New Herbert budget funds schools, pay raises, other needs without tax increase or Rainy Day funds
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
BOUNTIFUL — Gov. Gary Herbert provided a group of Bountiful High School students studying financial literacy with an unusual lesson in budgeting Monday — how to spend $12.9 billion.
The governor chose to unveil his proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012, in front of the students to showcase not only his emphasis on funding public education but also his budgeting priniciples.
"It's not just a matter of, here's a math game and here's how the money is cut up," Herbert told the juniors and seniors gathered in the school's media center along with members of the governor's cabinet, advocates and the news media.
Instead, Herbert said he applied the same principles the students are learning in class, including paying bills on time, avoiding excessive debt and saving for a rainy day.
The result surprised Kiet Tran, 17.
"I was just appalled at some of the numbers," Tran said. "At just how much money our state really has. I mean, millions and billions. I've never seen that amount of money, ever, as a high school student."
But even Tran said he was pleased to hear how much money would go to education.
Education was a top priority in the governor's budget, along with job creation, energy development and what he called "self-determination." Herbert called an educated workforce critical to the state's economy.
His budget would boost public education spending by $111 million, enough to cover the cost of more students as well as expand all-day kindergarten and other early intervention programs, add testing and start new charter schools.
There's even an extra 1 percent in the state formula used to fund public schools, money intended to pay for a pay increase for teachers. "That's a reward for a job well-done," the governor said. State employees would see a 1 percent salary hike, too.
Higher education would get an additional $23 million for a variety of programs largely targeted at meeting the governor's goal of increasing the number of Utahns who earn post-secondary degrees. But there's no money for higher education raises.
Herbert's goal of creating 100,000 jobs by mid-2013 is backed with $20.4 million for economic development initiatives, $11.6 million to provide incentives for job creation and $6 million for tourism marketing.
He is also recommending a $26.4 million decrease in unemployment insurance rates. The drop in costs to employers should encourage small businesses to make new hires, the governor said, without any change in unemployment benefits.
There is also another $700,000 for the governor's Office of Energy Development in his budget, to further the state's efforts to ease access to energy resources located on federally controlled public lands and develop alternative fuels.
Additional funds are allocated in the governor's budget to hire six new Utah Highway Patrol troopers, create a parole violator center to free up prison space, conduct more health and safety inspections and government audits, keep state parks and liquor stores open, and cover increased Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program costs.
Herbert said his goal of self-determination is met through a budget that is "conservative, fiscally responsible and structurally balanced," meeting needs in critical areas without increasing taxes or dipping into the state's $232 million Rainy Day fund.
That was made possible by projected growth in state revenues for the first time since the nation's economic downturn in 2008.
Last month, the governor announced the state anticipated a $128 million surplus from the current budget year that ends June 30, 2012, plus nearly $280 million in additional revenues in the upcoming budget year, much of it from increased income and sales tax collections.
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