Utah will have more to spend in new budget year

Published: Monday, Nov. 25 2013 12:40 p.m. MST

"There is a time and place where bonding makes sense. But we are very clear this year we don't think bonding needs to occur," Cox said. "We need to make some progress on paying our debt down."

Lockhart said lawmakers still need to talk about bonding.

"It's a little early for me to say absolutely," the speaker said. "But I think there's going to be significant resistance" to any increase in the state's debt.

Pay increases for state employees as well as educators are expected to be in Herbert's nearly $13 billion budget that will be submitted to the 2014 Legislature that begins meeting in late January.

"We're looking heavily at compensation," Cox said, even though health insurance and pension costs are rising. "The governor is very sensitive to the impact labor and employees have on government performance."

The briefing focused on what the office called budget drivers, expenses that must be funded — including debt payments and building maintenance that add up to 80 percent of the budget.

Education remains at the top of the governor's list for spending, Cox said.

"The governor's priority has always been education," she said. For this budget, that includes funding an expected 10,500 increase in student enrollment at a cost of some $60 million.

The Medicaid expansion available to the state under the Affordable Care Act is not part of the governor's budget. Herbert has yet to decide whether Utah will accept the expansion.

The consensus revenue estimates released Monday will be updated toward the end of the 45-day legislative session.

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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