SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers head into their final week of the legislative session trying to settle a $15-billion-plus budget that includes $68 million to pay for 10,000 extra students in schools, $116 million for districts to raise teacher pay and a 2 percent pay increase for most state workers.
Highlights from the budget that legislators are finalizing:
Utah is expecting 10,000 more students in public schools this fall, so legislators are setting aside $68 million to pay for them. They're also looking to send $116 million more to local school boards, who can use the money for increasing K-12 teacher pay, professional development or other programs. An additional $5 million would go toward reimbursing teachers who pay for supplies and materials. For higher education, legislators are looking to add $3.5 million to cover a growing number of college students, $7.2 million to mitigate rising tuition costs, and $8 million in their budget for the merit-based Regents' Scholarship, which can be used at public or private nonprofit universities.
Utah lawmakers will set aside money in the budget to help out big events around Utah, such as the patriotic America's Freedom Festival in Provo ($70,000) or Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City ($100,000), but one event that's not getting money this year is the Outdoor Retailers Convention. The lucrative outdoors expo decided to pull its show out of Utah to protest the Legislature and governor approving a resolution asking President Donald Trump to repeal the new Bears Ears National Monument. The state was going to send $1 million to help pay for large pavilion tents, adding extra floor space for the massive show. The most recent budget plans have cut that $1 million. "They ended it, and we're ending it," Speaker Greg Hughes said on Friday. "Dollars are tight."
FILM, TOURISM AND ECONOMIC DEVLEOPMENT
Legislators are looking to spent $3 million on tourism marketing, and the fund for film tax incentives, which "Napoleon Dynamite" star Jon Heder promoted at the Capitol last week, is on track to get $1.5 million. Legislators are also looking to spent $150,000 on a consulting study to look at building an inland port in Salt Lake City, with the hope the "dry" port could make the area a major shipping hub.
Utah legislators are setting aside nearly $6 million for prison worker pay, a priority for Gov. Gary Herbert to try to stem high turnover among guards and correction workers. Legislators are also looking at spending about $1.9 million for state trooper pay, $1 million for integrated body and car dash-camera systems, and $1.2 million to cut down on the backlog of untested rape kits.
To help address problems associated with Salt Lake City's overflowing homeless shelter, legislators are looking to set aside about $10.1 million for two Salt Lake City homeless shelters — one for women-only — and a third shelter elsewhere in Salt Lake County.
BUILDINGS AND BONDS
This year, legislators are sending $8 million to help with costs of a new performance center at Dixie State University, $5 million for a new hospital and medical facilities at the University of Utah, and $14 million for the renovation of a social science building at Weber State University. Legislators intend to send more money in 2019 and 2020 to help with the construction costs: $17 million next year for Dixie State; $15 million next year for Weber State; and $25 million next year for the University of Utah, followed by $20 million more in 2020.