State lawmakers approved $11 billion in spending Friday, and are now preparing to do battle over where to spend a few remaining hundred million.

A top priority? Tax cuts, according to Senate leadership. Other pet projects include an additional pay raise for teachers, a possible tax incentive to keep Delta Airlines in Utah, and more money for state employee salaries.

"Now at the top of the list comes tax cuts," Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said.

House leadership said earlier this week they want additional funding for teacher salaries and health care, and also to build the Mountain View Corridor.

With the $11 billion approved Friday, lawmakers said they can keep the state operating in case a final budget bill isn't approved before the end of the session. The money essentially funds state programs that were funded last year, and also helps pay for growth in student enrollment, among other things.

"This is what keeps the operations of the state going," Valentine said.

In addition to growth, the money includes $40 million to pay for teacher salaries increases that were approved last year, but put on hold due to a miscalculation in the number of teachers in the state.

Now that the House and Senate have approved the spending, which is authorized under HB1 and SB1, the bills go to the governor for approval. He has 10 days to sign the measures, after which money for the teachers will be sent to school districts for approval.

Legislative leaders anticipate the latest the money could be sent to the districts is Feb. 29.

"Passing that bill is an assurance to educators we have honored our commitment," said Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price.

Over the next five weeks, lawmakers will meet to debate whether to adjust funding commitments in the $11 billion "base budget" bills, and also to decide what state programs should get additional funding.

For more information, log on to: www.le.state.ut.us


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