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Higher ed draft budget seeks $622 million

LOGAN — Utah System of Higher Education officials Friday presented the State Board of Regents with a draft version of a base budget proposal that seeks over $622 million in state tax funds with expectations that regents will ask for an additional $40 million or $50 million for certain projects and initiatives.

The main focus so far is on funding a 4 percent salary increase for faculty and staff at Utah's 10 public colleges and universities. The plan is also to ask lawmakers to fund a 12 percent increase in health and dental benefits.

Regents are expected to come up with more specific numbers in their meeting next month in preparation for a proposal to be presented to Gov. Jon Huntsman.

A new item in budget talks leading up to the next legislative session is a $2.6 million request to fund five regional innovation centers as part of the Utah Innovation Network, which is part of the USTAR (Utah Science, Technology and Research) initiative.

State Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Kendell told regents the centers will help the state's research universities, the University of Utah and Utah State University, commercialize technology developed on their campuses.

Regents Chairman Nolan Karras hinted he wants more money for USTAR, saying the future of economic development in this state will depend heavily on higher education.