Governor Herbert’s 2020 Budget Plan

Trey Elvis Hansen

It is no secret Utah is succeeding economically. Our economy is thriving, our population is expanding, and our state revenue has reached a record high. With all this prosperity, we need to plan strategically to combat the challenges of our own success. The $19 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020 that I have proposed addresses growth-related challenges and focuses on maintaining and even improving our already high quality of life.


A state budget is full of large numbers that can feel abstract, but it is in our budget that we show what we actually care about – this is our chance to put our money where our mouth is.


Individuals and families in Utah are looking for affordable homes, places to shop, parks and trails where they can recreate, safe and smart schools where they can learn, clinics and hospitals where they can get quality health care, and sanctuaries where they can worship. All of these important activities that are part and parcel of our unprecedented quality of life require the infrastructure of safe, well-functioning roads, transit, and utilities.


Quality of Life


With the available land along the Wasatch Front becoming ever more limited, understanding the interrelationships between land use, transportation, housing, water, air quality, and revenues is essential for preserving our quality of life.


Affordable, thriving communities require physical infrastructure, including transportation and water infrastructure, along with breathable air and open space where residents can recreate.


To this end I propose to invest …


  • $30 million to help fund efforts to preserve open space and establish significant community parks which are tied to efficient land use, transit-oriented development and affordable housing; and
  • $20 million to establish the first state forest at Tabby Mountain in Duchesne County, which will enhance recreation opportunities.


Working with the Utah Division of Air Quality, we have set an ambitious goal of reducing per capita emissions by 25 percent by 2026. That’s why I’m proposing to spend an unprecedented $100 million to improve the quality of our air.


Having clean and abundant water is essential to our prosperity here in the nation’s second driest state. To better protect the quality and quantity of our water, my budget allocates $50 million to improve water infrastructure, including $20 million to enhance municipal and industrial water efficiency.


Qualified Workforce and Education


In 2016 I set an ambitious five-year goal to add $1 billion in new ongoing revenue to public education by 2021. This budget accomplishes that goal one year ahead of schedule by putting nearly $300 million in ongoing funds into education.


My proposal calls for spending $7.7 billion — about $11,500 per student — on public education. While not part of the budget, I should mention that local school boards have $1 billion in unused property tax capacity to raise funds to meet local pressing needs.


Some budget highlights for the “new money” allocated to education include:


  • $19 million to fully cover growth — 6,750 additional students are expected to enroll in our public schools in 2020.
  • $127 million to fund a 4% increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit — or WPU — the main source of funding for public education.
  • $15.3 million to help students who are at risk of academic failure, along with a $3 million WPU add-on to help ensure students in rural Utah enjoy comparable opportunities as those in urban areas.
  • $30 million in one-time money to be used for bonuses for deserving teachers; we’ll work with the State School Board to determine how that is allocated.
  • Nearly $116 million, which can be used for counseling and mental health needs.
  • $104 million in one-time funds to upgrade facilities, which includes $66 million for school safety improvements at schools that provide a local match.
  • And, as targeted support, we will provide $3.9 million for Talent Ready Utah grants so that every middle school in Utah can offer a robust computer science curriculum to align students’ skills with the needs of the marketplace.
  • $50 million in one-time monies to endow a scholarship fund that — combined with donations from the private sector — provide scholarships to first-generation and financially disadvantaged college students.
  • $6 million for the Statewide College Advising Corps, an initiative to employ recent graduates to serve as advisors in high schools and help students understand the various university and technical options available to them. The goal of the program is to increase post-secondary enrollment in Utah by 20%.
  • $1.5 million to train psychiatrists to deal with suicide prevention.


Tax Modernization


Our current state tax system is out-of-date and out-of-balance. In the 1980s, for example, sales taxes covered about 70% of the economy. Today it covers just over 40%. Much of that comes from transition from a goods-based to a service-based economy.


If the sales tax structure remains unchanged, state and local governments will not be able to pay for core services in the future. Policymakers will then have to choose between increasing tax rates or forgoing basic services. Both of these options could harm the economy. To learn more about my call for tax modernization see our Tax Modernization Issue Tile.


This budget recommendation is rational, reasonable, responsible, and reflective. It is based on sound budgeting principles. It invests in our people and their quality of life. And it asks the legislature to modernize our tax system. As we do so, I’m confident Utah will continue to lead the nation as the best performing economy and remain The Place to live, to work and to raise a family.


To learn more, please watch my video. Click here to find the Full Budget Proposal.