Lawmakers finalize budget numbers

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah lawmakers now know what they're dealing with, budget-wise. The most accurate numbers so far forecast a recovery, but not enough to alleviate serious budget cuts.

It's good news, in the sense that things aren't as bad as lawmakers thought they would be. What that means is more cuts and another round of dipping into the rainy day fund.

Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, announced, "For fiscal year 2011, revenues have fallen. Revenues will be down $50 million."

This is information that will shape the tone of the rest of the 2010 Legislature.

It's a mixed blessing -- not as bad as most feared, but still resulting in cuts. It will also spark a push to dip into emergency funds: The state's rainy day account that totals $450 million right now.

The Utah state budget is $50 million less than originally forecast based on revenue projections.

Advocates for health and human service programs, among others, will push for those funds where necessary. But they're also thankful the news this year -- which show the budget is unchanged -- isn't worse.

Linda Hilton of the Crossroads Urban Center said, "The fact that we have no more cuts for this year is very encouraging for us. And I think we'll be able to get funding for some of our low-income programs that we were worried about."

The projections show Utah's economic slide has slowed.

2010-2011 Budget Update

New Forecast-$50 million
Total Budget$11.3 billion
Rainy Day Fund$450 million
Emergency Education Fund$100 million

The new forecast shows revenue from sales and income taxes dropped by $50 million. The good news is that it's just a portion of the massive $11.3 billion overall budget.

And, the state has emergency cash. There is $450 million in the rainy day fund and another $100 million in an emergency education fund.

The people who deal with the budget are being careful not to raise anyone's hopes.

"I want to give a positive lean to what's happening, because it is good news. But don't want to create unreasonable expectations that suddenly the crisis is over and we can handle it," Said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.

The news also reinvigorates the arguments for a possible tobacco tax, which could raise about $45 million a year in revenue.

But before that happens in a serious way, everyone affected by the budget will need time to figure out what these new numbers mean to them.


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Richard Piatt


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