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Utah's lawmakers will vote next month on whether to restore roughly $4.7 million in education funding that was cut through line-item vetoes by Gov. Gary Herbert.
Herbert and legislative leaders announced Monday that a special session will be called to address the funding cuts, which include expansions of early education software and testing, a technology training program for high school students, and a culinary arts program affiliated with the "Teen Chef Masters" reality television show.
Herbert attributed his vetoes to a need to avoid or reduce inefficiencies between overlapping education initiatives. In a prepared statement released Monday, he said his office and legislators will monitor the use of state funds by the programs if their funding is restored.
"I appreciate the Legislature's willingness to engage in a collaborative path forward on this line item," Herbert said.
Lawmakers were polled on their interest in overriding Herbert's vetoes, which requires a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate.
On Monday, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said "the legislative will seems to exist" to reverse the governor's action. But a special session accomplishes the same result in a more collaborative fashion than a veto override, and with less expense to Utah's taxpayers.
The special session is expected to be held the day of May's interim meetings of the Legislature, which absorbs some of the costs.
"Most of my colleagues feel this is a better way," Niederhauser said.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said two-thirds of House members had indicated their support to override Herbert's vetoes.
But the special session proposed would only require a majority vote to restore funding.
"It has always been our top priority to restore the funding for these programs," Hughes said in a prepared statement, "and that can be accomplished when we come together for our interim meetings in May."
Monday's announcement did not indicate whether funding for the education initiatives would be considered separately or as a single bill.
Those initiatives include $3 million for K-3 Early Intervention, an interactive software program that teaches reading skills to elementary students, and $2 million for UPSTART, an online preschool program developed by Utah-based Waterford Institute.
Both programs receive ongoing funding from the state, and would be expanded by action during the special session.
For UPSTART, the $2 million funding bump would bring its annual funding to roughly $6.7 million, making Waterford's early-learning software available to 20 percent of all 4-year-old children in Utah.
"We stand with thousands of parents and teachers throughout the state when we say we are pleased Governor Herbert and the leaders within the Utah State Legislature have come to this agreement," said Benjamin Heuston, president and COO of Waterford Institute.
Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, emailed lawmakers Monday saying it was "urgent" they visit families and schools using the software programs.
"This is a great opportunity for you to see these programs in action before any funding session," he wrote.
Other initiatives to be considered during the special session include $500,000 for an assessment of early intervention programs, $500,000 for IT Academy, a software and network administration program for high school students, and $275,000 for ProStart, which trains teen chefs, some of whom are selected to compete on "Teen Chef Masters."