GOP legislative leaders are having second thoughts about a tax decrease later this year, but they've run up against a stone wall - Gov. Norm Bangerter.
Bangerter - heavily criticized for his request of a large tax increase in 1987 - has suggested a $19-million tax decrease in his 1989-90 budget, which takes effect in the fiscal year beginning July 1.That size of tax cut roughly equates to a $25-$30 tax reduction per family.
The governor says the state took more money from taxpayers in 1988 when it was needed. And so, he argues, lawmakers should return some taxes in fiscal 1990 because Utah's economy is turning around and more than $80 million in additional tax revenue will occur.
But Republican Senate and House leaders worry the $19 million isn't there.
Bangerter took $12 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund to balance his 1989-90 budget.
He also didn't include health insurance premium increases in public education's budget.
The governor has good reasons for taking those actions, but lawmakers complain that leaves his budget more than $17 million short.
Also, some legislative leaders want to pay cash for needed state buildings and highways this next year, not bond for $50 million as Bangerter suggests.
GOP leaders met with Bangerter this week to talk over the differences. But little progress was made.
The governor stands by his budget. He wants the $19 million tax cut and says the money is there, especially if lawmakers use their fiscal analyst's revenue projections for 1989-90 which are more optimistic than his own.
He also stands by his bonding proposals.
And Bangerter wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass an yet-unwritten bill that will freeze property taxes.
While they aren't deadlocked, and remain friends, it's clear that Republican legislative leaders and their Republican governor are facing off over the budget.
Who will blink first isn't known.
"I've had more productive compromise meetings with (former Democratic Gov.) Scott Matheson," said one GOP leader.
The 45-day session reaches its midpoint next Monday.
There's much yet to be accomplished. Republican House and Senate caucuses still haven't taken a position on Bangerter's $19 million tax cut, on bonding or any other significant budget item.
With Bangerter hanging tough, there may yet be some fireworks in the final days. But, as is often the case in intra-party disputes, the battles will take place behind the scenes.
To the casual observer, the GOP-run Legislature and Republican governor will be getting along just fine.