Courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune:
Bountiful • Gov. Gary Herbert pitched his budget blueprint for the coming year as a plan that ensures Utah has an educated workforce that attracts business and fuels economic growth.
At its heart, Herbert’s proposal is an increase of more than $134 million for Utah’s public schools and universities to educate 12,500 students entering public schools next year and offering teachers a small raise.
“I think it is absolutely imperative for our long-term economic stability that we fund education,” Herbert said. “It’s the linchpin. I can’t develop energy and all the potential that’s there … you can’t do that without education and research. We can’t have a healthy economy and job growth and creation without an educated workforce.”
The school infusion absorbs about a third of the total $408 million in new spending in Herbert’s $12.9 billion budget proposal.
Health care costs eat up much of the remainder with a spike in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program — which provide health care to Utah’s poor — costing the state nearly $163 million more in the coming year.
The governor’s recommendation is merely the first step in the budget process. Ultimately, the decisions will be made by the Legislature, which historically has given little deference to the governor’s suggestions, although lawmakers Monday were generally favorable toward Herbert’s blueprint.
“Twelve billion dollars is a lot of money,” said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, who has specific concerns about growth in particular areas.
Waddoups said he is concerned about $6 million the governor is seeking for the University of Utah medical school, and he thinks higher education funding should be cut elsewhere. There are also concerns about some of the public education spending beyond the enrollment growth.