Legislature Convenes Under Tight Budget Pressure

Legislature Convenes Under Tight Budget Pressure

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Government Specialist Richard Piatt reporting The Utah Legislature begins its reglar session today, facing budget shortfalls, program cuts and possible layoffs -- and a lot of pressure to prevent all three.

The House Speaker set the tone for this session today with an up-front comment -- not everyone is going to go home happy after the session is over.

Indeed there are the usual tough issues to fight on Capitol Hill this year, on top of the tight budget.

For that reason, lawmakers aren't the only ones hunkering down for the session. Special interests will have teams of people keeping an eye on what's being done.

For example: people with disabilities are literally fighting for their quality of life, fearful of more cuts to Medicaid.

In education, the UEA is keeping an eye on the budget AND the tuition tax credit issue. Again, money is the root of their concern.

"It will be a big struggle, but we have a lot of people out in the community. We're talking to parents, we're talking to business leaders. We're trying to make them understand that you can't just say education is a priority. You have to act on it, and that's going to take money," says Pat Rusk, president of the Utah Education Association.

The Legislature will also be dealing with hot-button social issues this year, such as whether to tax hazardous waste, the fight between banks and credit unions, abortion, and more.

The pressure could be intense at times this session, enough so to prompt the House Speaker to make it a point to call for an atmosphere of civility, right off the bat.

Tomorrow, Governor Mike Leavitt will deliver his annual State of the State address, including his view on how Utah should handle the tight budgets.

The speech begins tomorrow evening at 6:00 and KSL will bring it to you live.

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