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SALT LAKE CITY -- Schools in Utah are bracing for budget cuts as state legislators sharpen the budget ax. A revenue committee approved 7 percent cuts across the board Tuesday, and under that plan schools won't be spared.
Democrats are saying education is the most critical issue in the 2011 legislative session. Senate Minority Whip Karen Morgan is proposing an increase in funding for public schools. Other democrats recently said teaching needs to become a career again, which means higher pay for teachers.
The trick is convincing Republicans.
Tuesday the Executive Appropriations Committee moved to cut 7 percent from the upcoming state budget. The total amount of cuts approved in a split vote along party lines is $329 million. Most of the budget subcommittees over each area are still deciding exactly where to cut.
Members of the Public Education Appropriations subcommittee are questioning the idea of making budget decisions without more detailed information. Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, asked the State Office of Education for a more detailed plan of how it plans to spend.
KSL asked Senate President Michael Waddoups about the need for cuts. He said the public is calling for more cuts, and without making some, there won't be money to handle things like growth in education.
"I think they will see a reprioritization. We will find out what the core responsibilities of government are and we will fund those," he said. "Then we will say, ‘What is it that the public wants more of and what is it that they can do without?'"
Gov. Gary Herbert has said he doesn't think the cuts lawmakers are proposing are necessarily needed. He points to $215 million in growth revenue. Waddoups acknowledges that but says lawmakers' view of what's needed may simply differ from the governor's.