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Utah's economy is expected to see slow growth in the current budget year — welcome news as legislators will see red ink recede for the first time since the economy began its nose-dive in 2008.

Income and sales tax revenues are on pace to come in about $6 million higher than projected — essentially pocket change in the $4.4 billion state revenues — but that is on top of about $140 million in projected growth in the current budget year.

Individual income taxes continue to lag behind, but corporate income has made up for the sluggishness.

At the end of the 2010 budget year, income taxes came in $44 million shy of what was anticipated — a shortfall that lawmakers plan to cover by begrudgingly using some of the $101 million in federal education assistance allocated by Congress.

Income tax numbers are expected to improve as the state's employment picture strengthens. Forecasters anticipate the state's unemployment rate will fall from its current level of 7.6 percent to an average of 7.1 percent in 2011 and 6.1 percent in 2012.

"It appears the labor market has turned the corner, which is a good thing," said Andrea Wilko, an economist with the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's office.

That doesn't mean the upcoming legislative session will be easy. Lawmakers have $313 million in funds that will disappear at the end of the current fiscal year. That means they still could have to cut budgets or tap into Rainy Day Funds that have been socked away and could cover the entire shortage but would leave the state's reserve depleted.