Lawmakers Approve $15.1 Billion Budget

Utah’s state budget will top $15 billion next fiscal year, which starts July 1– a record adopted by legislators Thursday night as they rushed to adjournment at midnight.

This year’s spending is $14.2 billion, while next fiscal year’s will be $15.1 billion, legislative budgeters say.

That is a 6.34 percent increase, as lawmakers put a bunch of cash into the state’s Rainy Day funds as they spent $550 million in surplus tax revenues from the current year, and estimate tax revenue growth for next year.

As usual, just before adjournment, the House and Senate approved what’s called the Bill of Bills – the final appropriation that balances out the next fiscal year’s spending plan (HB3).

You can read line by line that final spending package.

Some budget highlights:

  • 3 percent increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit, the basic per-student funding formula. The 41 school districts use this growth to pay for teacher raises and other items.
  • 3 percent increase is state worker/university staff compensation, with 2 percent towards salaries and 1 percent to increased health insurance costs.
  • Extra pay hikes for state judges, Highway Patrol troopers and state corrections officers.
  • The state’s Rainy Day funds now stand at $491 million, the highest ever.
  • No general obligation bonds issued, as legislators accelerated paying down state debt by $335 million this year and $325 million in fiscal 2017. This will ensure the state’s AAA bond rating.
  • A special restricted account set up for future water projects, with some sales tax earmarked for its use.
  • $445 million more going to public education, compared to Gov. Gary Herbert’s recommended $422 million.
  • $9.25 million for a new homeless project, with the promise of $27 million over three years.
  • $8.8 million for Regent’s Scholarships.

State buildings approved:

  • Archives Storage Vault Expansion $4.2 million;
  • DEQ Technical Support Center $6.0 million;
  • Ogden-Weber ATC Improvement Project $6.3 million;
  • Salt Lake Community College Career and Technical Education Center $42.5 million;
  • Southern Utah University New Business Building and Repurposed Building $8.0 million;
  • Utah State University Biological Science Building $38 million (funded over two years);
  • Utah Valley University Performing Arts Building $32 million (funded over two years).
  • And an additional $12.5 million for other capital budget related items.

On the public lands front:

  • $686,000 one-time ($480,000 in FY 2016 and $206,000 in FY 2017) to allow the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office to hire legal staff for work on public lands and endangered species issues; and also appropriated $4.75 million one-time ($4.5 million to the newly created Public Lands Litigation Restricted Account and $250,000 to assist rural county officials) to provide legal assistance to the state and local governments regarding issues of land use and ownership.