What should Utah legislators trim - proposed raises for state workers and teachers or government and educational programs?
The choice isn't easy. And House and Senate Republicans have, so far, been unwilling to make some compromise between the two.House Republicans want to cut programs by $12 million - the amount needed to balance the 1991-92 budget now under consideration.
Senate Republicans want to trim the 5 percent salary and benefits package to 4 percent, making up the $12 million that way.
(Actually, both sides want to find savings of about $15 million, leaving $3 million available to pay for so-called "money bills" - which are legislators' own bills that require funding.)
The two sides are so at odds that a strange thing is happening - budget subcommittees are actually preparing two budgets, one with program cuts, one with salary cuts.
If the majority caucuses can't reach a compromise by this weekend, legislative staffers will have to print two different budget bills - at an extra cost of hundreds of dollars. Then, sometime before adjournment next Wednesday at midnight, the majority Republicans will come to some agreement.
Wednesday, both the House and Senate GOP caucuses again reaffirmed their separate stands. There are good arguments for each position, and perhaps a bit of machismo in seeing who will back down first.
It's not unusual for the two caucuses to disagree on budget matters. It would be unusual, however, if no compromise is reached and two budget bills are actually printed.
Senate Majority Leader Cary Peterson, R-Nephi, suggests one possible compromise. Don't cut programs and then bond $16 million for construction of the West Valley Highway, using the freed-up, one-time $16 million to pay for a 1 percent bonus for state workers and teachers.
Under that plan, workers and teachers would get a 4 percent salary/
benefit package with a 1 percent one-time bonus - a total of 5 percent - and programs wouldn't suffer the $12 million cutbacks.
House leaders argue that $12 million in cuts is only 1 percent of the original recommended budget and that a 1 percent cut shouldn't drastically harm any program.
The 5 percent pay package was recommended by Gov. Norm Bangerter, and House members think that "promise" should be kept.
But senators disagree, as budget chairmen list one needy program after another that faces reductions under the House plan. For example, Sen. John Holmgren, R-Bear River, co-chairman of the Human Services budget committee, says he may have to cut a program that gives $6 a month to handicapped Utahns.
The senators have another argument: The wavering national and state economy is the reason for the lower revenue estimates. If recession is coming to Utah, shouldn't state employees make a sacrifice along with private-sector employees?
So far, minority Democrats haven't been key players. Republicans want to reach some kind of compromise that doesn't require Democratic votes to pass, for with those votes will come requests that the Republicans likely won't wish to accommodate.