(KCPW News) Utah Senate Democrats have not met formally to draft their own plan to balance the state budget, but Minority Whip Ross Romero says the public can expect the eight Democrats in the 29-member body will take a slightly different approach from the Republicans.
"There may be some differences relative to some of the priorities. We're more optimistic that there might be some federal money coming, for instance, for transportation projects. So, we certainly want to see those supported. But we also recognize that having a vibrant education system, a good higher-education system, are still going to be the catalyst for our growth coming out of these downtimes," Romero says. "So, I think there will be some slightly different priorities."
Romero says it seems likely the Senate Minority Caucus will favor less severe budget cuts than their colleagues across the aisle. Republicans in both the House and Senate pushed for the 15 percent cut to the state's base budget, which the Executive Appropriations Committee approved last week. Republican lawmakers also came out against the governor's proposal to shift transportation funding into higher education, and to use the state's reserves to fund growth in public education enrollment.
Romero agrees that lawmakers should be careful not to rely too much on the $400 million Rainy Day Fund, in case the economic crisis is prolonged. But he says the state invested the money for just this situation.
"If it isn't raining, certainly the clouds are forming and water is coming down," Romero says. "And so we have to make sure that we use that money now, when it has been built up for occasions such as this."
The Senate Minority Caucus will meet in early January to hash out its priorities for the upcoming legislative session.