SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Governor Gary Herbert released his 2018 proposed budget Wednesday. The $16.1 billion plan focuses heavily on increased spending for public safety and education.
"Our number one budget priority is education," said Governor Herbert. Over the last five years, according to Herbert, Utah has put a lot of money into education - 1.8 billion dollars, but he wants that number to grow. "We want to have a goal, aspirational as it is but I believe doable, to have Utah be the best performing education system in America.
That's why for 2018 Governor Herbert has proposed that 79% of all the new money coming in to the state be put into education.That's about $260 million for public schools and higher education. The governor also announced a 4% increase in per-pupil spending.
Currently Utah is in last place in the nation when it comes to per-pupil spending. But Herbert says our education system shouldn't be evaluated solely on money spent, but rather criterion like test scores, graduation rates, and the number of students going on to higher education. "We aught to be looking at graduation rates, I mentioned before we're at 85% now, if we were at 90% we'd be number one, that's a good benchmark."
Aside from education funding, public safety and additional funding for law enforcement rated high amongst the governor's priorities. In his proposed budget an additional $1.5 million has been set aside to increase pay for Utah Highway Patrol troopers. There is also $1 million for additional safety equipment and $750,000 for crime lab and evidence management.
The biggest ask for public safety is $7.6 million to improve salaries, and create career ladders, for correctional officers at state prisons. "We've had, I think, too many suicides have taken place with some of our prison correction personnel and again that's an indication that we need to in fact take a hard look at what we're doing out there and improve the conditions," explained Herbert.
Other important investments in the governor's 2018 budget are increased spending for clean air and water conservation efforts.
In total the governor's proposed budget comes in at 16.1 billion; $400 million more than last year. It calls for no tax increases and no additional bonding.
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