"You wouldn't trust Dennis The Menace with your checkbook or credit card - don't trust Wayne Owens, either," said Owens' U.S. House opponent Genevieve Atwood Friday morning.

It was some of the toughest criticism yet for Owens, who was conspicuously absent when congressional candidates from the 2nd and 3rd districts addressed a seminar of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors in the Little America Hotel.Third District candidates Karl Snow and Bill Orton also attended, as did an Owens' stand in, Tom Berggren.

Atwood said Owens, who was in Washington, D.C., Friday attending to the current budget crisis, is a nice man who can't be trusted spending taxpayers' money. "On the 20 bills this year that actually spent money - even though he had an opportunity to ask for less spending, even if it was only a 2 or 4 percent reduction - he almost always voted with the Democratic leadership in passing them," Atwood charged.

She criticized Owens again for voting himself a $20,000 a year pay raise. "No one should get a pay raise until the budget is balanced. I won't take such a raise until it is. I'll write a check to the treasury returning the money."

Berggren said Owens did vote for his pay raise but has given an interim raise to scholarships and, obviously, won't accept the larger pay raise unless his constituents send him back to Congress in a vote of approval.

Snow, the Republican nominee, said the real estate agents should review his state legislative record - 12 years and 100 bills passed into law - to see how effective he'll be in Congress.

He said he's accepted a new idea - "the 4 percent solution" - to the budget crisis. If federal spending were held at 4 percent growth from year to year, since revenues are estimated to come in over that, in seven years the budget would be balanced with no tax increases or program reductions.

Orton, Snow's Democratic opponent, got the best reception from the group. He's a former Realtor who is now a tax attorney specializing in real estate tax and financing. He offered specific solutions to the savings and loan crisis and said he testified before Congress in the early 1980s, telling the politicians that the road they were taking - deregulation and tax changes - would end in disaster.

"No one, no one listened. I'm no politician. I got in this race because I was tired of no one listening."

Most of the $500 billion "lost" in the savings and loan bailout comes in falling real estate values. "We don't have to lose all that," said Orton. A few smart steps, in how real estate is regulated and taxation, could save much of that loss.

"We should give capital gains for real estate, capital expenditures for business and change the positive loss rules to treat real estate equal to other business ventures. Not only is there no other candidate in this race, there is no one in Congress who better understands real estate and its problems," he said about himself.