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Lawmaker Priorities For 2017 Legislature Include A Balanced Budget, Discussing Ed. Funding

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The 2017 general session of the Utah Legislature got underway Monday, and leaders of the Utah Senate have a lengthy list of things they want to accomplish in the next 45 days.

First on the priority list of Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, is passing a balanced budget. Niederhauser says there will be a lot of discussion among lawmakers about whether or not to raise income taxes to fund education.

“Where we go with that, I’m not sure at this point,” Niederhauser says. “It is politically difficult for a legislature to raise taxes.”

Proponents have already begun gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would raise taxes by seven-eighths of one percent to go toward education. But Senate Republican leadership says they would prefer a legislative solution to a ballot initiative.   

Other priorities include investing in infrastructure. Utah’s population is expected to nearly double in 30 years, and Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, says now is the time to start building infrastructure to sustain that growth.

“That includes everything from transportation, water, schools, colleges, everything that’s entailed in that growing population,” Okerlund says.

Priorities for Democrats include continuing to address homelessness, says Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, (D-Salt Lake City).

“We’ve got to put our arms around that and figure out how we’re going to address that issue as well. Part of that, I believe, is making sure we have access to health care for all citizens,” Davis says.

State senators expect to consider more than 1,500 bills this year, the most ever. The session will end at midnight on March 9th.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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