what is left over for appropriations.

“I’d almost rather do this in a down economic year,” joked Stevenson. “That way we wouldn’t have to disappoint so many people.”