Utah will experience a serious budget short fall for fiscal year 2003 which is estimated at $117 million. Governor Leavitt said, "Utah experienced extreme good fortune in the 1990s. The state doubled investment in education, cut taxes, built and upgraded highways and invested in water. Today nearly every state in the nation is experiencing a serious financial crisis. We have already trimmed the budget five times in Utah and right now state government is operating with $500 million less than originally appropriated.
"Education must be the highest funding priority of state government. Education is undersupported and Utah spends $2,500 less per pupil than the national average. An educated, skill savvy workforce is the keystone to Utah's long term prosperity. We will also experience a pending enrollment boom in the near future. We also have a discrepancy with the way water development is funded in Utah. State water development costs should be paid by nonagricultural users. Water development is oversubsidized. Subsidization sends the wrong conservation message to users. Utah has the second highest per capita consumption of culinary water and the third lowest water rates in the country.
"Water development is a statewide interest and is critical to the economy. We must encourage conservation. Our state is suffering the effects of a four year long drought. A long term ethic is needed. I support state water loan funds and would like to identify a stable, conservation based, dedicated funding mechanism for the loan funds. I want to stress that the focus is on nonagricultural water users.
"A special session of the legislature will be held on Dec. 18 to balance the budget. I do not want to balance the budget by cutting education. I want to balance the budget by discontinuing subsidizing the low water user rates. Let's not raise taxes......I do not want to raise the income taxes. I want those people who are using water for nonagricultural uses to pay for it and not the taxpayers. I would like to stress again that this focus is on the nonagricultural uses. I don't want the farmers to get the wrong idea when it comes to water for agricultural purposes," said Governor Leavitt.