Our 45-day legislative session is nearly complete and now it is time to look back and see what we have accomplished. By far the most important thing the Legislature does every year is balance the state’s budget. At nearly $13 billion dollars, it is no small feat to balance the budget in such a short amount of time. This year, the budget proved very challenging as the revenue estimates kept changing as the budget situation in Washington, DC evolved. As the House vice-chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, I spent a lot of time with the staff of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office reviewing revenue estimates, budget requests, and attempting to match funding sources with funding needs. The staff put in many overtime hours as we moved the budget puzzle pieces around until the picture finally balanced in a way the majority of legislators could support.
Many of the communications I received from constituents indicated that most Utahns feel public education ought to be the highest budget priority. I’m pleased to report that the vast majority of our new revenue growth was directed to public education. This session, we had enough revenue growth to actually pump additional funds back into education, something that wasn’t possible during the tight years of the recession. 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.
For a complete list of how funds were allocated throughout the budget, go to le.utah.gov and click the link for the COBI for the 2013 General Session (COBI stands for Compendium of Budget Information). If you have questions about the budget and want to understand how or why funds were allocated, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session about the happenings on Capitol Hill.