Utahns have the same perception of what's important at the Legislature as lawmakers themselves: education funding and taxes.
In a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, education is considered the more critical issue in the 48th Legislature.Taxes comes in second, Jones found in a poll taken Jan. 3-5.
Leaders from both parties, said in interviews they also believe education and taxes are the two issues they'll have to address satisfactorily this session.
Education is a multifaceted problem this year, Jones found. Will public schools and colleges be funded adequately? Will teachers get a pay raise? And will the quality of education improve, remain the same or deteriorate?
Gov. Norm Bangerter says he'll pump $30 million more into public education in fiscal 1989-90, enough new money to pay for growth and raise the weighted pupil unit 3 percent.
The WPU is the measurement the state uses in funding basic school programs. Traditionally, when it's been increased by the Legislature, proportionate pay raises for teachers result later in the year when individual school districts negotiate their teacher contracts.
But public education officials say a 3 percent raise in the WPU this year may be eaten up in costs associated with what they claim is a neglected education program, and the money may not reach teachers' pockets.
Bangerter also suggests a $19 million decrease in taxes, but doesn't yet say which tax should be trimmed.
GOP legislative leaders are leaning toward some kind of property tax cut, with a goal of giving a larger tax break to homeowners.
Economic development and bringing new industry into Utah fell into third place on the list of what the Legislature should deal with. Other responses to the open-ended question of 600 adults fell well back of the top three.
Deseret News/KSL Poll
What, in your opinion, are the two most important items the Legislature should deal with?
Education 29% 14%
Tax issues 23% 17%
new industry 10% 11%
Budget 5% 5%
Economy 5% 3%
Sample size: 600