DALLAS — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed $13.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2015 starting July 1 includes $261 million in new money for education and $36 million to expand the state prison at Gunnison.
Herbert unveiled his budget Dec. 4 in anticipation of the Utah Legislature convening in Salt Lake City for its 60th session on Jan. 27. Education funding represented his top issue.
"Investment in education will advance Utah toward our key goal: 66% of adult Utahns will have a post-secondary degree or professional certification by the year 2020," Herbert said.
Expanding the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison would be a first step toward possible closing of the Utah State Prison in Draper, which occupies land near Salt Lake City that officials believe could be developed commercially.
With state revenues expected to increase $338 million in budget year that begins July 1, 2014, Herbert urged a cautious approach in unveiling his budget earlier this month. Among his key talking points were: "avoid unnecessary debt and save for a rainy day. Think long-term."
Herbert said he expects the 2014 Legislature to consider raising the state's fuel tax for the first time in years.
Herbert also cited a report by Utah State Auditor John Dougall that said the state was too dependent on federal funds. Federal dollars account for about $3.5 billion or 26.6% of his budget.
"While Utah is well-positioned for economic expansion, mounting uncertainty related to federal fiscal policy presents downside risk to the outlook," Herbert said in his prepared remarks.
When Congress shut down the federal government in November, Utah lawmakers convened in an emergency session where they agreed to fund the national parks until federal funding resumed.
Herbert proposes raising $64 million to pay for the 10,300 new students expected in the state's public schools and increasing the funding mechanism for schools by $61.6 million, or 2.5%.
With triple-A ratings from all three ratings agencies, Utah issues little debt and maintains bond maturities of 15 years or less.