PROJECTUtah

State Fiscal Briefs

May 2022

Looking for Utah data related to the pandemic? We have health, economic, and fiscal data on our new tool, How the COVID-19 Pandemic is Transforming State Budgets.

Utah’s budget basics

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Utah’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $23.7 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.

Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.

Per the US Census Bureau, Utah’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $30.0 billion in FY 2019 (the most recent year census data were available), or $9,373 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,161.

Utah’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($1,820) and higher education ($1,490). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.

Utah’s combined state and local general revenues were $31.6 billion in FY 2019, or $9,874 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,563. Utah uses all major state and local taxes. Utah’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($2,475), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and federal transfers ($1,703).

Utah’s politics

Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, was elected in 2020 with 64 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2024.

Republicans control both the House of Representatives (57 Republicans to 17 Democrats) and Senate (23 Republicans to 6 Democrats), with veto-proof majorities in both houses. Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in Utah. All Utah House seats are on the ballot in 2022 because representatives serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms; roughly half the senatorial seats are on the ballot in 2022, and the other half will be up for election in 2024.

Utah’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints

Utah uses an annual budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget, but it can carry a deficit over into the following year. Utah also limits spending growth with a budget rule based on the state’s growth in population, personal income, and inflation. The rule is binding and requires a legislative supermajority or vote of the people to override it. Utah also limits total authorized debt and debt service incurred by the state.

(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)

Utah’s current budget

Governor Cox released his FY 2023 budget proposal and gave his state of the state address in January 2022. In February 2022, Utah passed a series of tax cuts, including reducing both this individual and corporate income tax rate from 4.95 percent to 4.85 percent and creating a nonrefundable earned income tax credit.

Utah enacted its FY 2022 budget in March 2021. The enacted budget included $9.8 billion in combined general fund and education fund spending and $23.5 billion in total spending. (Alabama and Utah ?are the only states with separate education and general fund budgets. We combined the two under “general fund spending” when describing Utah’s recent expenditure totals.) As part of the budget, Utah cut income taxes by increasing a dependent tax exemption.

Under the American Rescue Plan, Utah will receive $1.4 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $912 million in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Utah had spent part of its ARP funds on refilling its unemployment insurance trust fund, capital construction, public health programs, and economic development.

According to NASBO, Utah’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:

  • FY 2021: $8.5 billion/$23.7 billion

  • FY 2020: $7.3 billion/$18.2 billion

  • FY 2019: $7.5 billion/$16.6 billion

For more on Utah’s budget, see