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.
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 and provides $40 million to pay for a shortfall in the funding for the teacher salary increases approved last year.
"This is what keeps the operations of the state going," Valentine said.
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.
Senate OKs bill to shield private property rights
A bill that would ban local initiatives or referendums for land-use or zoning measures, and would only allow protests before zoning ordinances are set, passed a Senate committee Friday.
"So you can petition against the law but not against the process or the outcome of the process," sponsoring Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley, said. "You could drag this out for years. To stop these with an initiative is just causing it so you can prolong it and prolong and prolong it until these people go broke over and over again for a reason as silly as it blocks my view."
Goodfellow said the bill is a way to protect private property rights from citizen-led initiatives. The bill was passed out favorably Friday by the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.
Senate nears final vote on bill to curb litter
A bill aimed at curbing highway litter, including so-called "trucker bombs," advanced to a final vote in the Senate today.
SB44, sponsored by Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, increases the fine from $100 to $250 for truckers who toss urine-filled containers from their vehicles rather than stopping for a bathroom break.
"Somebody has to clean that up and it's very dangerous for the people who have to do that," Jones said.
The bill also addresses debris falling from unsecured loads on vehicles, raising the fine from $40 to as much as $500 for commercial drivers. Jones said the Utah Department of Transportation has picked up propane tanks, washing machines, sofas, mattresses and barbecue grills off state roads.