SALT LAKE CITY — The House Education Committee took no action Monday on a bill to limit the state education fund monies appropriated to state colleges and universities at 20 percent.
The committee heard testimony on the bill Friday but ran out of time and took no action. Monday, the committee agreed to move on to the next item on the committee agenda without taking action.
As originally proposed, HB248 set the limit at 15 percent. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, successfully amended the cap to 20 percent.
In 1996, Utahns voted to amend the Utah Constitution to permit lawmakers to fund higher education from the state education fund, which is supported by income tax. Higher education, which includes the Utah System of Technical Colleges, also receives funding from the state's general fund.
"The trend for higher education is they have been getting a greater percentage of that public education fund money. I am proposing to put firm proportionality on that ratio," she said.
Judkins said increasing the limit to 20 percent "was a good number. It's not arbitrary. The historical average has been about 15 percent and 20 percent gives wiggle room for the funding as it is now," she said.
While the bill was supported by the Utah State Board of Education, the state System of Higher Education opposed it.
"We think it will make it more difficult for future legislatures to fund higher education. We don't know what's going to happen with tax reform and if the general fund is going to be made more robust. Hopefully that will happen but that's an unknown right now," said Utah Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler. He urged the committee to hold the bill.
Judkins, who teaches at Utah Valley University and is a former local school board member, said the bill would allow funding for the state's K-12 system and higher education to grow proportionately.1 comment on this story
"I love higher ed. I don't want to harm higher education. I don't think this does that," she said.
"I think it just provides a check puts a check on this upward trend."
Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, said given the level of uncertainty with our tax structure right now, "I think it would be wise to study over the interim but I think this is a critical discussion. … At least for me, I need to know a little more about the boundaries of the playing field that we're going to be discussing."