The Legislature's failure to resolve the thrift depositors' suit against the state in its special session Friday sparked some sharp verbal sparring between gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson and Gov. Norm Bangerter Saturday morning.
Wilson threw the first punch with a press conference at the Hilton Hotel. Saying it was his job to show where Bangerter's leadership is deficient, Wilson harshly criticized the governor for calling the Legislature into special session without having enough votes to get his thrift package passed.Bangerter's thrift package failed, he said, because Bangerter couldn't round up enough Republican votes.
"Why can't a governor with a strong majority in both houses control his own people?" Wilson asked. "He has thrown this thing into chaos."
Bangerter held a press conference 45 minutes later outside the Governor's Mansion to fire salvos of his own. He said Wilson should be ashamed of himself for using the thrift situation to seek political gain.
The thrift problem has been a challenge for the state since Murray First Thrift closed six years ago, he said. Former Gov. Scott Matheson worked hard to solve it without criticism from the Republicans. Bangerter said he has also worked hard to resolve it without criticism from the Democrats - until now.
"Ted Wilson has put his political interests above those of the state, taxpayers and depositors."
Wilson said Scott Matheson would never have called a special session without having the necessary votes. A rule that should never be broken is don't call a special session without the votes to get a proposal passed, Wilson said.
"I remember coming into two or three special sessions where the ducks never got in line," Bangerter said of his legislative years under a Democratic governor.
Wilson criticized Bangerter for not drafting a settlement that would appease the other defendants in the depositors' lawsuits. Lobbyists for the defendants - trustees of Industrial Loan Guaranty Corp, thrift owners, accountants and attorneys - turned out in force Friday, roaming the Capitol halls protesting the settlement.
When reporters asked Wilson how he would have changed the settlement to appease third-party defendants, Wilson didn't offer an alternative. He said he supported Bangerter's solution, but wished he had gotten the votes to pass it before calling the special session.
Wilson said he even called several Democratic lawmakers to ask them to vote for the proposal. The package wasn't the problem, he said; it was Bangerter's lack of leadership.
Bangerter said he didn't believe in talking Republicans into voting for something they couldn't support.
"I'm proud of my Republicans. They aren't going to sign off even on something I tell them without checking it out."
Bangerter believes his thrift package will still pass. The Legislature has 30 days to resolve the problem.
Bangerter and Wilson also discussed the Utah Public Employees Association's endorsement of Wilson.
"I'm very proud of the UPEA endorsement," Wilson said. "I think Norm Bangerter failed state employees. He often accused them of being inefficient. His idea of efficiency was to overwork them and underpay them."
Wilson has told the UPEA he will give state employees raises if he is elected. "I want to give them raises," he said in his press conference. "But I've told them we've got to be realistic. I don't anticipate having a lot of money."
Bangerter said Wilson will have to raise taxes if he intends to keep every promise he has made to special-interest groups.