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Richard Piatt ReportingGovernor Jon Huntsman junior proposes the largest state budget ever, more than nine-billion dollars. Taking center stage on the 2007 spending plan are tax cuts.
Share the wealth, that appears to be the Governor's philosophy with his new, big budget. Such spending is possible because of a massive state surplus right now, but some don't think just because we've got it, we should spend it.
Beyond all the pie charts, graphs and numbers, the Governor is spreading tidings of great joy with this Christmas-time budget rollout.
Gov. Huntsman: "This year's budget it a lot more Santa than Scrooge."
In fact, Governor Huntsman's 2007 budget proposal calls for the most state spending ever: 9.6 billion dollars. 60-million dollars is proposed for a combination of income tax relief and addressing the sales tax on food.
Gov Huntsman: "Given where we are with our revenue flow, with our projections going forward, this for me is a priority."
This is possible because of a booming economy and a two-year 500-million dollar surplus. It's also letting the governor propose major increases for public education, transportation and economic development.
The Governor is also proposing cost of living and merit raises for state employees, as well as a boost to funding benefits. The Governor also wants to boost funding for USTAR---incentives to keep science and technology research professionals--part of an economic development strategy.
Gov. Huntsman: "It does cost some money, and there is risk. But if we don't do it, we run the risk of being eaten alive."
As always, the Governor will have to work to sell his ideas to the Legislature. Already there is caution over Huntsman's spending increases. Some still remember the economic boom that turned to bust and the ensuing mess in 2001.
Rep. Jeff Alexander, House Majority Leader: "Once you build it into the daily government structure, it's too hard to pull it back. We found that out in '01."
Then, there's the question of tax reform, also expected to spark a lot of debate on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, (R) Logan: "People talk about it, they talk generically about it. But when it gets down to the details, that's when the real fight comes."
Tax reform does seem like it will be a struggle. And in spite of the political dynamics, there does seem to be a strong desire both from the Governor and in the Legislature to give you some kind of break next year.