Herbert Says Economic Development Key to Funding Education

Herbert Says Economic Development Key to Funding Education

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's education system would be better funded by economic development than higher taxes, a top state official said.

"Raising taxes at this stage is not an option and would, in fact, be counterproductive," Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert said during the Utah School Boards Association's annual conference Saturday.

He said that Gov. Jon Huntsman's proposals to phase out the corporate income tax and repeal capital gains on investment profits would also wind up helping schools.

Herbert said people will use the money they would pay in taxes to buy more, and the state will receive the money through sales taxes.

Huntsman on Friday released his proposed budget. In it, he increases public education funding by $71.4 million to nearly $2.7 billion in operating funds. The increase will cover student growth, a modest pay raise for all teachers and a boost in starting pay.

Herbert also said the state would move toward getting more money by putting Utah's school trust lands to use.

"The school trust lands are very much underutilized in this state," he said. "We favor the removal of caps on trust lands. There's no reason to have caps."

Revenue from oil and other natural resources that can be extracted from school trust lands in places such as the Uinta Basin can yield between $40 million to $60 million a year for public education, he said.

Herbert said while there is no absolute answer as to what tuition tax credits would do to public schools, the Huntsman administration would like to experiment with the credits as long as they could ensure that the public education system would remain unharmed.

"We need to test-drive the system," he said. "There appears to be a pro-side to try it out."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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