Taxpayers for Utah have learned that strange bedfellows can be very concerned over who gets the softest pillows, the most covers and the best side of the bed.

But all the haggling for the coziest position appears to be easing this week as the coalition begins to battle in earnest to defeat the tax-limitation initiatives.Prominent Republicans and Democrats in the state put their differences aside this spring to form an unprecedented coalition aimed at beating those initiatives, which, if approved by voters in November, would cut more than $300 million from schools and state and local governments.

Not surprisingly, the coalition - Taxpayers for Utah - has often been deadlocked over the delicacies of this Democratic and Republican marriage.

Depending on who you talk to, the conflict has either slowed the group's work or is a tiny blemish on the face of the most remarkable coalition this side of the Mississippi.

Some of the conflict is sparked by a mutual determination not to let any candidate or party benefit from the bipartisan venture.

Democrats, for example, don't want Gov. Norm Bangerter to use the coalition as an endorsement of the way he handled the tax increase. They don't want him to use former Democratic Govs. Scott Matheson's and Cal Rampton's participation in the coalition as co-chairmen as ammunition against Bangerter's challenger, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson.

"There has been a constant paranoia over whether one candidate or other would benefit," said Michael O. Leavitt, a Republican member of the group. "That concern has not been a constructive thing. But I think the longer we go, the less of an issue it becomes."

Pat Shea, a Democrat in the coalition, acknowledged past anxiety over whether gubernatorial candidates might benefit from the group's work. But he said the coalition reached a new height in harmony this past week.

"The Wilson and Bangerter campaigns understand the importance of keeping this coalition viable by making sure their campaigns don't compromise the glue holding it together," Shea said.

"Obviously, the Democrats in the coalition will go to Ted Wilson if they think he is going too far off the reservation and suggest he move in a direction that supports the coalition. The Taxpayers for Utah will do the same thing with Gov. Bangerter," he said.

The early distrust between Democrats and Republicans also surfaced in discussions over what agencies the group would hire to assist its campaign. To their dismay, Democrats discovered that there isn't as much Democratic expertise for hire in the state as there is Republican expertise.

That meant the group's money was going to Republican consultants who make their living getting Republican candidates elected.

Democrats balked at that. The group has been anxious - some critics say overly so - to divide the hired assistance between Democratic and Republican consultants as equally as possible.

David Magleby, a Democratic consultant for the group, says conflicts are far less than he expected.

"What's remarkable is that they've come together in the midst of an election - where everyone is trying to defeat the other guy - to say that `This is so important, we will muzzle partisanship for the larger public interest of defeating these Draconian tax initiatives."'

Group leaders report that last week's meetings have gone very well. Difficulties have been candidly discussed, with many being resolved.

But some differences run deeper. For example, Republicans in Utah historically run campaigns differently than the state's Democrats.

"I think the Republicans - who have been so successful in Utah - are used to an orderly process involving a paid professional attitude, direct mails, telephone banks and solicitation of contributions," Shea said. "The Democratic Party in this state, more out of necessity than design, is used to voluntarism - with all of its vagaries and unpredictable variations. Therefore, they are more used to disorder than they are to order."

Representatives from the two parties have struggled to find a middle ground between the two campaign styles.

Shea said some compromise has been reached. The group will hit a grass roots campaign hard and go light on advertising.

"If we become too visible, we lend credence to Merrill Cook's and Mills Crenshaw's charges that we are a Goliath to their small David." Cook is an independent candidate for governor who supports the initiatives, Crenshaw is a radio talk show host who supports the initiatives.