Differences on Budget Being Hammered Out

Differences on Budget Being Hammered Out

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Richard Piatt ReportingUtah lawmakers are still at odds about the state's budget. The sticking point is a pet project of Governor Olene Walker.

The Governor wants every third grader in the state to be able to read. But she had to fight the Legislature to fund it and this afternoon the fight's not over.

There is old-fashioned negotiating going on behind the scenes at the Capitol. The main players: The Governor, and House and Senate Leadership.

Sen. Al Mansell, Senate President: “You know it wasn’t the gunfight at the Okay Corral, but it wasn’t a tea party.”

There is no question hard decisions are being made. The Governor has locked horns with lawmakers over a reading program to insure every child can read.

At first, lawmakers wanted to fund only a fraction of it. But Governor Walker stepped in personally to reach a deal to fund half of it--$15-million--and to leave the other half to local school boards.

Gov. Olene Walker: "I mean it's a game. And you have to have both players playing to get it done."

A serious game, Walker adds, with $8-billion plus at stake. Right now, the overall budget includes a $106-million increase for public education; about $8.4 million for higher ed; $22.5 million for Medicaid.

State employees will get a one percent raise---not two percent as earlier hoped. But employees are set to get a one-time bonus to help offset the difference.

Late today, House lawmakers rejected the Governor's reading program, and therefore the budget deal itself. So for now, the negotiating is not over.

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