By failing to act on Gov. Norm Bangerter's thrift-settlement plan this week, the Legislature is taking a risk that the whole emotional package may end up in the courts after all - at possibly greater cost to everyone.
At the same time, the GOP-dominated Legislature embarrassed a Republican governor who had worked hard to wrap up the thrift crisis and get an agreement by depositors in the $60 million deal.It's not that lawmakers turned the settlement down. They simply couldn't bring themselves to act - possibly because the issue is a controversial one and this is too close to election day. In any event, the settlement package never came to any kind of vote, not even in closed Republican caucuses.
The proposed settlement included issuing a $31.7 million general obligation bond, taking $7 million that would deplete the state Risk Management Fund, and appropriating $2 million from the general fund.
The bond supposedly would be eventually paid off by liquidating assets of the five failed thrifts.
Legislators apparently felt uncomfortable with several things, including the fact that $10 million might go to attorneys representing the depositors, the using of tax funds in the settlement, value of the thrifts, and other points. They didn't like to be placed in the position of simply writing out a check.
While their concerns are not frivolous, it is too late to go back and make other arrangements. The failure to act can only anger depositors who thought they had a deal. And the Legislature leaves itself in an awkward position.
Bangerter has already declared he won't try to renegotiate the settlement. He's been through that twice. Lawmakers may have to form their own committee to talk to depositors, but that's unlikely to help because depositors probably won't be any more willing than the governor to renegotiate.
That leaves two possibilities.
Legislators can refuse to act, meaning the whole mess will go to court, resulting in long delays and more expense - with no guarantees that either side will be better off, and a real possibility their either side might be much worse off.
Or lawmakers can come dragging back into session at some later date and do what the governor had asked them to do in the first place. It would have been better all around if they had done it this time.