Utah budget: Legislature funds largest budget in history

Water conservation, infrastructure and public education are set to receive historic funding this year, as lawmakers approved the budget on Friday.

“I think we’re dealing with the biggest budget we’ve ever dealt with in the history of the state,” Senate Budget Chairman Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said at the executive committee meeting. credits to the Capitol.

The Utah Legislature had more than $2 billion more to spend this year after new revenue estimates added an additional $432 million in one-time revenue and $384 million in permanent funds than was expected previously. The total amount available to spend this year now includes $1.46 billion in one-time money and $570 million in new permanent funds.

Stevenson told reporters on Friday that this year has brought about a tougher-than-usual budget session.

“Because there was a lot of money, but there’s a lot of confusion about how much money we really had because of the funds (from the American Rescue Plan Act) and restrictions on how we could spend it,” he said, explaining that the funds need to be returned if not used as directed by the federal government.

Last week, House leaders warned that there was still not enough money to fund the $2.5 billion in one-time requests and more than $1 billion in ongoing requests from lawmakers.

What was approved in the budget on Friday included an additional $168.7 million in ongoing funds and approximately $270.9 million in one-time public education funds, earmarked for numerous projects, including $12.2 million for full-time optional kindergarten.

The budget marks a 9% increase over last year in public spending on education, Senate leaders noted.

Projects related to natural resources, agriculture and environmental quality will receive $50.6 million in ongoing money and $464.9 million in one-time money, much of which will go to projects related to the water. This includes $200 million in one-time funding for secondary water meters; $30 million in one-time money for the preservation of Utah Lake; $25 million one-time for rural drinking water projects; and $60 million one-time for the Bear Lake Marina expansion.

At a Friday press conference, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the Legislature would continue discussions on a constitutional amendment for budget appropriations, but not this session.

“We are not short of money, we are short of budgetary flexibility. This is going to have to be addressed,” he said. “As is often the case, sometimes you run out of time. And we felt like we were racing against time.”

Wilson said the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly would meet “many needs of the state” and reiterated that leaders do not plan to use this year’s surplus to fund ongoing programs in a context future economic stresses.

He acknowledged that the conflict in Ukraine could have unintended consequences for Utah’s economy, and wants to guard against any “economic turbulence.”

“My personal opinion is that if this is not peacefully resolved soon, it will affect our state’s fiscal position in the future,” Wilson said, adding that the budget will set aside funds previously allocated for projects in courses to prepare for this possibility.

Lawmakers have already earmarked $193 million for tax cuts, including $163 million for a comprehensive income tax rate cut for all Utahans, lowering the tax rate on Utah’s income from 4.95% to 4.85%. Lawmakers also approved a $15 million non-refundable income tax credit for low-income Utahns and a $15 million expansion of the state Social Security tax credit.

“Strategic and careful planning is Utah’s way,” Senate Speaker Stuart Adams said in a statement after the budget was approved.

“Our frugal budgeting has paved the way for our state to cut taxes for the second straight year and fund priority budget items such as education, infrastructure, water conservation, and social service programs at levels Not only are we funding these positions, but we are also saving money to ensure our children and grandchildren have the same or better quality of life than we enjoy. , we will continue to make fiscally prudent decisions to ensure we remain an economic leader for our nation,” he said.

Here are some other budget highlights:

  • Approximately $55 million in one-time funding for “deeply” affordable housing projects.
  • Amid what lawmakers have described as a mental health crisis among first responders, $5 million in one-time funding will help pay for mental health programs for first responders and their families.
  • $12 million in ongoing money for film incentives to attract productions to the state.
  • $91 million one-time funds for public education capital and technology.
  • Resources for the homeless population, including $55 million in one-time money to establish the COVID-19 Homeless Housing and Services Grant Program. and $3.5 million in one-time money to increase teen centers for homeless students.
  • $21 million to expand statewide broadband access.
  • More than $55 million to fund the salaries of police officers and correctional officers.
  • $3 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural Utah.
  • $38 million for improved access to outdoor recreation and state parks.

Contributor: Bridger Beal-Cvetko

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