Lane Beattie, president and CEO, Salt Lake Chamber issued the following statement regarding Gov. Herbert’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal:
Utah’s robust economy is the envy of the nation and announcements this week of strong revenue growth demonstrate our continued economic success and fiscal discipline. Our current prosperity is in large part due to the critical decisions made in decades past by forward thinking leaders. Today’s leaders have the same opportunity. In good times we must invest.
Our state has clear warning signs in educational achievement and growing transportation needs that require investment today. We will compromise our future economic success if we ignore these needs. Governor Herbert has demonstrated economic leadership in addressing many of these issues in his budget. The business community looks forward to working with the Legislature and the governor to make the critical investments necessary for continued prosperity.
Of particular importance to Utah’s business community are these priorities that the governor supported in his fiscal year 2015 recommendations:
Utah’s Economy is Thriving – Fiscal discipline and past investments from Utah’s elected leaders are paying dividends for the state’s economy. The governor’s budget reflects this while acknowledging the need to invest in our future. Utah’s rainy day funds ensured the state weathered the recession better than most and will now exceed pre-recession levels demonstrating the strength of our economic recovery.
Education – The governor has proposed the largest investment seen in recent decades in education by recommending nearly $500 million in new state funds. Approval of this budget would amount to over $1.3 billion in new money over four years. This includes funding many of the key programs recommended in the five-year “Prosperity through Education” plan developed by Prosperity 2020 and Education First. The business community deeply appreciates the governor’s leadership in proposing this investment in Utah’s future workforce.
Acknowledgement of Transportation Needs – The governor supports Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan and has committed in his budget to work with the lawmakers to develop a sustainable funding plan for transportation, which places an emphasis on user fees to restore fiscal flexibility to the Legislature. The business community believes now is the time to address this problem and continue Utah’s conservative approach by investing in future growth. Over the past two years, the Utah Legislature has studied the needs and funding options for closing the $11.3 billion deficit in transportation funding needed from now to 2040. We cannot back away from our long-standing conservative approach to prudent and wise investment in this critical economic infrastructure.
Ensuring We Maximize Every Taxpayer Dollar – Every part of state government should maximize every taxpayer dollar. The governor proposes returning nearly $700 million of Utah taxpayer dollars already being collected with his Healthy Utah proposal. The business community believes leaving Utah’s hard-earned taxpayer dollars in Washington is not an option, and the Legislature should carefully consider and approve the governor’s Healthy Utah proposal.
Beginning to Address Water Needs – Utah has critical long-term water needs for future growth. The governor has proposed the right steps to begin addressing these needs with a recommendation for $11.3 million for improvements to dam safety, drinking water programs, water rights adjudication and canal safety inspections. The business community believes the state needs a long-term comprehensive water strategy before making substantial state investments in water infrastructure.
Addressing Air Quality – We all have a role in improving Utah’s air quality. The governor proposes investments to reduce vehicle emissions, grants to incentivize both small businesses and households, continued funding for research, added compliance and increased public education. All are thoughtful ways to address and improve air quality. The business community supports these steps, in addition to further diversifying private and public fleets to alternative fuels and vehicles, moving towards Tier-3 fuels and improving investments in transit and active transportation.