Gov. Gary Herbert unveils $13.3 billion budget

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4 2013 7:52 p.m. MST

The Prison Relocation and Development Authority has postponed action on that recommendation, initially expected in time for the legislative session that begins in late January.

Herbert said even though a decision has yet to be made on whether to move the Point of the Mountain facility, expanding the Gunnison prison is "not controversial. It's a no-brainer. It's the least expensive way to add beds."

Also proposed in the governor's budget is a $6.1 million increase in jail contracting and reimbursement rates with county jails, and another $1.86 million for a county jail program intended to reduce recidivism.

The budget from the governor includes money for a 1.25 percent pay raise for state employees and fully funds increases in pension and health care costs. Similar benefits would be available to public and higher education employees.

Herbert acknowledged Utah's pollution problem in his budget, putting aside $18 million to improve air quality. Most of that money, $14.3 million, would go toward replacing aging school buses and state vehicles.

Nearly $2 million would be used to research ways to deal with the state's winter inversions, and another $1.3 million would go to the Utah Clean Air Partnership.

Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said while the money will help, it isn't enough.

"It's a symbolic gesture that has some value in that I think this is the first time we've seen any money committed directly to the air pollution problem," Moench said. "We'd like to see a lot more of it."

Low-income needs dealt with in the budget include $1.6 million for the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund, $500,000 to The Road Home and $500,000 for after-school programs addressing intergenerational poverty.

What's not in the governor's budget is the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act. Herbert has said he is still deciding whether Utah will accept the additional coverage, which has no cost initially to the state.

The governor's budget is based on revenue estimates already agreed to by the Legislature. Those estimates will be updated toward the end of the 2014 Legislature.

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