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Governor teases education, housing spending in 2023

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks with reporters at the monthly news conference Thursday.
PBS Utah
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks with reporters at the monthly news conference Thursday.

Gov. Spencer Cox said next year’s legislative session will be key for education and affordable housing funding.

At his final monthly news conference of 2022, Gov. Spencer Cox said as 2022 comes to an end, he hopes the new year will come with increased government support for teachers and schools.

“I feel really confident that this is going to be, as I've said, the year of the teacher, that this will be a really, really positive year when it comes to funding education.”

Cox recently announced that a 5% per-pupil increase in education spending is one of his priorities. He’s also proposed investing $6,000 yearly in salaries and benefits for every teacher in Utah.

Asked if it was a bad sign that this week the Utah Legislature Executive Appropriations Committee didn’t set aside all of the money needed for that, he said he’s still optimistic.

“There's nothing controversial about them not including that, that's just the way the process works. I do think it will be included as we start the legislative session and start to work towards that.”

Utah legislators have indicated they may want to expand ways for students to use public funding toward private schools. Cox said he expected the session to include legislation related to such school vouchers.

“I've always supported school choice, but I've also said we need to do more to fund teachers and to fund our education system before we do that. I expect there will be a school choice bill this year, and I'm hoping that we can get a significant amount of funding into education so that I can support that.”

Cox’s budget recommendations also included $150 million for housing initiatives to address the state’s expensive markets. Last year, the Legislature approved $55 million for similar initiatives.

Cox said the state is still learning how the investments it made using that money are playing out. He also said he was confident the new money could be approved.

“The data that we're seeing coming back is really hopeful that these programs actually do make a difference with the most vulnerable. The 150 million — where we use that I think also really matters as we're rehabilitating housing that is existing. Now, we don't want to lose any ground for those low-income vouchers, and then again, providing new homes.”

The legislative session runs from January 17 to March 3.

The fiscal year 2024 budget that Cox discussed begins in July.

A full recording of the press conference is available at this link.