Legislative session like a bowl of cold cereal

I don’t like breakfast cereal. Not because it’s not good, it just never satisfies me. I could eat a whole box and still be hungry for more. This is how I feel about the 2014 legislative session.

Going into the session there were a number of important issues on the table and sadly, a lot of these issues stayed on the table–saved for next year, I guess.

From the get-go it was apparent that there was going to be a lot of back-and-forth sparring when Speaker Lockhart called out Governor Herbert in her opening address. Although this type of behavior is often natural to a degree in a political debate setting, this year’s session took on an overly divisive tone by Utah standards.

If it wasn’t Gov. Herbert and Speaker Lockhart wrangling it out over Medicaid expansion or Lockhart’s education-technology expansion plan, it was the Senate and the House drawing lines in the sand over important state-wide issues.

In the waning hours of the session, lawmakers managed to provide funding for Utah pre-school education programs (HB96), and it also allocated extra funding to Utah’s colleges and universities, but K-12 education was again left short changed.

In the state budget deal reached last week by lawmakers, the additional money allocated to K-12 education will only fund basic education for Utah’s 10,300 new students next year, along with other mandated expenditures, such as employee health insurance and retirement funds.

Put simply, there is not enough money in the state budget to adequately fund public education. For the state of Utah to finally put its money where its mouth is, it will need to generate more revenue. That opportunity for more revenue was missed not once, but twice this year with education bills SB111 and SB118.

In speaking to reporter’s last Thursday, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser claimed that lawmakers were proud of their budget deal despite not being able to address a number of issues.

“Transportation is going to be a big issue for us next year and education funding,” he said.

It’s like listening to a broken record.

After eating a whole box of cereal, I am left only wanting more.

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