Amid the clamor of abortion or complaints about Human Services funding in next week's legislative special session will be the real reason Gov. Norm Bangerter called lawmakers back - state bonding proj-ects.
I can almost see your eyelids closing.Pretty boring stuff, isn't it? Who cares about bonding except the state agency whose new building finally rose on the priority list to where it gets some money, or the contractors who want the job or the bonding attorneys who get a fee for organizing the sale?
But bonding is important to legislators, especially to the lawmaker who can tell his constituents that he brought home the bacon and delivered a new building to his district, whether he had much to do with it or not.
Since bonding is state borrowing, lawmakers can add just about anything within reason to the bonding list without having to raise taxes or cut state programs. Usually, by the time the bonds are sold and repayments begin, it's the next fiscal year and state budgeters just fold the interest and principal payments into the ongoing budget recommendation.
So, bonding bills have a tendency to grow during the regular 45-day session as this senator or that representative succeeds in tacking on another project.
That's what happened this past session.
Senators added projects or pool money to the building, water and road bonding list. What started out as $70-million-to-$80-million bond grew to over $100 million by the time it got to the House.
Bangerter didn't like it.
House conservatives liked it even less.
They "gutted" the bill, according to some senators, and sent back a bill just before midnight on the last day that was far less than senators wanted. Some senators said to accept it. But, led by Sen. Dix McMullin, R-South Jordan, most decided no bonding bill would be passed.
If House Republicans and Bangerter had accepted a $100 million bonding package, there could have been some egg on their faces.
Remember, if you will, back to 1988. The governor's race.
Democrat Ted Wilson, up by 38 points in the polls early in the race, got a bit over-extended. An economic downturn was plaguing Utah, especially difficult in the construction business.
Wilson suggested "jump starting" the state's economy by adopting a $150 million bond program. The state had record revenue surpluses, so the money was there, and the economy needed some help, Wilson said.
Bangerter was extremely critical of Wilson's idea, pounding him on it time and again in debates and other appearances. Bangerter, a homebuilder by profession, prides himself on reducing the state's bonded indebtedness, adopting $50-million-to-$60-million bonding plans each year and paying off the bonds within five or six years.
A conservative approach to borrowing, Bangerter said.
Feeling the political tides turn, Wilson started talking about a $100 million to $150 million bond. Pretty soon he was talking about just a $100 million bond.
After losing to Bangerter by 2 percentage points, Wilson said he thought the bonding issue hurt him politically, that people didn't understand the concept and how it works in reality. Certainly, painting Wilson as a big-spending, tax-raising former mayor of Salt Lake City was part of Bangerter's campaign plan and tagging him as a big borrower fit well.
So, besides being bad policy to bond for $100 million - as Bangerter says - it could have been politically embarrassing for Bangerter to sign a $100 million bond just two years after taking his opponent apart for suggesting one.
Not to worry.
Bangerter, with his House colleagues in tow, put the kibosh on the Senate's $100 million bond. Now, it appears House and Senate Republicans will support an $85 million bond for 1992. Even though that's just $15 million short of the dreaded $100 million mark, $85 million is appropriate, says Bangerter's chief of staff Bud Scruggs, because the governor has held bonding down the last several years and the interest and principal payments can be made next year without harming state programs.