(KCPW News) Utah lawmakers can breathe at least a small sigh of relief about the budget. New state revenue estimates show the 2012 budget has a $263 million surplus, which is $47 million higher than before. But Republican Senator Lyle Hillyard noted this morning that is still $50 million short of what they need to eliminate the budget’s structural deficit, which stands at $313 million.
“So we have some pretty serious challenges to do, and for every one-time dollar we put in it, if we can find that one-time dollar, it means that we have a structural imbalance, that we’ll have the same kind of problem when we come back next year, trying to put a budget together and trying to figure out how to cover expenditures of one-time money on on-going programs,” said Hillyard.
Republicans are hoping to eliminate the state’s entire structural deficit this year by finding ways to balance the budget without relying on one-time revenues, like federal stimulus dollars, that won’t be available in the future.
But as Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero noted, Democrats don’t feel the entire deficit has to be closed next year.
“We have cut the state budget by 13 percent over two years,” said Romero. “I think a lot of people who pick up the newspaper might not appreciate how much we have already cut, and how this is really getting into critical service areas with additional cuts.”
The legislature spent the first half of the session coming up with a plan for slashing state agency budgets by 7 percent. Romero says the better revenue estimates prove that was unnecessary. Either way, Senator Hillyard said lawmakers intend to come up with $60 million to fund growth in public education, and another $60 million to fund growth in Medicaid.
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