(KCPW News) While public education gets more funding in the legislature’s latest budget plan, state parks and higher education are taking bigger hits than expected. Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard says the rationale for cuts to higher ed is that colleges and universities can raise tuition.
“From many of the studies and reports we’ve seen, the tuition in Utah is much less than even surrounding states,” he said. “And so the feeling was that even if we didn’t do the cut, there would be a raise in tuition anyway and that that would be a way to kind of spread that across.”
State parks lost $4 million in ongoing funds, but it was replaced with $4 million in one-time money.
Lawmakers are pressuring parks to operate more efficiently after a legislative audit. Hillyard says he recognizes they’re concerned about hiring employees using one-time money. He says lawmakers are working to find ongoing revenues, but it probably won’t be the full $4 million.
“They obviously have to make some changes with our tight economy we just can’t continue to pay some of the monies we’ve had for some of these parks and we’ve talked about lesser hours open and seasonal openings and things like that,” said Hillyard.
The Department of Natural Resources has said it could mean massive layoffs and park closures, but Hillyard says the legislature is instructing the department not to close any parks. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage control is also expected to close as many as 13 liquor stores across the state, while the Department of Corrections expects to release 350 inmates and lay off 75 employees due to budget cuts.
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