House Republicans Propose $230 Million Tax Cut

House Republicans Propose $230 Million Tax Cut

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- House Republicans have proposed a $230 million tax cut -- four times the cut suggested by Gov. Jon Huntsman.

The proposal, which came out of a daylong caucus meeting Tuesday, was a surprise as House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, previously had talked about a $100 million cut.

The $230 million would account for almost a quarter of the $1 billion surplus that lawmakers will be working with during the upcoming legislative session when they tackle the $9.6 billion budget.

House budget manager Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley, said using a big chunk of the surplus for a tax cut would help stem government growth.

Bigelow said that if a large tax cut is not made, Utah's nonfederal, state-generated revenues would approach 25 percent state government growth.

Bigelow said the House Republicans did not support any specific tax reductions.

The caucus also proposed putting $200 million of one-time money into transportation and $100 million into buildings.

Huntsman's budget, which included a mix of ongoing, one-time and bond money, called for a $243 million increase in transportation funding. New building construction was to receive $188 million for areas like higher education, research labs for the University Science, Technology and Research Initiative, liquor stores and a fish hatchery.

Mike Mower, the governor's deputy chief of staff and spokesman, said, "We felt the governor's budget did a good job of balancing the need for meaningful tax reform along with ever-increasing needs in education, transportation and state employee compensation. We're comfortable with the position we've drawn. We recognize the legislative process entails give and take on both sides."

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said no one has had a chance to look at the overall budget yet "to see if $230 million makes sense or is completely out of line. ... I'm not going to say no, but at the same time, I have to express caution."

Valentine has repeatedly said he's concerned the growth in state revenues can't be trusted to continue, at least not at the same levels. Some of the sources of revenue are just too volatile, he said.

He said everyone needs to keep in mind that "it's possible to have a big tax cut this year and a big tax increase next year."

House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake, expressed similar concerns about the lack of details in the House proposal.

Becker also worries the cuts could come at the expense of education.

"Based on what we know about the budget, that seems to be a large tax cut if we're still putting the same amounts into transportation, buildings and education" as Huntsman proposed, Becker said. "It concerns me to hear about it without specifics, because if it were at the expense of education, that would be a big problem for us."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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