Political leaders had little trouble Friday finding something to be disappointed about in Gov. Norm Bangerter's $3.5 billion budget.
The biggest letdown for Democrats was that the governor ignored their call for income tax reform. Bangerter's budget includes no changes in the state's tax structure.Earlier this week, Democratic legislative leaders put forward their own income tax reform measure, which would increase taxes on families making more than $65,000 a year, but cut taxes for lower-income Utahns - about 90 percent of the populace.
"I'm deeply, severely disappointed that the governor didn't do anything on income tax reform. Totally unhappy," said Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, who will be the House minority whip in the 1991 Legislature. "We've taken poor people off the income tax rolls, we've given huge tax breaks to the wealthy. We haven't done anything for middle-class Utahns and we should, we must."
But the governor said the Democratic income tax plan "would hurt the economy dramatically."
Democrats were also unhappy at being shut out of the budget process.
"I'm disappointed the governor did not include Democrats ahead of time in his budget," said state Democrat Party Chairman Peter Billings Jr. "The voters after all sent a message that they want Utah to be a two-party state." Democrats remain the minority party in both the House and Senate despite gains in last month's general election.
"It makes it difficult for me to give a reaction," said Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, who becomes minority leader in the 1991 Legislature.
Even leaders of the governor's own party say there may be problems with the budget. Their concerns, however, are that the governor's revenue projections may be too optimistic.
"Basically, the governor gave 3 percent cash pay raises to state employees and teachers, funded growth in public and higher education and did the best he could for human services and health. That's all the money. It's a tight budget with little wiggle-room," said newly named House Speaker Craig Moody, R-Sandy.
Moody said House Republicans are willing to look at giving some kind of income tax credit to poorer Utahns for food tax paid if end-of-session revenue estimates come in higher than Bangerter now predicts.
"But our fiscal analyst is now predicting $7 million less than the governor estimates, so for us to do something on the food tax there will have to be some improvement," he adds.