Friday, December 28, 2012

Uintah Basin Gets Attention in Proposed Budget

On 12-12-12, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert rolled out his budget recommendations for 2014.
This year’s budget work was impacted by the dichotomy of having a healthy economy in Utah, one of the best in the nation, the governor said, juxtaposed against the uncertainty of what type of impacts may result from the fiscal cliff and the affordable health care act.

Gov. Herbert said as his team worked on the budget, the focus was strongly on growing the state’s economy. “Everything I do focuses on how does that help or hurt our economic opportunities,” he said.

The lion’s share of state monies goes into education, about 63 percent, approximately $3.4 billion. Monies go into a variety of education targets, including expanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs both in the lower grade levels as well as post high-school education. The governor noted in his Wednesday’s telephone press conference for publications from rural areas of the state that he believes investing in education to be strategic, “putting that money where we get the best bang for the buck.” He noted that if the state is going to have economic expansion it will need an educated labor force. “This budget exemplifies this effort; we are going to try to make sure everything we do in the state is designed to optimize opportunity.”

Other highlights of the budget include funds for economic development initiatives, including business expansion and retention programs for rural communities. Also, the budget calls for the state to continue to promote Utah tourism and travel, as well as business marketing recruitment and outreach..

In other areas, particularly those of interest to the Uintah Basin, the governor noted that the Utah Department of Transportation is aware of the increase in truck traffic on U.S. Highway 40 and is looking at some band-aid solutions such as adding more passing lanes and more signage. Mayors and county commissioners try to prioritize transportation needs, working through UDOT to determine where to spend finite amounts of money, the governor said.

Other ongoing projects include looking to improve air quality and emissions. “We are spending a significant amount of money in a combined effort to study the air shed in the Basin because of the ozone problem,” the governor said.

For full details on the governor’s budget proposal, go to Budget Recommendations.

The Utah State Legislature will grapple with coming up with their own 2014 budget proposal when it convenes Jan. 28. Vernal Express