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Lawmakers wrestle with COVID-19 hit budget

Lawmakers were back at the Capitol for the first time since the shutdown due to the Coronavirus. (Aranda/KTUL){p}{/p}
Lawmakers were back at the Capitol for the first time since the shutdown due to the Coronavirus. (Aranda/KTUL)

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There are signs in the hallways promoting social distancing, along with wristbands on each lawmaker, and masks are adding a new twist to the world of politics.

"This is saying that I’ve been medically cleared to be allowed into the Capitol for the balance of the week," said Rep. Melissa Provenzano.

"Yeah, we’re trying to legislate with face masks on, and I guess one advantage is that the other members never know when you’re making a face at them," said Rep. John Waldron.

The faces made Monday, primarily showing relief at the 4% expected cuts when you consider the massive economic loss.

"A projected $1.366 billion dollar shortfall," said Rep. Kyle Hilbert.

Much of that offset by state savings and federal aid.

"The governor controls the $800 million dollars we’re receiving from the federal government including $40 million that he proposes he may spend on voucher programs for students in private schools. And for me the real question is, "Does the legislature, the representatives of the people, have the right to oversee these expenses?'" asked Waldron.

We reached out to the Governor’s office to see if he’d be available for comment. They sent us a statement that reads in part, “The governor and his staff are continuing to review the budget package proposed by the Legislature and will not be commenting on specifics of the bills at this time. However, Governor Stitt categorically denies the notion that he ever walked out of a budget meeting.”

"I have heard that and I guess reasonable people can disagree but it as a budget meeting you see, and the minority party doesn’t get to be in those meetings most of the time," said Waldron.

Meanwhile, just down the street at the State Supreme Court, a ruling Monday that absentee ballots no longer have to be notarized.

"We’re going to see a lot of folks that would feel much safer voting by absentee especially for the balance of this year as well as poll workers feeling more comfortable," Provenzano said.

Also breathing a sigh of relief, school systems, which will see their cuts more than covered by federal help.

"The cut's $78 million, but the increase in funding from the feds is $200 million, so schools will have more funding next year than they have the current fiscal year," said Rep. Hilbert

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