Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen will be leaving state government, but the state's corrections director, personnel director and liquor direc-inl2
tor will be staying, Gov. Norm Bangerter said Wednesday during a press conference that touched on a number of issues, including his campaign promise to freeze property taxes.In his first monthly KUED press conference since winning a second four-year term, Bangerter said that he doubts he will have a bill ready for the 1989 Legislature to freeze property taxes at current levels - a promise he made in the last month of his hotly contested re-election bid.
But the governor said if a consensus can't be worked out on the property tax freeze during the 45-day session which begins Jan. 9, "I am perfectly willing to call a special session next year to deal with what I think is a very important public policy decision."
Bangerter said that while the tax freeze issue can't wait until the 1990 general session, he doesn't believe he can get a bill on the property tax freeze ready before lawmakers meet.
"It is a very complex matter. The freeze must be fair. We have to protect the counties and other entities. We have to protect their bond ratings," he said.
Bangerter also said that he may call for a public vote on large water development projects if he feels the cost is so much that taxpayers could revolt again.
In speaking of his appointments in his new administration, Bangerter said Nielsen is resigning to go into private law practice. Sources close to the governor say that Nielsen was a top choice to become his new chief of staff. They add that Nielsen told the governor he was leaving before Bangerter actually offered the job to him.
Nielsen is a former chief prosecutor for the Salt Lake County attorney's office who became public safety commissioner when Bangerter won the governorship in 1984.
Nielsen is best known to the public as the state's spokesman during the Swapp-Singer standoff in Marion, Summit County, in January.
He seriously considered running against Attorney General David Wilkinson for the Republican Party's attorney general nomination this year but decided against challenging the incumbent. Wilkinson was defeated by Democrat Paul Van Dam in the general election.
The governor said he is considering several people for the chief of staff slot and that he will make his decision known within the next several weeks. Current chief of staff Reed Searle has resigned to go back as a private lobbyist. Bangerter said that corrections director Gary W. DeLand, liquor director Ken Wynn, and personnel director Earl Banner have been asked to stay on and have agreed to do so.
The governor said that he is not philosophically opposed to eliminating the sales tax on food, the new battle cry of tax protesters who saw their three tax-cutting initiatives voted down by citizens earlier this month. But, Bangerter doesn't want the tax protesters to start another initiative drive to reach that goal.
"That would be premature," he said. "They should attack the problem within the government structure. We invite them in. Let them be specific about what services they would want us to cut if we are to take $100 million out of the sales tax. Let's see their details. Norm Bangerter is not opposed to reducing any taxes. But we have to look at our responsibility to those we serve, educate the children and provide for the poor and elderly."
In the waning days of the election, Bangerter proposed a six-point tax plan the leading element of which is a freeze on property taxes. The state doesn't directly benefit from a property tax, but the Legislature and governor do set a property tax rate for the Uniform School Fund which supports public education. Bangerter was roundly criticized by local governments, which depend heavily on the property tax, and local school officials for the proposal.