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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he doesn't want to raise any taxes next year, but he stopped short of guaranteeing that he would veto any budget that includes them.
Herbert made the comments to reporters Thursday during his first monthly KUED news conference.
State economists are forecasting that Utah will have a $700 million budget shortfall next year. Republican legislative leaders have said they'll likely look at increasing some taxes, including cigarette taxes, to fill that hole, but Herbert says he's opposed to that.
"I think raising taxes at a time of economic downturn is absolutely the wrong thing to do. We want to grow the economy, we want to stimulate opportunity in the business community. To put taxes of any kind on top of a repressed market would have, I think, the negative result of actually repressing the economy even more and styming the ability for us to turn the corner," he said.
However, Herbert didn't say he'd veto any budget with tax increases. And he says he won't guarantee that there will not be new taxes.
"There's a lot of 'what ifs', so it would be premature for me to say anything regarding vetoes," Herbert said.
Among the 'what ifs' Herbert referenced are how the state's economy is performing, what services are needed in the state and what his specific plans are to balance the budget, as is required by state law.
Herbert said he may tap all of the state's roughly $418 million rainy day fund and $100 million that's been set aside for education in past sessions before making cuts and considering tax increases.
"It's like your househould income and household budget. It would be probably unwise to tap all of your savings account. I understand there's a balancing act here," he said. "But that's what the rainy day fund is for and it is raining out there economically so we need to consider using that.
Herbert will submit his proposed budget in December. Lawmakers convene in January.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)