SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Democratic legislative leaders called education the most critical issue for the state when outlining their goals for this year's session.

"We must focus on quality neighborhood schools and colleges," House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference called by the minority party.

Litvack lauded teachers' achievements in what he called an underfunded system, but he also said it is not sustainable.

"Utah should have the very best schools in the nation," said Senate Minority Whip Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. "We propose that we increase funding for our public schools."

"Utah challenges demand common sense solutions" is the Democrat's main message for this session, Litvack said.

When asked about immigration, Litvack said he knows it is going to be a critical issue. "We think the place to start is the Utah Compact," he said.

The Utah Compact calls for Utah lawmakers to lead efforts in strengthening federal immigration laws and protecting national borders. It has been endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Leaders expressed concern over the structural imbalance created by some $313 million in federal stimulus funds and other one-time revenues that won't be available in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Specifically, Senate Assistant Minority Whip Pat Jones, D-Holladay, voiced concern over what she described as a $25 million dollar "hole" in the health and human services budget.

Jones said she agreed with GOP Gov. Gary Herbert's plan to avoid loss of services in his proposed state budget.

"We would support that budget," she said.