Utah Lawmakers Use Savings To Limit Cuts To Education And Social Services

This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states’ revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

State budget analysts predict that by the end of June 2021, Utah’s tax revenue will be $850 million less than projected in February of this year. To make up the difference, state lawmakers met in late June and made sweeping cuts to the budget. Nearly all new funding that was approved during this year’s general legislative session was slashed, and colleges and universities are facing 2.5% state funding reductions.

But lawmakers actually gave more money to K-12 public education — 1.3% more than last year. They also chose to keep new funding for mental health initiatives, like expanding mobile response teams in rural areas, and for growth in the state’s Medicaid program.

“We’ve done very well for education,” says Republican state Rep. Brad Last. “The other things that really came through this budget demonstrate our commitment as a legislature: mental health and behavioral health and other social services issues.”

Although lawmakers were initially hesitant to dip into the state’s budget reserves, they reversed course and used rainy day funds to limit cuts to education and social services.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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