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Senate passes budgeting bill

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Before receiving any funding, state agencies would be required to justify all their spending under a bill that passed out of the Senate on Monday.

SB63 is an attempt to make state agencies more accountable for their budget expenditures, said Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. With the bill, state agencies would be required to appear before a zero-based budget committee and justify each of their expenditures.

One-fourth of the state's budget would be reviewed each summer. An amendment was made on the floor to give the bill a sunset date of five years.

"This is a workable way to create accountability in the least costly manner," said Niederhauser. "I think we need to give it a chance."

But some lawmakers worried the measure, which passed 20-6, would give too much power to members of the zero-based budget committee over state budget decisions. The bill requires the committee to have nine voting members, with three from the Senate and six from the House.

The cost of bill is estimated to be $461,400 in fiscal year 2008, and $400,900 in fiscal year 2009.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this is another level of government and this committee will be given a lot of power," said Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.

But Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, told senators that he would be watching the bill closely to ensure that didn't happen.

"If this migrates into a ways and means committee where only a select group can participate in the budget, I'll be back with a vengeance to undo this," Valentine said.

The bill passed 20-6 out of the Senate. It now moves to the House Rules Committee, which will decide whether the measure gets a hearing.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com