Question: How do you know Senate Republicans have been bad boys and girls? Answer: GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter visits their caucus with grandfatherly advice, like: You'd better get your budget act together.
The governor made a low-key visit to the caucus Tuesday - the first such visit this session - to tell his GOP colleagues they should keep their mitts off of the state's Rainy Day Fund - the $53-million surplus account that some senators wanted to tap to balance the 1991-92 budget.Bangerter was polite. "I just think you ought not to spend the Rainy Day Fund," he said. "Keep it as a hedge should the national economy turn down more than we anticipate."
He got his point across. Joking with Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Murray - one of the senators interested in borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund, Bangerter noted that Finlinson has a number of bills likely to pass and come to him for signature or veto. "And I've got 50 votes in the House and 20 votes in the Senate (against those bills)," Bangerter said, patting Finlinson on the back. Bangerter refers to his veto, which takes two-thirds to override.
After a closed GOP caucus, senators emerged to say they decided against using the Rainy Day Fund after all - a decision they voted for just yesterday. The latest budget estimates call for $15 million to be trimmed somewhere from state budgets - not a lot in the face of the $3.5 billion budget but enough to hurt.
House Republicans want to trim $15 million from programs. But GOP senators want to reduce the 5 percent pay package for state employees and teachers to 4 percent. That 1 percent savings equals $14 million. "If we end up with a surplus at the end of next year, that 1 percent would be paid employees," said Sen. Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful, Senate majority whip.
"There is a temporary glitch," House Speaker Craig Moody, R-Sandy, said after House Republicans agreed behind closed doors not to back down from their position despite the Senate stand. "Some would call it an impasse."
What the difference in opinion means is that the budget process is stalled. The executive appropriations committee began hearing state department budgets late Tuesday but took no action pending a resolution.
And although the governor has made it clear he doesn't want the Rainy Day Fund tapped, he's not so sure the needed budget reductions have to come from programs.
"Everything is on the table right now," Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff said. "The governor will do everything he can to protect that 5 percent. But you've got to compare it to the programs that would be cut."