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Lawmakers have officially finished the first step in setting Utah's public education budget for next school year.

The Senate on Wednesday passed a $3.5 billion base education budget bill, HB1, by 26-2, meaning the bill has now cleared both houses of the Legislature. Lawmakers will now build upon that in creating a final education budget bill by the end of the session.

The budget lawmakers passed Wednesday funds the same number of students as this school year and keeps base per-pupil funding at $2,816 in most cases. Lawmakers will spend the coming weeks deciding how to add to that budget to fund nearly 12,500 additional students expected in Utah schools this fall. They'll also decide whether and/or how to fund certain programs that received money last year for one year only, such as teacher supplies and an elementary arts program.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said lawmakers have high hopes for adding to that base budget.

"We hope that there will be significantly more than $100 million of new money this year [for education], but we're still in the appropriations process, and we will have a bill later to handle that," Stephenson said.

Gov. Gary Herbert has recommended spending more than one-fourth of a projected $400 million in additional revenue the state is expecting on public schools.

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