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Lawmakers poised to approve more than $1 billion in new spending. Here’s what they’re funding

By Katie McKellar - Utah News Dispatch | Feb 26, 2024

Illustration by Alex Cochran for Utah News Dispatch

The Executive Appropriations Committee’s recommendations include millions more for education, social services, infrastructure, energy, water and more.

With one week remaining in the Utah Legislature's 2024 general session, legislative leaders at the helm of the Republican majority on Friday unveiled final budget recommendations for the state's coming fiscal year.

The Executive Appropriations Committee (the powerful budgetary body that decides how to spend state money) released the list after appropriations subcommittees and legislative leaders spent weeks deciding which spending requests would -- and wouldn't -- get approved.

The Executive Appropriations Committee's recommendations include millions more for education, social services, infrastructure, energy, water and more -- but many priorities didn't get as much money as requested, with legislative leaders citing a tighter budget year compared to years past due to a cooling economy that's now shifted revenue to be more "stabilized and reliable."

As expected, legislative leaders are using $167 million in ongoing money -- $7 million more than they set aside in December to account for revenue growth -- for a tax cut, which is shaping up to be an income tax rate cut. A bill to reduce Utah's income tax rate from 4.65% to 4.55%, SB69, is making its way through the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the recommendations fund only a fraction of what Gov. Spencer Cox proposed the state spend on housing and homelessness initiatives.

The governor wanted $150 million for his Utah First Homes starter home program with the goal to create 35,000 new starter homes by 2028, $45.5 million for affordable housing, and $128 million to "stabilize the current emergency homeless shelter system and find more beds.

Instead, lawmakers are poised to fund about $41 million more toward housing and homeless programs. For weeks House Speaker Mike Schultz and Senate President Stuart Adams have said there likely wouldn't be enough money available to fund Cox's proposals, but they'd put some money toward certain programs.

However, Schultz told Utah News Dispatch on Friday that lawmakers are looking to do more, in addition to Friday's budget recommendations, in the next week when it comes to housing and homelessness programs and policy reforms.

"There's still some more to come that we're working on," he said, pointing to several pieces of legislation to deal with "free market solutions" in housing while also incentivizing cities to build more affordable housing. "I think we'll get some of the biggest and most important things done."

Friday's budget recommendations include over $146 million more in ongoing funding and $966.5 million in new one-time spending, on top of the roughly $28 billion base budget the Legislature already approved in the first 10 days of the session to fund state agency operations and their current programs.

The Executive Appropriation Committee's recommendations now go to the full Legislature for consideration as they work to refine the state's final budget for the coming fiscal year over the next week. The session ends before midnight on March 1.

Here are some of the funding highlights included in the final budget recommendations:

Tax cuts

  • $167 million to fund SB69, a bill to reduce Utah's income tax rate from 4.65% to 4.55%.
  • $2.3 million to fund HB153, a bill to expand the child tax credit.

Public Education

  • $212 million for a 5% increase to the weighted pupil unit, the per-pupil rate used to calculate how much money each school should receive.
  • $150 million for SB173, a bill to give bonuses to "high performing" teachers.
  • $101 million for K-12 school property insurance.
  • $100 million in one-time money and $2.1 million ongoing funds for HB84, a bill to increase safety and security in schools.
  • $74 million for paid professional hours for educators to develop their skills.
  • $40 million more for the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, which allows eligible parents to use state funds to send their kids to private schools, home school or other options.
  • $35.5 million for HB415, a bill to restrict school districts from charging general fees.
  • $30 million for capital needs in rural areas.
  • $19.8 million for digital teaching and learning.
  • $8.4 million for HB221, a bill to give stipends of $6,000 to support educators while they're full-time student teachers.
  • $8.4 million for HB105, a bill to increase funding for teaching supplies and materials.
  • $6 million in one-time money and $1 million in ongoing money for a K-12 computer science initiative.
  • $4.8 million for HB431, a bill aimed at increasing teacher retention.
  • $3 million for a high school service program.
  • $1.5 million for SB205, a bill to provide instruction on child sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Affordable housing and homelessness

Transportation and infrastructure

Natural resources, agriculture and environmental quality

  • $10 million for Great Salt Lake investments.
  • $10 million for the Cove-East Fork Virgin River Watershed Project.
  • $8.5 million to purchase land for wildlife and outdoor recreation near East Canyon State Park in Morgan.
  • $5 million to replace a water line down Ogden Canyon.
  • $3 million in one-time money and $1 million in ongoing money for SB211, a bill to develop water resources.
  • $2.5 million for HB280, a bill to create the Water Infrastructure Fund, form a state water plan and study financing of water infrastructure projects, among other provisions.
  • $2 million for HB410, a bill to buy the San Rafael State Energy Lab.
  • $1 million in one-time money and $1 million in ongoing money to install more stream flow and water diversion gauges to collect water data within the Great Salt Lake watershed.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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