(KCPW News) As a resolution against federal bailouts is moving through the Utah House of Representatives, Legislative leaders are combing through the federal stimulus package to see what money, if any, they'll use to balance the budget. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, chairman of the Legislature's top budget committee, said the state actually doesn't need the stimulus to balance the budget.
"I have not built in any stimulus money, nor have I built in any tax increases. So, if the decision of the Senate or the Legislature is not to use that, we can close the budget," Hillyard said. "It will mean more reductions, but I think that we would be prepared by doing the 15 percent that we can do that."
The 15 percent budget cut lawmakers have prepared will trim more than the actual budget shortfall. Hillyard said Legislative leaders and the governor are knocking heads this week to decide how to "put meat on the bone" with various revenue sources, including the stimulus, in order to reduce the impact of the cuts. What kind of money that will be and where it is going is still being debated. Hillyard said he's open to issuing new bonds, but doesn't personally favor tax hikes, though some fee increases have already found their way into the budget talks.
"I'm not wanting to push any tax increase, or revenue enhancement, just simply to balance the budget," Hillyard said. "And I'll say, it will be difficult, in lines of what reductions would occur, but we can close the budget without the stimulus money, and without an increase in revenue. And so the question is just going to be the appetite of the legislators and where they want to go with that."
Hillyard said Senate Republicans will talk about the budget today in a closed caucus. He said earlier this week he hopes to know more about what federal stimulus programs have "strings attached," in which some lawmakers don't want to get tangled.