Utah Capitol 10

The “skinny budget” proposal from the Utah House surfaced Monday afternoon. The stripped down spending plan includes a 4% increase in school funding, plus fully funds next year’s growth, but not much else.

HB3, from Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, debuts as House and Senate Republicans continue negotiations over next year’s budget. As UtahPolicy.com first reported, House GOP leaders are pushing a bare-bones spending plan for next year until they get the massive tax overhaul package ironed out in a special session. The idea is to re-open next year’s budget at that time once they put tax reform to bed.

House GOP sources said the spending bill addresses key needs while giving legislators the flexibility to address tax reform.

“I think you can look at it and see it’s very healthy,” one House GOP source told UtahPolicy.com. “It doesn’t spend all of the money but funds what is critical like key social services programs, public safety, education growth and 4% WPU, state employees etc. but it doesn’t spend it all. Hopefully, we can fix the structural problem this spring before July 1 but if not this could get us to next year and everything could be re-examined.”

That structural problem is a $340 million imbalance between the Education and General Funds. Sales tax revenue is declining, which is putting a strain on the ability of lawmakers to fund the government. Legislative leaders say if they can’t fix that imbalance, they won’t have enough money to pay for government operations next year.

In addition to the education spending increases, the House spending proposal includes:

  • $2.8 million for DABC store staffing in Herriman, Layton and Saratoga Springs,
  • More than $2.5 million for pay increases for corrections officers
  • $8.5 million in one-time funding for law enforcement as part of Operation Rio Grande
  • $167 million in new ongoing funding for public education, which includes fully funding next year’s growth

There’s only one new state building in the spending plan, which is $650,000 in one-time money and $50,000 ongoing for a student facility at Snow College. There’s also a little more than $7 million in one-time money to cover cost overruns at two state buildings.

Legislative sources say talks over the budget are still ongoing, and the Senate is expected to put out their spending plan sometime in the next few days.