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Lawmakers Are Worried About Money

Lawmakers Are Worried About Money

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Richard Piatt Reporting Money is the subject on Utah's Capitol this week. Lawmakers are starting to get a better idea of how the next budget will look, and some people are a little worried.

It wasn't that long ago that it seemed the state was swimming in cash, talking about a 1.6 billion dollar surplus. But reality has always lurked in the wings that even that money will only go so far.

No one in the Legislature is saying 'no' to any group, yet. But a lot of people admit they're nervous. This week is when a priority list is made. Then, the powerful executive appropriations committee makes the final decisions. Right now, education is the big winner, on track to get an 8.4% increase, plus money for teacher raises.

But some health care programs, including CHIP - health care for children - and some Medicaid programs, are not guaranteed the boost advocates were hoping for.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, Senate Majority Leader: "The pressure will grow until we do our final budget. We can always do a little massaging, but certainly, if a request is for 10 million dollars, that's not a request we can handle very easily."

Judi Hilman, Utah Health Policy Project: "They want to rein in Medicaid growth, great. But you can't do it all at once with some arbitrary five-percent cap on Medicaid spending growth."

Kim Campbell, Utah Education Association: "I think we've still got some work to do to make people understand what needs aren't being met. And there really is an opportunity not to be missed."

The real balancing act will come next week when new revenue numbers will reflect what's really going on. Then, the tax cuts, transportation needs, and everything else will be rolled into the big picture.

Money and budgets are dry subjects, but everything up here hinges on them. There are a lot of people who are stressed out about them, even now.

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