Utah lawmakers release their $28 billion budget proposal. Here is how they want to spend your money.

The Utah Legislature released its massive spending plan and have until midnight Thursday to pass any bills with a fiscal note of $10,000 or more.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.

The Utah Legislature is set to pass around $28 billion dollars in budget proposals during the final days of the 2023 legislative session.

On Friday evening, legislative leaders took the wraps off Utah’s nearly $28 billion budget proposal. They have until midnight Thursday to pass any bills with a fiscal note of $10,000 or more.

Senate Executive Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told reporters Monday that there would be “a lot of updates” after hearing back from “dissatisfied customers” who were unhappy with the budget proposal his committee released on Friday.

“But the budget process is moving forward really well. We met again this morning, and we’ll meet again this afternoon,” Stevenson explained Monday. “The House and the Senate are very close together on getting the budget totally prepared, and it seems to be very in sync this year.”

The massive spending document boosts public education funding by nearly $1 billion dollars and allocates more than $400 million toward water conservation efforts. There is also $400 million for tax reduction.


Public schools are in line to see a $236 million bump in per-pupil funding next year. By statute, lawmakers are required to provide funding increases for inflation and increases in student populations, which represents $132 million of the total increase. Legislators added another $104 million to increase overall per-pupil funding by 6% in total. There is also $25 million to expand Utah’s optional all-day kindergarten program.

Lawmakers have proposed to set aside an additional 2% increase in per-pupil funding as part of a proposed deal with the education community to get them on board with a plan to remove Utah’s constitutional earmark for education funding. That 2% boost would only be added to the fiscal year 2024 education budget if voters approve removing the constitutional requirement that income tax can only fund public and higher education and social services for children and disabled residents.

The largest amount of new funding for public education comes as part of a controversial bill that ties a salary increase for public school teachers to a provision allowing the use of public school funding to pay for private school tuition and expenses. HB215, which lawmakers rushed through in the first two weeks of the session, gives teachers a $6,000 annual compensation boost, which costs an estimated $196 million, while $41 million funds $8,000 per year in private school expenses for an estimated 8,000 students — creating the largest school voucher program in state history.

Water conservation

As the Great Salt Lake dries up, and with most of the state’s water going toward farming, lawmakers are putting $200 million toward agricultural water optimization and setting aside $25 million dollars for loans to pursue those goals.

Utah’s water woes will be injected with an additional more than $150 million — including a one-time bill of $7 million and an ongoing bill of $5 million for cloud seeding, which researchers have called “experimental and unproven.” That’s a steep increase from the annual $350,000 the state currently spends on the program to shoot silver iodide into storm clouds in an effort to get them to create more snow.

The Legislature is also putting $50 million toward water reuse and desalination, $30 million toward water infrastructure projects and $25 million toward dam safety upgrades. Water suppliers will get $15 million for metering secondary water use.

The Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner, created this session, is set to receive $10 million and an ongoing $2.5 million. That office is being asked to come up with a master plan for the lake’s future.

Utah Lake will see $5 million for improvements, and a new nonprofit partnership created by the Legislature to address water — Utah Water Ways — is getting a one-time $2 million, and $1 million ongoing.

Tax cuts

Legislative leaders also included their much-hyped $400 million tax cut package, with a majority of that cash going toward reducing Utah’s income tax rate from the current 4.85% to 4.65%.

Gov. Spencer Cox’s 2024 budget proposal recommended a cut to Utah’s income tax rate by 0.1%, half of what legislative leaders are budgeting for. In the governor’s proposal, his office noted that low-income Utahns would not see much of a benefit from a cut in the income tax.

Most Utahns will see a tax cut of less than $1,000 per year, according to an analysis from legislative fiscal analysts. Utahns who earn more than $235,000 annually, which represents the top 5% of income earners, will get a cut of between $2,000 and $3,000. The top 1% of earners are in line for a reduction of between $5,000 and $9,500 annually.

The tax cut package also puts about $20 million toward tax relief for Social Security recipients and expands the earned income tax credit for low-income Utahns.


Another tax credit for low-income Utahns — one that goes toward housing — will be boosted with a one-time $44.5 million, and an ongoing $53.4 million.

Approximately a quarter of a billion dollars, in total, is going toward housing initiatives. Among the largest expenditures is a first-time home buyer loan program proposed by Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, which is getting $50 million. Another $50 million is going toward “deeply affordable” housing.

Utah’s Office of Homeless Services will see a dedicated $12 million in funding.

Transportation and infrastructure improvements are in line for more than $1 billion in funding items, which includes $800 million for various Utah Department of Transportation projects.

Legislators plan on spending $108 million to build infrastructure for developing the former site of the Utah State Prison at the Point of the Mountain.

Vying to host another Winter Olympic Games, lawmakers plan to spend $40 million updating the venues used for the 2002 Games.

Update: Feb. 27, 2:00 p.m. • This story has been updated to include an update on lawmakers’ budget discussion.