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Governor unveils budget recommendations

OREM, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Governor Gary Herbert unveiled his recommendations for the 2015 fiscal budget Wednesday.
OREM, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Governor Gary Herbert unveiled his recommendations for the 2015 fiscal budget Wednesday.

The budget includes $338 million in new funds, with no additional borrowing or bonds.

With Utah Valley University as the setting, Governor Herbert laid out his recommendations for the budget.

"It's that part of the year we have an opportunity to reflect on, as we do, what has happened in the past, but more importantly project into the future," said Governor Herbert.

His top priority when projecting into the future is education.

He is calling for $3.6 billion in total state funds for education, including $157 million in new funds to public education, $104 million in new funds to higher education and $7.5 million for early intervention and all-day kindergarten.

Still, Utah Democrats point out the state is falling short, coming in last in per pupil spending since 1988.

"Can we use more money? Sure, but the question then is how do you get it? And again, we're still in a very tepid economic recovery," said Herbert in response.

UVU knows what it's like to do more with less.

The school relies mostly on tuition, but is hoping to cash in on equity funding proposed in the budget as it prepares to welcome 12,000 more students by 2020.

"85% of our graduates stay within the state, so people say we need to help educate people, so we can help grow our economy, that's why you come to UVU," said Student Body President, Jono Andrews.

The governor is also targeting the economy in the budget.

It includes $16.7 million for tourism/sports marketing and global branding and $1 million for business marketing and corporate recruitment.

"That's one of the few places you can take tax payers dollars and actually get more money back in the investment," said Herbert.

Other notable items in the budget include $18 million for clean air research and fleet conversion,
$47.5 million for corrections reform, a 1.25% salary increase for state employees and $13 million for the Medicaid program.

Utah Democrats say the governor's recommendations dodge Medicaid expansion.

They say the state is missing out on millions in federal money.

The governor says Medicaid expansion isn't a factor in creating the budget, he says all options are still on the table, but admits he's leery of accepting the money.

"Let's not forget the other side of the equation. Those tax dollars come from your pockets, from the state of Utah’s citizens," said Herbert.

The governor is also calling on all departments to increase efficiency by 25% in the next two years.

The recommendations must be approved by the House and the Senate.

That debate will begin when the session opens up in January.

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