I worried earlier in the session that creating a balanced budget, something our legislature has done year after year, might prove impossible this year. Revenue numbers were all over the map heading into the session, and midway through the session the federal sequester went into effect adding additional chaos to the budget situation.
Our fiscal staff worked long hours to revise revenue estimates to meet each budget change and situation. Legislators weighed the pros and cons of all the budget requests for the smaller amount of revenue we had to work with.
In the end, we were able to assess all the moving parts and balance the budget in time for the session to end at its regularly scheduled time.
One of the things I heard from my constituents consistently throughout the session was a request for more funding and emphasis on public education. During the recession, many areas of the state budget were cut, but we were able to hold public education harmless with no cuts.
While this clearly isn't an ideal situation for our growing youth population, it was the best we were able to do during the recession.
This session, we had enough revenue growth to actually pump additional funds back into education. Here are just a few of the new budget line items for public education. Keep in mind these items are all increases to the education base budget:
* A 2 percent increase ($50 million) in the WPU (weighted per pupil unit), which is the mechanism we use to allot funds to districts according to the number of students they have.
* $68.5 million to cover the 13,500 additional students in grades K-12 for the 2013-2014 school year. Our youth population is booming!
* $7.5 million for early intervention optional extended-day kindergarten.
* $4 million for the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.
* $6.6 million for teacher supplies and materials.
The public education budget received over $180 million in additional funding over last year's budget, $ 156 million in on-going funding which will be renewed every year.
In addition the legislature will be engaging in a yearlong education task force during the interim to review a host of public education proposals and funding mechanisms in advance of the 2014 session.
Along with funding in public education, we were able to appropriate $3.5 million for the initial planning of a new science building at Weber State University; $2.3 million for one-time construction upgrades at Falcon Hill to assist with efforts to enhance and support Hill Air Force Base; and state employees will be given a 1 percent cost of living raise. For a complete list of the budget breakdown, complete with pie-charts, go to www.le.utah.gov and click the link for the COBI for the 2013 General Session (COBI stands for Compendium of Budget Information).
Overall, I'm pleased with the financial outcome for the 2013 session, especially considering the wild ride we had to get to the final budget numbers.
Brad Dee is the House Majority Leader. He represents House District 11, which covers portions of Davis and Weber counties.