(KCPW News) The state budget was the focus of Democratic lawmakers’ response to Republican Governor Gary Herbert’s state of the state address delivered Tuesday night. Speaking in a pre-recorded video presentation, Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones warned of the consequences of inadequate public education funding.
“Are you okay with increasing the class sizes in our schools because we are not paying for the 11,000 additional students that are entering our public schools this year alone?” she said. “How important is it that our schools expose our young people to music, foreign languages and the arts? Is it acceptable for our college students to be blocked out of classes because funding is not there?”
Governor Herbert’s budget proposal holds public and higher education harmless, but doesn’t account for new students in those areas.
The Democrats’ response also warned against cutting Medicaid funding and senior services. And it said the party supports raising the tobacco tax.
“We cannot tax our way out of the problem, nor do we want to. However, raising the tax on tobacco is one responsible way to address the harmful health impacts of tobacco, and we encourage any new revenue to fund the growing needs in health and human services,” said Jones.
There are eight Democratic lawmakers in the 29-member Utah Senate. In the House, Democrats hold 22 of the 75 seats.