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Day 17 - Shifting general funds from higher education to transportation

In our February newsletter, which will be released next week, we will have a report on major changes to the state budget since 1990. Here is a preview.

The following shows how allocation of state education and general funds -- mainly income tax and sales taxes along with several other taxes such as inheritance taxes, severance taxes, and earmarked sales taxes -- has changed from 1990 to Huntsman's proposed 2008 budget. This shift has occurred gradually over the years and is not attributable to just Governor Huntsman.

K-12 education's share of the budget has decreased from 47.8% to 42.2%.

Higher education operations share has decreased from 18.0% to 13.4%.

Transportation's share has increased from 0.1% to 12.1%.

Health's share has increased from 5.0% to 6.5%.

Corrections share has increased from 4.8% to 5.7%.

[Note: the 2008 numbers are Huntsman's proposal and are subject to change based on legislative action.]

The proposed 2008 budget does not include supplementals. Supplementals are typically appropriated for capital projects like roads, which means that transportation's share of the budget will most likely increase and education's share will decrease.

Surprisingly, these massive increases in state general fund expenditures for roads have occurred at the same time that local sales taxes were being increased to fund mass transit, and there is even more talk about local tax increases for roads and transit.

Obviously, something has to change because the present course is not sustainable. We've talked about transportation reform before:

- congestion pricing
- corridor preservation
- prioritization of road and rail projects (one list, not two)
- requiring road and rail projects to compete for the same general funding

A sound transportation infrastructure is critical to economic growth, but the current course is not working.