Budget Debate

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State lawmakers are debating a $14.9 billion operating budget.

The new budget avoids cutting higher education and includes more money for nursing homes and private prisons by taking advantage of an accounting error and cutting some money for state buildings.

The budget amount is up about 5 percent from the amount spent during the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

State lawmakers were originally expecting to have to trim about $200 million to balance next year's budget, but many cuts were avoided after budget writers discovered that a Department of Revenue computer mistakenly listed money as income that was actually refunded to taxpayers.

Lawmakers are hoping taxpayers will approve a ballot measure this fall that would let the state keep about $3 billion dollars in extra revenue over five years to balance future budgets.