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Lawmakers want special session for budget cuts



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Leaders in Utah's House and Senate are facing a harsh reality that's dominating their annual priorities meetings: budget cuts totaling at least $1 billion.

"This is an unparalleled, unprecedented time. We don't have a historical benchmark to deal with $1 billion-plus cuts in Utah," said House Speaker-elect David Clark.

Even after cutting 4 percent across the board in September, Republicans in the House and Senate are urging Gov. Jon Huntsman to call another special session soon to do the same thing again.

But Huntsman says the Legislature will meet in a few weeks. Plus, he says budget concerns are addressed in his new spending proposal.

"We'd rather take those in measured incremental steps than to wait until one time make this huge cut," Clark said.

Utah's state budget troubles reflect a bigger picture: Corporate tax revenue keeps dropping, sales tax revenue isn't as healthy, personal income tax revenue is falling, and even gas tax revenue isn't what it was.

The result is at least $1 billion less in the state budget, compared to the beginning of this year. No one is predicting specifics, but key programs like health care and education could face serious challenges.

Democrats are worried about cuts and oppose the idea of across-the-board cuts. "We have to prioritize, and our caucus will take a close look at each and every part of this budget and determine where our priorities are as a caucus," said House Minority Leader David Litvack.

Chances are further cuts will result in things that will affect you. There's no way to tell exactly how yet, but remember, we're talking a 15 percent drop overall.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com
E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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Richard Piatt
    Andrew Adams

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