No money for school tech plan in Utah budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm •  Published: March 11, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah legislators closed in Tuesday on a $13 billion-plus state budget after negotiating over the weekend and abandoning a pricey school technology initiative that had stalled talks.

The initial budget plan was presented to the full House and Senate on Tuesday after receiving approval from the Legislature's Executive Appropriations committee on Monday afternoon.

Lawmakers were expected to make final adjustments before adjourning late Thursday.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, a Provo Republican, had been seeking about $200 million for her technology initiative that would have equipped every public and charter school student with a digital tablet.

Republican leaders in the Senate and Republican Gov. Gary balked at the proposal they said was short on details and introduced too late to properly vet.

Herbert threatened to veto the measure if it cost much more than $26 million — the figure Senate budget negotiators proposed to Lockhart.

Instead, Lockhart pulled the proposal from the negotiating table over the weekend.

"In the end, what they were offering was change out of the couch cushions," Lockhart told reporters Monday. "One more pilot program is not going to transform the way we deliver education."

Herbert said Utah needs to enhance technology in education but Lockhart's proposal was not the right approach.

"We must make progress in this effort in a strategic manner, with consideration for competing funding priorities, such as increasing teacher pay, funding growth and equity funding for higher education," he said Monday.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said senators felt like they were offering a reasonable amount of money for the plan, which they generally support. He thinks legislators will address the issue next year or beyond.

"This isn't a dead issue as far as we're concerned," he said.

Despite the loss of her tech plan, Lockhart said there are a lot of good things in the budget.