Poll: Majority in Utah Prioritize Non-transportation Spending

Poll: Majority in Utah Prioritize Non-transportation Spending

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman could benefit from a new poll in his fight with the Legislature over a proposed $85 million road and transportation package.

Huntsman said the House Republicans' plan to boost highway spending would cost too much and undercut other budget priorities, and recommended less than half that amount. Legislative leaders bristled, and countered that Huntsman's proposals would demand tax increases.

The freshest news in the tug-of-war is that a majority of Utah residents surveyed in a Deseret Morning News/KSL TV poll published Sunday prioritized non-transportation issues, just like Huntsman.

The poll by Dan Jones & Associates showed that 67 percent of Utah residents favor more money going to state employee pay, education and Human Service programs. Only 23 percent want more money used to rebuild and expand the state's highways, according to the survey conducted last week.

Nine percent said the extra money should go somewhere else, and 1 percent didn't know, the poll found.

The poll of 406 residents was conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 3, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Not surprisingly, Huntsman said he was pleased with the results.

"It's reflective of the majority of the citizens' desires for funding priorities," Huntsman said in a statement.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said people should keep in mind the current budget debate "is not all or nothing" for either side.

The state has more than $320 million in new, ongoing revenue for next year, the speaker said, and House Republicans are already recommending well over $200 million for salary increases, public education and Human Service needs.

"We're just setting some ongoing money aside for transportation," said Curtis.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said the public doesn't realize how serious the state's transportation needs are right now.

"Transportation is a major issue when people are stuck in traffic," he said. "When they see the benefits of the work we have done to this point, they think the problem is solved. But it is not ... I really do believe there is a transportation crisis pending."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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