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Deseret News
FILE: Sen. Jerry Stevenson listens during a debate in August of 2015 at the Utah State Capitol. On Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, Stevenson, the Senate Budget Chairman, talked about the state budget.

SALT LAKE CITY — New revenue estimates expected next week may be a wash, Senate Budget Chairman Jerry Stevenson warned Monday as lawmakers began passing base budget bills adding up to $15.1 billion.

"I'm not going to give anyone any encouragement the floodgates are opening," Stevenson, R-Layton, told reporters when asked whether tax collections are likely to grow beyond the $287 million already forecast in new ongoing money.

What's anticipated, the new budget boss said, is "maybe a little bit more" in income tax collections that go to pay for public education, while the sales tax collections that make up the bulk of the state's general fund may "not do so well."

Stevenson said that means lawmakers shouldn't be counting on more money to spend, especially since the revenue growth already projected will likely all go toward boosting the funding mechanism for schools, pay increases and other needs.

During a presentation to the Senate before a vote on several base budget bills, Stevenson said appropriations subcommittees were able to identify more than $80 million in reductions and offsets.

The $48 million in offsets include money set aside for the state's Avenue H employer health insurance marketplace that's being phased out, delayed policy implementation and lower than anticipated debt service costs.

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The reductions identified by the committees, totaling about $34 million, give lawmakers some flexibility for funding new programs. Stevenson said even with that "windfall," there is even more "scrubbing" that can be done with the budget.

"The committees spent the first two weeks of the session looking at all of the places where they have money, where is it possible to find some," he said. "It will be very important this year to find some."

Planned spending for the budget year beginning July 1 is expected to exceed $16 billion. Approving base budgets early in the 45-day session helps ensure that at least bare-bones spending is possible should there be a stalemate.