The 1991 Legislature meets in a little more than a month, and a number of issues, from abortion to ski industry tax breaks and from budget problems to an income tax credit for food taxes, are already forming on Capitol Hill.
Two dozen bills have been pre-filed in the House and Senate. Others - like the Abortion Task Force's new tough measure - will be coming within weeks.Meanwhile, the new Democratic leaders in the House promise an income tax credit bill that would give some kind of help to lower-income Utahns. The Democratic Party favored the removal of the sales tax from food - the initiative that failed at the polls last month.
Even though it failed, the measure got 44 percent support statewide, 47 percent support in Salt Lake County, and Democrats say an income tax credit to offset some of the food tax should be considered by the Republican-dominated Legislature.
The controversial issue of giving a $1 million tax break to ski resorts will be on the agenda again. Sen. Omar Bunnell, D-Price, has pre-filed a bill that would revoke the tax break.
The law allows ski resorts to get $1 back for every $3 spent on new lifts, snow-making equipment or slope-grooming equipment. How much each resort can get is determined by the resort's ski ticket sales tax, compared with the sales tax from all ski ticket sales in the state. (See accompanying chart). The subsidy program will end when the $1 million is allocated or on Dec. 31, 1992, whichever occurs first.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, the current Senate budget chairman who got the $1 million placed in an appropriations bill the final day of the 1990 session, says the reason for the tax break - economic development through improved skiing for Utahns and tourists - still exists. He vows to fight the repeal.
But Bunnell said: "If anybody needs a subsidy, it's not them. Almost all of the resorts are owned by millionaires. A million dollars is coffee money for those guys. And the way this was done (in the last-minute appropriation bill), many (legislators) didn't like it. It's just a waste (of $1 million) where it is. We could put it in Social Services and do some good.
"But it won't go anywhere unless some Republicans come with us. I think we might have a chance. Some of them are pretty mad," Bunnell said.
Countered Hillyard: "This is for economic development and will return much more than is spent. If Park City opens on Thanksgiving, every Thanksgiving, and can do that because of its snow-making machinery, that helps everyone. We're trying to attract the out-of-state skier, that's where the money for our economy is. And you can only do that if you can guarantee skiing. That is what we do with this (incentive)."
The Abortion Task Force's bill would outlaw abortions except in cases of rape or incest or where there's strong evidence that either the mother or baby wouldn't survive childbirth. To qualify for the rape exclusion, a woman must report an attack to authorities within five days.
The measure is sure to be hotly debated and may be joined by other abortion bills before the 45-day session, which starts Jan. 14, is finished.
Some of the pre-filed bills include:
- SB6, extension of the current $1,500 home energy-saving tax credit to 1995.
- SB5, a permanent extension of the current telephone bill surcharge aimed at aiding hearing-impaired Utahns with telecommunications equipment.
- HCR2, creating a committee to commission a statue of Brigham Young, which would stand in the Capitol.
- HB14, includes homeless persons as a class that cannot be discriminated against by law.
- HB11, creates a natural disaster commission that would coordinate and oversee rescue work and clean up after a natural disaster.
- HB9, details succession of the governor's powers in emergencies and allows a legislator to designate a successor if he can't attend an emergency session of the Legislature.
- HB8, imposes a 2-cent fee on each video rental for public education.
- HB4, creates a new homicide offense - homicide by assault - a third-degree felony, if a person dies through a personal attack by another.
Tax breaks for ski resorts
The law gives ski resorts tax breaks in an amount to be determined by a resort's ski ticket sales tax, compared with the sales taxes from all ski ticket sales in the state.
Ski resort Subsidy Subsidy Still available
available paid out
Alta $148,394 $148,394 0
Beaver Mountain 13,490 $ 13,490
Brianhead 50,909 34,750 16,159
Brighton 50,937 9,000 41,937
Deer Valley 145,937 145,937
Elk Meadows 5,050 5,050
Nordic Valley 5,285 5,285
Park City 263,541 263,541 0
Park West 31,936 31,936
Powder Mtn. 17,000 17,000 0
Snow Basin 26,539 26,539
Snowbird 176,340 82,165 94,175
Solitude 47,084 47,084 0
Sundance 17,558 17,558 0