Utah: Legislative Budgeting in an Executive Budget State
F. TED HEBERT
Among the American states, Utah is unique. Not only does it have an unusual history as the Mormons' place of settlement and headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), but it is culturally and demographically distinct from its neighbors. The state's present political climate--even matters of fiscal and budgetary affairs--are affected by this history and by cultural phenomena that set Utah apart.
Mormon teachings place a very high value on conceiving and bearing children. As a result, Utah has an extraordinarily young population (median age 25.5), thanks to its having the second highest birth rate in the United States (second to Alaska). Although the number of births per one thousand population dropped during the 1980s from 28.6 in 1980 to 21.4, it remains substantially above the national rate of 15.7 ( 1987). Utah's population has grown rapidly, and continues to do so, having expanded 38 percent between 1970 and 1980 and another 15 percent between 1980 and 1987. During this most recent period, only seven states exceeded Utah's rate of growth. But unlike these other fast-growing states, Utah's growth resulted entirely from natural increase rather than from excesses of inmigration over outmigration.
Utah's large families place an extraordinary burden on public education institutions. Between 1975 and 1985, the school-age population grew by 97,000, a 30 percent increase, while across the United States the number of schoolchildren dropped by 6 million, a decrease of 12 percent. 1 The size of the state's student population produces a strong anomaly: although Utah has historically given strong support to education (having the second highest percentage of high school graduates among persons twenty-five years old and over in 1980); although a large portion of total state and local spending goes for elementary and secondary education ( Utah ranks thirteenth in the nation); and although only four states spend more than Utah per $1,000 personal income for education, Utah spends less per child in public schools than any other state ($2,297 compared to the national figure of $3,723 in 1986). 2