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Lawmakers wondered aloud Friday how Gov. Gary Herbert can pull off an apparent magic budget trick.

Herbert wants to take $94.2 million a year in sales-tax revenue that now goes to transportation and give it instead to education — all the while saying the transfer won't delay any ongoing highway projects.

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, co-chairman of a legislative budget committee, pushed highway officials in a hearing Friday about whether the switch can really be done without impacting needed roadwork.

He was told that work going on now would be fine, but the transfer would slow future projects unless the funds were replaced by another source — such as raising the gasoline tax, a topic under discussion in the Legislature.

Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, said the state received lower-than-expected bids for many projects in recent years, and did not need as much as it set aside for cost overruns or other problems.

The resulting fund balances, he said, would allow the transfer without delaying projects scheduled over the next four years.

"What about after that?" Froerer asked.

"With less money, we will do fewer projects," Braceras acknowledged.

Froerer asked if UDOT would really like to keep that money proposed for transfer. Braceras responded, "We're supportive of the governor's budget."

But Braceras did outline pressing transportation needs. He noted a projected $11.3 billion shortfall for high-priority highway and transit projects through 2040 in the state's unified transportation plan. That shortfall has led, in part, to discussions about raising gasoline taxes this year.

Braceras also noted that to fully fund maintenance on heavily used freeways and highway, UDOT in recent years decided not to fund regular maintenance of lesser-used state highways, mostly in rural areas — but simply perform minor fixes as needed.

Such highways are deteriorating, he said, and the state faces a $40 million shortfall annually in providing the ideal level of maintenance.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said later in the day that he doubts lawmakers would approve the governor's plan to transfer sales-tax money from transportation to education, unless it is replaced.

He noted that the House last year wanted to shift highway money to an education initiative. "The Senate's position last year was, 'That's fine — but you need to replace it.' That would probably be the sentiment this year," Niederhauser said.