This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Gov. Jon Huntsman's proposed budget squarely addresses the state's most pressing problems - underpaid teachers, overcrowded classrooms in the primary grades, traffic congestion and crumbling bridges, children and poor Utahns without proper health care. He's got the spending priorities right.
For our view of his latest tax reform, see the editorial below this one.
The only criticism The Tribune Editorial Board can make of his spending priorities is that even larger increases for public education can be justified, given the state's falling test scores, high minority-student dropout rate and an ever-shrinking proportion of Utahns' incomes going to education.
The governor also uses the common misnomer of an expected $1.6 billion revenue "surplus" that is actually no extra money at all if the real needs of Utah's growing population were the benchmark.
That said, for the most part, this is a realistic plan to meet the state's needs.
Making education the centerpiece, Huntsman proposes a 7 percent boost in the basic per-student funding formula, plus $67.3 million for the additional 14,000 students who are expected to hit schools next fall.
Then he goes beyond merely funding the status quo. He once again is proposing optional all-day kindergarten for low-income students, a program shown to boost school readiness for the most needy children. He adds an intriguing initiative to keep a ratio of 20 students to one teacher or aide in kindergarten through third grade. He also provides for a one-time teacher salary bonus and what the governor calls a ProExcel program to recruit and retain quality teachers.
He would provide a healthy $250 million boost for Centennial Highway Fund projects as well as additional money to buy land for the Mountain View Corridor highway and other needed roads and to address traffic "choke points" and safety projects, including bridge repair.
Huntsman's budget would right the wrong done by legislators this year and pay for dental and vision benefits for the neediest Medicaid recipients. It would help provide health insurance for children, small-business employees and other uninsured Utahns.
When the Legislature gets out its carving knife, as it surely will, Huntsman's budget will get nicked. But many of its thoughtful programs deserve to survive.