Legislative leaders were told Tuesday afternoon that it will cost the state an extra $42.2 million — this year and next — to give all teachers a previously promised $2,500 permanent pay raise and a $1,000 bonus.

Leaders of both houses, both parties, meeting as the Executive Appropriation Committee, formally adopted what are now called "base budgets" for the upcoming 2008 Legislature. In addition, they announced increased revenue estimates for next year of around $534 million in one-time and ongoing money.

The base budgets are essentially the same budgets allocated last year to state agencies and public education, but with money to account for population growth. During the session, lawmakers use these budgets as a template to begin adding or taking funds from different state programs.

Legislative leaders on Tuesday made additions to the base budgets in areas such as Medicaid and higher public education enrollment. Part of that "extra" money is the $42.2 million for teacher raises and bonuses that was mistakenly underfunded last year.

"As you can see, there's not much higher priority than fixing that problem," said Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley, and co-chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said that "this is new money for education," even if "a number of those in the public education community" refused to recognize the large increase in teacher pay and classroom money made during the 2007 Legislature.

"They said it wasn't 'new' money," said Bramble. "It is. And today we add $76 million" more to keep promises about the pay raise, bonus and other important public education programs.

Finally, in recent years of record-setting tax revenue growth and expanding state budgets, lawmakers had to worry about a spending cap law. But legislative budgeters told leaders Tuesday that in the current fiscal 2008, they have a $35 million "cap gap" that could be filled up before the cap law is broken.

But in fiscal year 2009, which starts July 1, because of increased state population and inflation, that "cap gap" grows to $250 million.


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