With only a few days before the 2008 legislative session begins, lawmakers are preparing for some funding fights as they review $5 billion in "base budgets" and hear requests for additional money.

This year, the state is estimating it will collect $838 million on top of the base budget amount. Already, state agencies have outlined budget needs for things such as new teachers, air quality monitors, fixes to state roads, and health and human services issues.

Lawmakers can change any allocations in the $5 billion base budget, but most of the funded items are essential state services, said Senate budget boss Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. The $838 million will be the source of many fights.

"With most, there's no question you're going to fund it," Hillyard said of items funded by the base budget.

During budget meetings this week, lawmakers were asking agency heads to see if any base budget money could be shuffled to other items this year. The base budget is essentially the same budget given last year to state agencies and public education, but with additional money for things such as student growth, Medicaid and building fixes.

Another $22.3 million was given in the base budget to shore up last year's $2,500 raise and $1,000 bonus for more than 23,000 Utah school teachers.

Sometime during the first 10 days of the session, lawmakers must approve the base budget. The goal is to ensure funding for state services in case a final budget isn't passed, according to Hillyard.

Despite the money for teacher salary and bonus, the State Board of Education is hoping for some $635 million more to boost student achievement, address a teacher shortage and pay for 13,000 students — roughly the equivalent of the Tooele School District.

In addition, the board wants $247.5 million to boost the state's per-student funding formula. Utah students receive the fewest dollars per student in the country.

Other budget requests during the upcoming session could include:

• The base budgets for human services and the Department of Health account for almost 10 percent of state expenditures, but they are consistently in need of more money to fully fund their programs. Those include everything from Medicaid to dental care for uninsured children to drug courts.

• The state Department of Environmental Quality is seeking $2.5 million for air quality monitors and to establish a plan to decrease levels of PM 2.5, a fine air particulate. The agency also wants more money to monitor mercury levels in the air and water.

• The Utah Department of Transportation said it would need additional money to pay for increased snow removal costs this year, while refugee advocates are hoping lawmakers will approve $200,000 for services in the Department of Workforce Services.

• The governor's office wants to be reimbursed for $2 million in costs as result of last November's special election on school vouchers. Additional money is also being requested to maintain the state's electronic voting system.

• Higher education officials are heading into the session with a $68.8 million increase on their wish list. Teacher compensation, various initiatives to boost student participation in areas of high demand, financial aid and scholarships, as well as funding for new equipment and institutional partnerships are among their desires.

The 2008 legislative session begins Monday. For a schedule of meetings, log on to: www.le.state.ut.us


Contributing: Jennifer Toomer Cook, Deborah Bulkeley, Jim Thalman, Wendy Leonard, Arthur Raymond

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com