But behind all the rhetoric -- and in the case of public education over the last decade, the money really hasn’t been there to keep up with and advance one of the state’s most important responsibilities -- is usually a lot of one-time spending.
The 2013 Legislature is no exception.
This week budget chairs Rep. Mel Brown, R-Kamas, and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, passed out a four-sheet summary of all of the one-time spending that will flow into budgets because of tax collection surpluses.
And it is an impressive list.
In fact, it is $230.5 million.
Folks, this ain’t chump change.
And if you include ongoing spending in next year’s budget, add in another $216.5 million.
That’s $447.1 million in new spending, approaching half a billion dollars.
I’m not saying that the GOP-controlled Legislature are spendthrifts.
Utah has a reputation of fiscal responsibility; one of the best-managed states in the nation.
And you won’t find in the spending list below any “bridges to nowhere” – the infamous bridge in Alaska that was earmarked for construction by a former powerful U.S. senator from that state, but in fact ran between the mainland and a small island with almost no one living on it.
All of the new Utah spending was vetted through the various joint budget committees, prioritized and approved by the Senate and House GOP caucuses.
(The Democrats may like of much of the spending also, but in all candor they don’t count in budget-setting.)
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that he’s getting more than 90 percent of what he asked for in his budget recommendation.
UtahPolicy has been told that while Herbert asked for $20 million for his 66%-by-2020 initiative – which seeks to have two-thirds of all adult Utahns with a post-high school degree or certificate by 2020 – in fact there is only $8 million in the budget for that program.
However, Herbert said that 66%-by-2020 is also part of the current STEM program – which encourages more training in science, math and technology – in both K-12 and in college, and he believes his education priorities have been met.
“There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen” on STEM funding, said Herbert.
Brown promised his GOP caucus that all the so-called STEM requests would be boiled down and combined and the program wouldn’t be getting any more cash than it should.
The $13 billion state budget is, of course, a complex undertaking and process. While in the old days there used to be four or five bills that comprised the budget, in recent years – with the adoption of so-called “base budget” bills early in the session and then final bills passing in the last days – there are more than a dozen separate pieces of legislation that make up the state’s spending plan.
In addition, each session lawmakers “open up” the current year’s budget and either put more money in (like this year), or cut spending if state revenue collections aren’t keeping up.
To help track all that spending, the budget chairs passed out the sheet attached to this story.
It encompasses a number of bills, including individual bills that “cost” money, like the $2.85 million required in HB96, which sets up an alternative fuel vehicle tax credit.
Here are some of the more interesting one-time spending projects – which in years past have been called the annual Christmas Tree list:
-- $46 million for various capital improvements to current state buildings.
-- $29.3 million to build a new Ogden juvenile courts building.
-- $54 million for new classrooms at the Utah Valley University.
-- $18.7 million to pay for 2012 wildfire fighting and to reclaim burned areas.
-- $4 million Beverley Sorenson Arts Learning Program.
-- $5 million to STEM in one bill.
-- $3.5 million to STEM in another bill.
-- $5 million to public education teacher supplies.
-- $419,000 to the state’s health care exchange.
-- $1.5 million for the liquor commission’s credit and debt card costs and liquor delivery expenses.
-- $2.3 million for Falcon Hill.
-- $2 million for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
-- $1 million Regents’ financial aid scholarships.
-- And $50,000 to a Utah clean air initiative.
Aside from general funding, Utah also adopts a budget for road construction and maintenance.
A Salt Lake Tribune story this past week well reports how two GOP legislative leaders – House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, and Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, sponsored a road-building/funding bill this session that spends nearly $42 million on various road projects that didn’t go through the state’s Transportation Commission, which historically prioritizes road projects.
In the House, only Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, voted against HB377, saying that the Transportation Commission’s prioritizing of needed roads shouldn’t be so cavalierly ignored.
But Dee and Adams (ironically, the former chair of the Transportation Commission) were smart, and the road list is spread out across the state, so most of the 104 lawmakers have something in or near their districts.
Herbert said that as governor, reporting to all 2 million Utahns, he has a different constituency that individual legislators; which is true.
Lockhart has already announced she won’t be running for her Provo-based District 64 again, retiring the end of 2014.
It is rumored that she is interested in running for governor in 2016. So her constituency may not be District 64 as much as the whole state, as well.