SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature opened its 45-day session Monday on a positive note, with the luxury of having new revenue to spend rather than the issue of where to find cuts from a shrinking revenue base.
"Here we go again," Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said as he gaveled the opening of the 59th Legislature.
Waddoups sounded an upbeat tone for the session, outlining how much better Utah has been doing economically than many of its neighbors. Utah was recently honored as the best-managed state in the U.S.
Legislators are expected to haggle over how to spend up to $400 million of additional revenue. This year's revenue is expected to include $128 million in new, one-time funds, with another $280 million in new, ongoing funds.
"The outlook is good for Utah," Waddoups said. He said the growth was not happenstance, but the result of planned management.
"We're paying ongoing dollars for ongoing projects, while still building our rainy day fund," Waddoups said. "The future is looking like it will provide good opportunities for us and our grandchildren."
Local legislators like the idea of having to appropriate new revenue, but suggest it comes with its own challenges.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said there will be a lot of forces pulling on the Legislature for additional funding. Even with the projected new revenue, he doesn't think it will be a big year of surplus.
"There will not be a lot of money to do some things. The budget will be tight," Stevenson said.
Besides the budget, key issues this year include funding for education, economic development, Medicaid, transportation and growth.
Waddoups outlined an objective of addressing 10 key issues during the session. Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, thinks at least one more sensitive issue needs to be included: immigration.
Immigration reform was passed last year but Reid thinks there will be a push to repeal that measure this session.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said it is a mistake to think there is an excess of money for legislators to divvy up. He said most of the new revenue may simply help address issues of growth, such as in education, where an additional 14,000 students are expected in public schools this year.
The opening ceremony included a prayer by Elder Steven E. Snow of the Quorum of Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and music from the Osmond family.