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Front Page » February 28, 2012 » Opinion » Report from the Legislature
Published 1,818 days ago

Report from the Legislature

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Its budget time at the legislature. The final revenue projections have been received. The requests for funding from all the state agencies, and all other would-be recipients have been submitted.

The challenge before us is illustrated in the abbreviated analysis which follows. New money that will be available on an ongoing basis is $280 million. Requests for this money total $425 million. One-time money, available only for this year, is $181 million. The one-time requests exceed this amount by $92 million. Interestingly, it's probably more difficult to pick and choose what and what not to fund out of the limited revenue increases than it is to require all recipients to remain in the "holding pattern" that has been in place for the last three years.

It is unlikely that many, if any, requests will be fully granted. This only is certain: We will balance the budget. There will not be any deficit spending and there will not be any tax increases. There will be a couple of fee increases that are designed to fund specific objectives. A good example is Senator Hinkin's $5 increase in the big game license to raise money for predator control-mainly coyotes. I am supportive but have emphasized the necessity that this money be spent on the ground and not in the offices.

Senator Okerlund is seeking new money to fight invasive species-most notably cheat grass. I am completely supportive. I have led the effort to obtain additional ongoing funds for necessary existent small schools (NESS) throughout Utah and have been supported by all the rural senators and representatives as well as school officials. The NESS funding, as it is called, was last adjusted in 1997. I am optimistic that we will receive a significant bump up in this funding which is badly needed.

Both public education and higher education will receive some additional dollars, but it will be modest. For higher education, it will be the first year in this decade when it has not taken a cut. Dixie College and Utah Valley University have a backlog in unfunded growth and will receive some help, beyond the other institutions. I look forward to the time we can better address the needs.

I note in passing my profound appreciation for the presence of "community college" campuses in Price, Ephraim and Richfield. It is the mission of such institutions to fulfill the educational needs of the community whether they be in the areas of applied technology or academics. When the merger occurred between Snow College and Sevier Valley ATC, I quoted and endorsed this observation from President Gordon B. Hinckley: "Get all the education you can... I do not care what you want to be as long as it is honorable. A car mechanic, a brick layer, a plumber, an electrician, a doctor, a lawyer, a merchant but not a thief." I went on to state: "At Snow South, we propose to do it all under one roof, with complete integration and without elevation or relegation."

My view of all students, in all courses of study whether academic or applied technology, was and remains reflected in the simple expression, "same hallways-same worth." It is entirely appropriate to assess where we are in our progress toward these goals and objectives, and I welcome meaningful review and discussion. If we need to ratchet-up our emphasis in some area, I am supportive. My only caution is that we avoid sideshows, keep our "eye on the ball" and not lose track of our mutual long-range objective to serve the broadest educational needs that available dollars will allow.

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February 28, 2012
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