Higher Ed needs $47 million to match last year’s budget

Recent action on the Utah State Senate floor reveals that the Utah economy is recovering faster than originally projected by economists, said USU director of government relations Neil Abercrombie.”However, even with this good news,” Abercrombie said, “there is not quite enough money to fully restore the entire $313 million in cuts approved by the Legislature in their fiscal year 2012 base budget.”Abercrombie said Utah Sen. Lyle Hillyard gave an update on Tuesday morning on the Senate floor about the latest revenue projections for the legislature. Revenue is projected to be up by about $47 million, which is more than was originally speculated.For fiscal year 2012 – the upcoming fiscal year – approximately $263 million more is projected for state tax revenue than fiscal year 2011. Fiscal year 2012 begins on July 1.”Essentially it does look like they can start to restore at least some of those cuts,” Abercrombie said. “However, the challenge is there’s still not quite enough money to fully restore all of the cuts that were initiated in the base budget at the beginning of the session.”At the beginning of the legislative session in November, a 7 percent cut to Utah higher education funding was discussed. Abercrombie said this cut was based on last year’s budget and it totaled around $47 million.Higher education was among recipients of state funding to experience a 7 to 10 percent cut, including public education, natural resources and state parks, corrections, jails and health and human resources.”The Democrats have come out and said, ‘We’ve completely wasted our time by cutting the budget 7 percent because now we’re just going to go back and start restoring what we’ve cut when we knew we had more money in the first place,'” Abercrombie said.”A lot of the Republicans are saying, ‘We had to do that because we had structural imbalances and have spent a lot of one-time money for ongoing services.'”Government relations intern Anna Harris, who observed the Senate Tuesday morning, said structural imbalances are caused by using one-time-use funding and “rainy day” funds that are set aside for economic downturns.Harris said there is a constitutional amendment that requires the budget to be balanced at the end of every legislative session. Structural imbalances and the term “structural deficit” therefore describe the parts of the budget that still require attention.

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