Gov. Norm Bangerter jabbed at reporters Thursday who he says will interpret his decision on a possible tax cut or anything else as being part and parcel of election-year politics.
"There are those who will say everything I do in an election year is politically motivated," the governor said during his monthly news conference at KUED Channel 7. "But you (the reporters) are going to have to make that call. I'm just going to do what Norm Bangerter has always done, which is to look at it in terms of fairness."The governor has said he is considering calling a mid-summer special session of the Legislature to consider some sort of tax cut in light of a likely $25 million surplus in income tax revenues. The governor maintained, as he has on previous occasions, that it is too early to tell whether the tax cut will be needed because this year's tax returns have not yet been processed. He said the tax return information should be available by May 15.
Bangerter spoke amiably with reporters on most topics, but he was obviously irritated at the suggestion that he would be making policy decisions based on political considerations.
The governor said that from the time he first proposed last year's massive tax increase, he has always maintained that any surplus should be returned to taxpayers. He said the fact that it's an election year will not affect that resolve one way or another.
On other topics, the governor said he has
not decided whether to dredge the intake channel leading to the pumps on the Great Salt Lake's west end. Dry weather coupled with the effects of the pumps have lowered the lake level to 4,209.5 feet above sea level. Without dredging the intake channel, the level could only be lowered another foot or so, and Bangerter said that's still too high.
But he said the cost of dredging between $500,000 and $1.5 million must be balanced against the benefits before a decision is reached. He said he and his staff have been in contact with lakeside businesses that would benefit from a lower lake to see if they would share in the expense.
"We have the money to do it, but we have to question whether the state should undertake to do it," Bangerter said.
Of the alleged misuse of millions of dollars in public funds at Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center, Bangerter once again reprimanded those administrators who auditors say pocketed much of that money.
"It's impossible to completely eliminate dishonesty in state government," Bangerter said. "But people have to realize (the Timp situation) is the exception rather than the rule."
Bangerter laid much of the blame at the feet of an independent auditing firm that failed to detect the alleged abuses, which were made public following an audit by the legislative auditor general. Bangerter said there were plenty of signals that should have tipped off the independent auditor along the way.
"They just didn't do their job," Bangerter said.