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Special budget meeting expected

Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. is likely to call a special session of the legislature late next week to solve a projected shortfall in the state’s budget.

Lisa Roskelley, the governor’s communication director, emphasized that the state is still in the black and that the shortfall is merely projected. Across-the-board cuts affecting every agency are expected, but the governor pledged to protect education funding, she said.

The governor has not yet called the session, but Democratic representative Christine Johnson over the Snyderville Basin said she was told to keep her calendar clear next Wednesday and Thursday.

Local officials are not worried about prospective cuts.

Blake Frazier, Summit County auditor, said the county doesn’t receive a lot of funding from the state.

"I don’t think it will affect us a whole lot, maybe some road construction, but it won’t make a big difference," he said.

Sen. Kevin Van Tassel, whose district includes Summit County, said he hasn’t seen any numbers yet and expects the meeting to discuss minor cuts.

"The purpose of session is to sit down, get adjustments made early so the shortfall won’t be severe. Primarily, we’ll be looking at probably about 2 to 3 percent (cuts) overall."

He said he believes they’ll be looking for opportunities to set aside or slow down programs that have not yet received funding and are not urgent.

A lot of the vital road construction projects have already been funded, so if those are affected, it will be minor, he said.

Van Tassel said he’s optimistic since the legislature previously set aside money for this very reason.

" leaving that out (of the budget), it’s not going to be as big an impact," he said.

Van Tassel said he’s not sure what will happen with education, but predicts that during the next legislative session increases in education funding are not going to be as large as in the past. But he said he had "a feeling they would be able to keep education whole."

Johnson said she has a great concern for how the meeting might affect the entire state in regard to education and some of the programs dependent on state funding for underrepresented individuals.

She said she wished she knew more about the agenda.

"It’s like being told, ‘Come to a party at my house on Saturday,’ but I have no idea what to bring or what will be served," she said.

In the past, special programs are sometimes the first to be cut and she’s not sure what majority’s intention is for the meeting, she said.

The good news is that many projects already received funding in July and it can’t be taken away.

Johnson said she’s not sure how the meeting could affect Summit County.

Rep. Mel Brown from Coalville was unavailable for comment.


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