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Herbert Presses for More Education Dollars in Final Days of Legislative Session

Brian Grimmett

Utah Governor Gary Herbert is holding out hope that the state legislature will find more money for education before the 2015 legislative session ends on Thursday.

Herbert’s budget proposal asked lawmakers for a 6.25 percent increase in per-student spending—the largest increase in 25 years. This week, the legislature settled on 4 percent. Many lawmakers argued the governor’s plan would detract from important transportation needs. Herbert told reporters Tuesday that under his proposal, road projects would be safe for the next four years. He added there are proposals on the table to increase transportation funding, including a gas tax.

“These things can be adjusted,” Herbert said. “So there is a way to do it. It just takes the political will, I guess to do it.”

There was little discussion about the bill on the Senate Floor Tuesday, but on Monday House Democrats tried and failed to substitute the bill to increase funding from 4 to 5 percent. Democrat Carol Spackman-Moss was part of the effort.

“We’re seeing programs die,” Moss said. “We’re seeing paraprofessionals that have been let go. Specialists in reading, math, all the other subjects.”

The education budget bill passed the House and Senate but lawmakers can still make changes to the final budget in the coming days, said Republican Representative Dean Sanpei, who sponsored the budget bill.

“Right now the budget is in balance,” Sanpei said. “To the degree that we make changes, we need to make changes in other places for which we need to build consensus. Otherwise we end up with a budget that is out of balance.”

Governor Herbert says he’ll continue negotiations with House and Senate Leaders to find consensus.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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