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Utah GOP Seeks Increased School Funding Without More Taxes

As Utah faces large increases in its public school enrollment over the next few years, legislators and other elected representatives are hoping to find sources of education funding that don’t require a raise in taxes.

Gov. Gary Herbert, in his State of the State address Wednesday, acknowledged the funding needs facing Utah’s public schools but cautioned against raising taxes to address them.  

“Because Utah has had the fastest-growing student population in the nation, we have significant funding needs just to accommodate the growth. In order to push our way to the top, we need to invest more money into education,” Herbert said. “At the same time I am very concerned about altering our tax policies in any way that could damage our robust economic engine. In fact, the very best way to ensure ongoing growth of education funding is to continue to grow the economy.”

State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said that the Legislature has already raised taxes for education in recent years and that doing so again would be a tall order for elected officials.  

“Raising taxes is a monumental task for the Legislature. We did it two years ago, though, in raising the gas tax and $75 million for education in the property tax. Those were huge steps for the Legislature,” Niederhauser said. “Taking a half a billion or three quarters of a billion dollars step, not a lot of chance in the Legislature taking that big of a leap. If people can be patient and we can deal with it incrementally, I think the Legislature could do that over time.”

Utah schools added 10,580 students in 2016.