The governor should veto a bill requiring outside approval for expensive federal programs and look at exercising line-item veto power over the school's $2.5 billion budget, the State Board of Education voted Friday.

The board has constitutional concerns about the controversial $2.5 billion education omnibus bill.

"I would like this body to go on record ... to say that (the governor) has the power to do line-item vetoes, and because (of) such blatant abuse of items already defeated, he should seriously consider using the line-item veto," board member Kim Burningham said. "To do otherwise encourages future logrolling, it encourages bribery, it encourages bad legislation."

That stance came hours after board chairman Richard Sadler explained that the state board was absent from a news conference by other education groups decrying the bill so that it could better get along with legislators.

The board also is asking Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to veto SB162, on which the board never took a position during the session. The bill requires that the governor, and at times, the Legislature, give the OK before the schools can accept federal money for education programs that cost the state more than $100,000. While some indicate it is aimed at No Child Left Behind, the bill could also jeopardize money for career and technical education — even school lunch, Deputy State Superintendent Larry Shumway said.

The omnibus bill rolled a dozen bills, some of which had been voted down earlier in the session, into the Minimum School Program Act, which includes a 2.5 percent boost to the state's basic student funding formula. and a $1,700 raise for teachers. Those bills include $3.5 million to give software to families to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten and another to require school districts kick in a portion of charter school funding, both of which had been defeated in the House.

The Utah Constitution prohibits "logrolling" unconnected bills into one, the board's letter to Huntsman states.

"Some legislative members are claiming that the omnibus bill is an appropriations bill and thus the bills are legitimately bundled ... However, if so, then you as governor have line-item veto authority. We urge you to consider using that power to veto the language that represents the bills that were earlier defeated in the House," the letter states.

"Most importantly, we urge you to take line-item veto action in order to state without equivocation that an abuse of power is not appropriate. A strong message is needed that action such as this must stop; we strongly urge you to take action on SB2 to ensure that a clarion message is sent."

The board also wants Huntsman to veto HB162, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem. The bill requires that the governor's office approve federal agreements that cost Utah more than $100,000 a year. Those exceeding $500,000 would need legislative management's OK, and those exceeding $1 million would require the Legislature to sign off on them.

It's no secret the Utah Legislature is no fan of No Child Left Behind, which brings more than $100 million to Utah, mostly to help disadvantaged children. Legislators for two years threatened to opt out of the program, which they contend violates state rights to oversee public education, is unfair in its public reports on school achievement and is largely an unfunded mandate.

Dayton has said her bill allows the state to weigh costs versus benefits of federal programs.

But the state school board says a cost analysis alone will be costly.

Take the school lunch program. Depending on what you count — salaries of teachers on cafeteria duty? Utility costs? Fuel costs for trucks delivering food? — that program alone could cost the state $75 million to implement, Shumway said.

"Calculating the associated state and local costs is going to be enormously difficult, and having it come out to a number that is going to be acceptable is going to be a problem," Shumway said. "It's going to be enormously controversial depending on the program," such as educating migrant students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington noted the board could seek a veto, or "a line-item veto to limit it only to No Child Left Behind." But the board voted to ask the governor to down the whole bill, also out of concerns how it would affect existing programs.

"I don't know if we realized how onerous it would be," board member Bill Colbert said.

That said, the board voted to move ahead on its five-year plan to continue $14 million in federal career and technical education money, which costs the state some $1 million to implement, Harrington estimated. About 60 percent of the money goes to colleges.

The state plan is due April 1; SB162 would take effect July 1.

Still, the board did vote to alert Sen. Dayton to its veto request out of desires to work better with legislators. It also is drafting a "thank you" note to the Legislature for its focus on education, which got more than half the state's new available money.


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