Budget Surplus to Bringing Out Disagreement on Capitol Hill

Budget Surplus to Bringing Out Disagreement on Capitol Hill

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Richard Piatt ReportingThe state's facing a nice problem these days: How do you spend a Billion dollars extra? But on Capitol Hill it already looks like a fight is brewing over the money.

Is there ever such a thing as too much money? There certainly is such a thing as a mixed blessing, and that's what this billion dollar surplus could potentially represent. Governor Huntsman acknowledged a potential conflict with the Legislature when he proposed his budget last week. His spending plan is the largest in Utah history, but also includes a 60-million dollars tax cut.

House lawmakers already disagree. They want three-times the tax cut, at 230-million dollars, and they want a much more conservative spending plan for education, transportation and health care they say will still be generous.

Rep. Steve Urquhart, House Majority Whip: "The spenders will be out in force. I guarantee these halls will be full of people wanting us to spend all that we have and then some."

Rep. Ron Bigelow, (R) West Valley City: "We've become the best financially managed state by holding back, being a little more moderate, not spending all that we have."

Today at the Governor's monthly public TV news conference the Governor defended his budget. He is eager to fund Utah's growth, which explains huge increases that amount to 9.6 billion dollars total.

Gov. Huntsman: "I'm very proud of the budget, I think it reflects reality. It is in line with a state that is growing three times the national average. We forget that sometimes, we're a booming state."

Both lawmakers and the governor acknowledge growing needs in education that could easily eat up the surplus. And there is also an unknown lurking, the cost of federal cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, cuts the state might have to absorb somehow.

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