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Continued economic growth means Utah lawmakers will have $101 million more to spend than projected last December, according to new revenue forecasts.

The forecasts will form the basis as legislators now begin to craft a roughly $14.4 billion budget for the coming year, with a total of $739 million to spend on new programs, buildings and other needs.

"As a result of our focus the past five years on growing the economy, we are in position to invest in the areas that will strengthen our economic position for decades to come," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement.

Herbert said the new revenues allow the state to increase funding for public school students, reform the corrections system and pass his Healthy Utah plan to subsidize health insurance for Utah's poor, which he said "brings hundreds of millions of tax dollars Utahns are already paying, back to our state."

The vast majority of the extra money legislators have available to spend — $578 million in all — is earmarked to public schools and higher education. The remaining $161 million can be spent on social services, public safety, veterans programs, transportation and other areas.

Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard said some of the big ticket items legislators have to resolve — in addition to public education funding — are paying for road construction and compensation for state employees.

Legislators are also anxious about pumping money into new programs during boom times, for fear that they will have to make painful cuts when the economy hits a downturn. As a result, they are proposing socking money away to brace against a recession.

"I think if the revenues are up, it shows more of a bubble," Hillyard said.

In his budget in December, Herbert proposed spending $500 million on education, including the largest increase in per-pupil spending in 25 years. To get him there, Herbert had proposed shifting $100 million in road funds into other programs — a proposal legislators do not like.

Between the money legislators want to sock away and the disagreement over road funding, the Legislature and governor are about a quarter billion dollars apart on how much they should spend this year.

"I think the governor's budget is as the governor's budget should be: It's very aspirational, it's very ambitious, but at the end of the day we've got to pay the bills," House Speaker Greg Hughes said. "I don't know if we marry at the end on the same number [as the governor proposed] but I think at the very end we all come together."

In light of the robust budget projections, the Utah Taxpayers Association, a pro-business group, says it's not the right time to raise any taxes and let Utahns keep their money.

"Tonight's budget projections show the great economic growth that is taking place in Utah," Billy Hesterman, vice president of the association, said in a statement. "We encourage lawmakers to oppose any tax increase that will halt that growth."

Lawmakers are considering some form of a gas tax increase to pay for road needs. Herbert is also proposing a tax hike on e-cigarettes that would generate $39 million annually. And a bill has been approved by the Senate that would raise $75 million to help schools in rural parts of the state.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke