Governor unveils budget recommendations focused on law enforcement, education

Gov. Gary R. Herbert unveiled his $16.1 billion budget recommendation for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 alongside Utah Highway Patrol troopers Wednesday morning.

The budget is focused on maintaining Utah’s forward momentum by getting more out of every taxpayer dollar.

To that end, it contains no tax increases and 79 percent of new ongoing money is going to education. It also pays off $289 million in general obligation bond debt, bringing the total debt paid off by the state over six years to $1.7 billion.

“This budget is reasonable, rational and responsible,” Gov. Herbert said. “It stays true to my philosophy of squeezing more out of every tax dollar rather than more tax dollars out of every taxpayer.”

Education continues to be the governor’s No. 1 budget priority, which will help the state meet its goal to become the top state for student achievement. His recommendations will bring the two-year total of new ongoing revenue to public education to $425 million and add $108 million for higher education. If adopted, it will keep Utah on pace to meet its five-year goal to add $1 billion in new ongoing revenue to public education and $275 million for higher education.

The governor noted that this budget is significant not just for what it invests, but also for what it saves. During the rollout, he announced that state agencies met and exceeded the ambitious goal he set roughly four years ago to improve efficiency by 25 percent by the end of Dec. 2016. The overall measurable improvement in state government is 26.7 percent.

“We saved $191 million by not growing government, plus $106.5 million costs were avoided through operations improvements,” he said.

The Utah Highway Patrol played a key role in the effort to increase efficiency in state government and also improve public safety. Troopers in Salt Lake County were able to spend an additional 5,000 hours patrolling roadways by reducing time spent filling out DUI paperwork from three hours down to one hour. Drivers who see patrol cars on the highway are less likely to participate in reckless behavior, and the increased patrol time led to the arrest of 200 more impaired drives and 4,700 more vehicle stops from the previous year.

The governor’s budget contains $1.5 million to increase the pay for state troopers, including $680,000 for a career ladder to support upward mobility for officers. It also included $7.6 million to increase compensation for corrections employees.

In addition to the roughly $40 million already earmarked for water, there is new funding of on-going efforts to improve water efficiency, including 4.5 million for conservation and 4.5 million for water use data. The budget also includes $1.4 million for air quality monitoring, and anticipates initial use of an additional $32 million for air quality efforts that will accrue to the state through a special settlement with Volkswagen.

To read the full budget proposal, visit gomb.utah.gov.

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