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Gov threatens to veto Lockhart’s education technology initiative

Utah Senate budget chairman says lawmakers might go home without passing a budget.

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The art of the deal • Lockhart said she has been in House leadership for 12 years and in many budget negotiations, and chances are "extremely slim" they won’t strike a deal.

"I’ve been in leadership meetings where we have discussed the budget where one house would get up and walk out. That hasn’t happened yet," she said.

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Senate Republican leaders drew a sort of line in the sand Wednesday night, saying they would be willing to put $26 million into the speaker’s education technology initiative. If Lockhart wants more, they said, it would require a tax increase.

There are two tax increases on the table — one that would raise property taxes and boost the ongoing funding to Lockhart’s plan to $50 million. The other would increase gasoline-tax revenue over a period of a few years.

House Republicans, who have staked out a position opposed to tax hikes, discussed the gas-tax proposal in a closed caucus Thursday afternoon.

"I find it interesting that the Senate would support a property tax increase when there are other places in the budget to find money to fund education," Lockhart said earlier this week. "If public education is our highest priority, then we will be able to find the money in other places."

Lockhart has said money set aside for transportation projects is a logical place to look for more funding for her technology program.

"We’ve been very good to transportation through the years," she said Tuesday. "We believe that there is revenue in transportation that we can redirect into public education that will not materially affect the transportation program in any kind of significant way that would cause problems."

The governor said his budget priorities remain the same as they have been since the start of the session — providing $66 million to pay for more than 10,000 new students entering Utah schools next year; $62 million to increase Utah’s per-pupil spending by 2.5 percent; and $20 million to balance state funding to the colleges and universities.

"So I can’t see a way to get [the speaker’s technology initiative] past 25 to 30 million dollars and frankly I’d have to consider a veto because it just won’t work," Herbert said. "You’re going to have to take away from so many other places you don’t have the appropriate balance in the budget. It would not be responsible. It would not be reasonable."

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Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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