"Confusion" was the word most often associated with the $3.5 billion budget approved in the last hours of the 1991 Legislature after days of arguing behind closed doors.

A battle between Gov. Norm Bangerter and legislative leaders left the amount the state would start spending July 1 up in the air until Wednesday morning, just hours before the session ended at midnight.Their compromise sent state budget officials scrambling to adjust the huge appropriations bill. Their rush to come up with new numbers resulted in several errors that took until 11 p.m. to figure out and correct.

"Was there more confusion this year? We had to run around to make corrections, but it's always hectic the last day," a tired Dale Hatch, state budget director, said while a budget analyst tried to come up with a breakdown of the new budget.

House Democrats staged an unsuccessful eleventh-hour attempt to add more money to the budget for human services and education programs as well as salaries.

The uncertainty over the bottom line leaves the governor's budget office with plenty of pencil pushing to do before they know exactly how much was spent and where. But it's clear Bangerter did well.

The governor's biggest victory came on the last day of the session when the House Republican caucus agreed to add $15 million to the budget even though they'd been warned revenue projections were short by that much.

The deal worked out between GOP leaders and the governor the night before called for surplus funds to be used to help make up the $22 million shortfall in the state's retirement system.

Using money that will be left over when the current fiscal year ends June 30 to pay for this year's share of the shortfall instead of building it into the new budget won't affect retiree benefits.

But it did give lawmakers a chance to restore the cuts they had agreed to make earlier in the session when the legislative fiscal analyst told them there would be $15 million less in revenues last year than expected.

The estimated shortfall between what lawmakers planned to spend and the revenues they were being told were available amounted to less than 1 percent of the $3.5 billion budget.

That didn't stop the question of whether to cut or whether to go ahead on the hope that the revenue projections were wrong from turning into a standoff between Republicans and the governor.

The House and Senate had decided to compromise by passing two budgets, one with the cuts and a second that would restore them in September if the state's economic outlook improved.

Bangerter said that was unacceptable and made it clear he'd veto what was being called the "two-tier" budget plan. That would have forced lawmakers to return in 30 days and try again.

They may be back anyway to come up with a bonding bill, since time ran out before money could be approved for $70 million worth of highway construction and other projects.

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(Chart)

The ups and downs of budgets

July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992

Budget Budget Percent

1990-91 1991-92 change

Business, Labor, Agriculture $67,571,700 $70,735,700 +5

Community and Economic Development 58,047,200 49,069,800 -15

Corrections 94,937,800 99,090,900 +4

Courts 45,923,200 49,174,900 +7

Elected officials 27,585,400 27,339,000 -1

General government 70,367,100 75,506,600 +7

Health Department 403,992,800 438,234,400 +8

Higher education 399,265,800 431,408,100 +8

Human Services 326,308,500 355,794,500 +9

Legislature 7,848,000 7,866,500 +0

National Guard 3,866,500 5,949,000 +54

Natural Resources 66,235,900 65,396,000 -1

Public education 1,190,225,200 1,271,491,443 +7

Public Safety 43,136,500 43,884,000 +2

Transportation 152,281,600 146,801,500 -4

Operations Budget 2,957,523,200 3,137,742,343 +6

Capital facilities 343,767,000 260,038,400 -24

Debt service 64,163,900 61,883,200 -4

Other 4,000,000 4,197,100 +5

TOTAL $3,369,454,100 $3,463,861,043 +3