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Richard Piatt ReportingUtah's legislators are facing some tough decisions, even political pressure, over one of its members.
Lawmakers are already worried about the effects of Federal budget cuts---cuts that could affect dozens of state programs, and that amount to tens of millions of dollars. The depth of the on-going struggle over money becomes clear at generic-looking meetings. In one, State Representatives Pat Jones and Steve Mascaro push a proposal where larger, wealthier families pay higher income tax.
Rep. Steve Mascaro, (R) West Jordan: "When you talk about changing this, you're talking about changing a philosophy, a way of life. We know this will be difficult."
In fact, it will be studied for a year. But there are deeper problems with money in the state. Even with a 350-million dollar surplus, demands out pace the money. Hard choices will need to be made: Do lawmakers give more to education, restore dental and vision benefits for the poor, or give more money to road projects to avoid a tax hike?
Sen. John Valentine, Senate President: "You can't raise gas taxes fast enough to address the multiple transportation needs in this state, of roads, rails trails."
Internal politics has cooled in the Senate after leadership axed an effort to use a technicality to oust openly gay newcomer, Senator Scott McCoy.
Sen. Scott McCoy, (R) Salt Lake City: "For individuals outside the senate, this is clearly the issue. But my experience so far having been here for the short time I've been here, I don't think this is the issue for my colleagues."
Lawmakers are also advancing an update to Governor Olene Walker's reading initiative. Representative Karen Morgan has a bill that makes first second and third graders read at grade level--at least--before passing to the next grade.
Rep. Karen Morgan, (D) Holladay: "If we don't catch them early and give them the help they need then they go on the rest of their lives without that critical skill."
Some lawmakers don't like the bill because they say it stigmatizes students who are left behind. But it's one of the dozens of bills that is now in front of the full House.