I believe the four main issues that will continue to be the focus point of the legislature will be, education, transportation, water development, and economic development. All four items join together to help provide for the general well being of the citizens of our state.
Last year the legislature adopted the biggest increase in the WPU, (Weighted Pupil Unit) in over 14 years. Combined ongoing and one-time monies resulted in a net increase in public school funding of over $268,000,000. On a local scale, the formation of the CEU Energy Training Center in Helper will prove to be an important asset to the state and the economic vitality of Carbon County. The great thing about this new training center is that it proves when the federal government, state government, private industry and local college and community leaders work together, opportunities can become a reality.
With over $16,000,000,000 in transportation projects on the drawing board, the State of Utah will continually have to gauge and prioritize the growing needs of our residents. One of the important developments to come out of the recent special session of the legislature was an amendment to the transportation bill that allows counties to add a one quarter percent sales tax county wide to improve or maintain roads within their jurisdiction. I can imagine possibilities in Carbon County that the commissioners may want to explore to enhance the ability and opportunity to access the energy exploration and production areas of the county.
In our last general session, the legislature voted to remove the cap on the sales tax funding for water development projects. This will allow an additional $7,000,000 allocation yearly into the Board of Water Resources revolving fund to make low interest or zero interest loans to water districts, cities, and water companies to develop water projects in their respective areas.
One of the best things we as a legislature can do to enhance economic development is to provide a great business climate in the state. Our achievements in cutting sales tax, individual income tax, and targeting business tax cuts enhance our ability to draw new employers to our state and give our existing businesses capital and incentives to expand.