Lawmakers expect a very tight budget year in 2017, and there's not much extra cash to go around.
After appropriations committees had finished scouring their budgets for extra money, lawmakers say they found about $30-35 million they could "reallocate" elsewhere. That extra money is going to help, but legislators warn there's not going to be enough to meet every spending request.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, Senate Chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee says they're not expecting the budget picture to get any rosier when updated revenue numbers are released later this month.
"We hear income tax collections are up a bit, while sales taxes are down, so basically it could be a wash," he said. "I don't want to give anyone the impression that the floodgates are going to open."
Legislative budget staff estimated $287 million extra for this budget year. If the revenue estimates don't show any dramatic improvement, that's about where we'll be when the final budgets for next year are set, plus the $30-35 million that lawmakers can reallocate.
That's not going to go very far. A good chunk of that extra money is already spoken for, earmarked for the rainy day fund and other accounts. The rest won't cover much.
"We have to cover student growth, maybe look at a 3% raise for state employees, and maybe another 3% increase for higher education. That will take a lot of the money right there," says Stevenson.
If lawmakers want to boost the WPU for public education, that could eat up the remaining cash. Every 1% increase in the WPU equals about $26 million. Gov. Gary Herbert proposed a 4% WPU increase in his budget, which would be a little more than $100 million.
Stevenson says it's going to be difficult to meet that request.
"The object of skinning the rabbit is not messing up the hide," he said.