The morning after the 1991 Legislature ended, Gov. Norm Bangerter and Republican leaders patted lawmakers on the back for their work on the budget and other major issues.
But they said they'd have to come back in special session, probably in April, to take up the one issue they didn't resolve during the past 45 days, the state's bonding program.Republican leaders said during a press conference Thursday morning that the special session is planned for April, on the day legislators would have met anyway for their monthly interim session.
That way it won't cost taxpayers any more money to hold a special session, according to both Senate President Arnold Christensen and House Speaker Craig Moody, both R-Sandy.
During his monthly press conference televised on KUED Channel 7, Bangerter didn't criticize legislators for running out of time before they could approve a $70 million bonding package to pay for highways and other projects.
"They were at cross-purposes on the bonding bill," the governor said. Bangerter said he hoped to have the issue resolved within 60 days so the bonds could be issued before the new budget year begins July 1.
Overall, though, Bangerter said lawmakers did a good job during "an emotional session" marked by passage of a restrictive abortion bill and the resignation of a representative lawmakers had attempted to expel.
"I think the Legislature did fine. We always get impatient because of the process and worry it won't come together but it always does," the governor said.
Much of the governor's frustration with lawmakers during the session resulted from an impasse between himself and the GOP leadership over how much money should be spent.
Bangerter more or less got his way when lawmakers agreed to boost spending by $15 million, despite a prediction by the legislative fiscal analyst that there would be less money than expected.
Republican leaders said they did pretty well for human services and other programs at a time when most states are facing deficits.
"While there wasn't as much money as many people would have liked, we were able to put new money into education and new money into social services. The bottom line is that Utah has fared well at a time when most of the nation is in fiscal crisis," Christensen said.
Moody went further, complaining about the Democrats' eleventh-hour effort to put $25 million more into the budget on top of the agreed-to increase.
"I know the needs are out there. Democrats aren't the only ones who feel them," the House speaker said.
Democrats, though, argued that the $3.5 billion budget still falls short. House Minority Whip Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, said the Democrats' push for more spending was what resolved the budget stalemate.