Republican state lawmakers have devised a tax-limitation bill they hope will satisfy Gov. Norm Bangerter's campaign promise to limit government growth and property taxes.
But so far Bangerter is not completely satisfied. He wants the limits to be set a little higher.And, ironically, Democratic leaders say they are likely to support the plan but for reasons Republicans will not like.
"It doesn't do anything," House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said about HB270, sponsored by Reps. Glen Brown, R-Coalville, Franklin Knowlton, R-Layton, and Evan Olsen, R-Cache. "We don't really need this, but if it satisfies the people who believe in property tax limitation, that's great."
Dmitrich does not believe the state should limit property taxes, but he is willing to support a bill he sees as little more than symbolic.
Sponsors of the bill and members of the governor's staff believe the bill puts re sponsible limits on government growth.
The bill would declare the state's 1987-88 fiscal budget the ideal size and require all future budgets to grow no larger than that, based on a formula that considers the inflation rate and the state's population.
A similar law has been on the books since 1979, but the Legislature never has obeyed it. That law requires the budget to be set according to how the legislative fiscal analyst thinks the economy will do. The proposed new law would set the budget on facts, not on projections that can be manipulated, said Dale Hatch, the governor's budget director.
"This will be cleaner, easier and more efficient," Hatch said.
The proposed law would affect only the state's property tax rates. The old law affected rates set by local governments.
Co-sponsor Brown agreed the bill is different, but he hesitated Friday when asked whether his fellow lawmakers will follow the new rules any better than the old.
"It's a conscious effort on the part of the Legislature to put a responsible mechanism in place to limit government," he said finally. "In order to change it, it is going to take a conscious act."
The law would allow the governor to declare an emergency and exceed the limit, so long as two-thirds of the Legislature agreed. The public also could change the limit by a statewide vote.
While the bill limits property tax rates, the Legislature could increase the rates at any time with a two-thirds vote.
Bangerter wants a few changes in the bill. He wants the state's ideal budget to be the one passed in 1985 - the first year he was in office. That budget is slightly larger than the one passed in 1987. The state still could increase its budget by about $20 million under that plan.
"I'd like to be judged by how I've done since I've been in office," he said. "Plus, we'd have a little more room to work with."
Meanwhile, Bangerter remains firmly behind his proposal for a $19 million tax cut. He promises to come forward with a recommendation on which tax to cut, but not until he's ready.
As for people who say a $19 million tax cut would be paltry, Bangerter said: "If it was a $19 million increase some people would be calling it monstrous."