SALT LAKE CITY – Governor Gary Herbert broke with conservatives in the Utah Legislature Wednesday by announcing his plan to apply for $101 million in federal stimulus money earmarked for teacher and staff salaries.
Some legislators, including Patrick Henry Caucus co-founder Carl Wimmer-R, Herriman argued Utah should not apply and take a stand on states’ rights. Democratic house minority leader David Litvack believes the objection to accepting the money is more a case of political stubbornness than sovereignty. “It would be foolish to reject it. This is Utah taxpayer dollars coming back to benefit Utah,” he said.
After discussing the application for funding with legislative leaders, the senate majority caucus recommended the governor apply and the house majority caucus asked the leadership to work with the governor’s office in order to determine the best way to use the money.
The governor is expected to call a special session of the legislature later this year to approve acceptance of the money as is required by state law for federal programs over $10 million. If Utah did not apply by September 9th, the United States Secretary of Education has the authority to go around the legislature and the governor providing funding to educators. By following the application process, Utah will have some say in how the money is spent. It can be used for compensation, benefits, and support services.
With funding for education tighter than ever, it is estimated the stimulus will save from 1,600 to 1,800 education jobs in the state, and will help keep a lid on growing classroom size.
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Source: Salt Lake Tribune, KSL News