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Jon Huntsman Jr. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. joined Republican leaders at a press conference Wednesday to call for school vouchers as a tool to meet Utah's rapidly growing student population.
Despite being surrounded by voucher enthusiasts, the governor stopped short of asking Utahns to vote for the measure.
Huntsman said he signed the law and he would vote "for" Referendum 1 on Nov. 6, but added, "Whatever you think is right, whatever you can justify, is the right answer for you."
The governor said he loved the public schools his own children attend and they would remain there.
But he emphasized vouchers are "very much pro-public education," because the proposal would hold public education harmless and leave the bulk of funding behind as voucher students moved on to private schools. "That's a pretty good deal."
The Republicans displayed population charts showing a wave of 160,000 new students will hit the schools over the next 10 years. Without educational funding innovations, such as vouchers, lawmakers will have no choice but to hike taxes, they said.
"How do we take care of this without taxing our citizens into oblivion and out of their houses?" asked Sen. Sheldon Killpack.