Utah lawmakers expect to have a $128 million surplus and $280 million in projected revenue growth available when the 2012 legislative session begins later this month.

House Republicans unanimously agreed in a planning session that tax increases were off the table. The GOP controls the Legislature.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the improving revenue picture was welcome but that, compared to demands for funding after years of austerity, “there’s not that much money.”

The 45-day session begins in late January, with final budget projections due in late February.

The Republican caucus position calls for the state to pay down some of its debt to protect Utah’s consensus triple-A ratings.

Legislative analysts estimate that $85 million would reduce the debt to acceptable levels.

The caucus wants to eliminate a $52 million structural budget imbalance created by using one-time monies to cover ongoing costs during lean years.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s proposed $12.9 billion budget did not call for tax increases or paying down debt, but would eliminate the structural deficit.

The Republican governor and House members agreed to fund education for 12,500 more public school students in Utah classrooms this year.

The caucus did not address the question of raising teacher pay by 1%.

Senate Republicans took no formal positions on issues in their pre-session caucus.

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