Gov. Huntsman announced his new proposed budget and after some time to digest it, it's looking like it's going to do things right. It's heavy on spending on one-time capital improvements while being modest with increases in annual expenditures. Way to go, John. It's wise accounting to control continuing spending while still taking advantage of the huge windfalls our state is enjoying.
Not all is said and done, however. House leaders are pushing for triple the tax cut that the Governor is pushing for, and there's still just under $40M still sitting on the table. Any bets as to how nasty that battle royale is going to get even with all of the feel-good surrounding this package? While $40M may seem like table scraps in comparison to the $10.7B total package, those relatively small amounts seem to end up being the most divisive. I'm completely prepared to see pet projects paraded around like some kind of dog and pony show.
I do have some concerns. I'm not too keen on expanding government social services no matter how the Legislature got pilloried for it last session. I'm also wondering if the tax cuts are well-timed. I think the money would be better spent on finishing expensive transportation projects now to save us a lot of long-term money. We're in the middle of a robust economy, one so good that we're limited now by a shortage of workers. This would hardly seem the time to try and spur more economic growth. I think some of the money should go into advertising to workers in other states how good the times are here to try and alleviate our employment crunch. After all, no amount of extra disposable income is going to make the economy any better if we can't spend it.
Education is also going to be on notice now. With these big increases in funding, we'll see if teachers will stick around or come to our state, and we'll also see if the increased funding results in improved results. The UEA and associated organizations have been asserting that money is the answer. If they're right, the next 5 years should show increases in student performance. If we don't see increases, you can bet they'll continue to claim that it's because we didn't give them enough money. The problem with them is that it's never enough. We could drop $20,000 per student and still hear clamoring for more funding. I say that we, as voters, hold education accountable to their claims of funding and performance being tied together.
As a package, I think this budget is pretty sound. It addresses a lot of critical needs while not getting way too crazy. I'm hoping it makes its way through the legislature with minimal fuss.