SB 95 & SB 96: More Funding for Economic and Workforce Development
Last year, the Utah Legislature all but eliminated the Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative more commonly known as USTAR. Part of its mission was to support and attract “deep tech” companies to Utah. This year, Senator Scott Sandall has introduced Senate Bill 95 which eliminates USTAR from code.
The question then remains about what will be done with the $15 million that had been previously appropriated to USTAR’s efforts.
The simplest solution would be to simply allow the money to flow back into the general fund where the Legislature is beginning to feel constrained already with existing programs.
But SB 95 and SB 96 (run by Senator Ann Millner) take that $15 million and divide it up between economic development programs for rural areas (SB 95: $10 million) and workforce development for “deep tech” industries (SB 96: $5 million).
While these may seem like worthwhile programs, redistributing taxpayer dollars to rural economic development is not the proper role of government. As for workforce development, Utah already spends an enormous sum on a bloated and outdated higher education system that needs to better respond to market forces. Universities should invest in “deep tech” programs with existing budgets on their own, not with new money from taxpayers.