Senate Leader Upset Over Walker Veto

Senate Leader Upset Over Walker Veto

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A leading lawmaker said Utah legislators will consider overriding Gov. Olene Walker's veto of a bill that sought to give disabled schoolchildren a state subsidy to attend private schools.

"There's a bill designed purely to help children, and I'm surprised the governor didn't want to help children," Senate President Al Mansell said Wednesday.

Walker vetoed the so-called "Carson Smith Scholarship" bill Tuesday, but said she was leaving intact its $1.5 million in funding. She plans to reallocate that money to give all disabled students more special education at public schools.

"The governor just didn't veto the bill, she also offered a solution," said Amanda Covington, Walker's spokeswoman. "The governor's ultimate objective is to help all special education students."

Mansell said he plans to consult other legislative leaders when he returns from Washington, D.C., later this week on prospects for overturning Walker's decision, which would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

"There will be consideration of a veto override session, we'll poll our members," said Mansell, who is president-elect of the National Realtors Association and was in Washington on business related to that organization.

House Speaker Marty Stephens, who is running for governor, was on a campaign swing in southern Utah and couldn't be reached Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Walker's veto upset Cheryl Smith, the mother of a 5-year-old autistic boy whose special education cost his family $21,000 a year. Under the bill the Smiths would have been eligible to receive $5,400 in state money -- "the money we pay in taxes" -- toward his tuition.

Cheryl Smith said public schools are not equipped to help children like her son.

It wasn't clear whether Walker would have to call a special legislative session to reallocate the special education money. Walker said that because she still plans to spend it on special education, she may not need legislative permission to redirect the money from vouchers.

Walker's compromise was news to Mansell, who said he thought the governor would need legislative approval to change spending.

"I thought we were in charge of the budget," he said.

Walker also objected that the Legislature earmarked "one-time" revenue for the scholarship program. That's revenue that won't return next year even as the scholarships were to last three years, she said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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