Fifty years ago, Utah's governor told lawmakers he thought teachers should receive nothing for their retirement fund, despite a law to the contrary.
They had asked for $829,654.Times have changed.
A 50-year-old budget message from Gov. Henry H. Blood, found recently in the dusty shelves of a bookcase in the press room of the State Capitol, bespeaks a legislative session much more volatile and combative than the state's 1989 version.
But the speeches and opinions of politicians have changed little. Blood's advice and warnings at the start of the 1939 session have a familiar ring to modern audiences. He cautioned lawmakers against spending surpluses on ongoing programs, said it would be a mistake to allow liquor by the drink and that the state should avoid new or increased taxes.
However, later in the same speech, Blood recommended the state impose a property tax for the first time since 1935. In true political fashion, he said he was not contradicting himself.
"It should be noted that this is not a new tax but a restoration of a source of income that had been temporarily suspended," he said.
Blood's office estimated the state would collect $34.9 million during the next two years. The Legislature met only once every two years in those days, so the budget had to last until 1941.
By today's standards, the estimated revenues were equivalent to about $336.8 million, using the Gross National Product Implicit Price Deflator Index. That's still considerably less than the $1.7 billion the governor's office estimates will be collected through state taxes in 1989-90.
Blood's recommended general fund budget was $7.1 million, $68.4 million in today's terms. Gov. Norm Bangerter's recommended general and uniform school fund budget is $1.5 billion.
To be fair, the state had a population of only 543,000 residents in 1939, compared with 1.6 million today, and government has taken on a host of responsibilities today that were not deemed necessary before.
Some things, however, have not changed much. The governor's salary in 1939 was $6,000 per year. That would be $57,840 in 1988 terms. Bangerter actually earns $60,000 per year.
As for the teachers, Blood said they had reserves in their retirement fund. Besides, he didn't like the fact the money had to come from the general fund. He lost that fight, of course. Lawmakers eventually gave $400,000 to the retirement fund.
Utah teachers probably did not have an organized lobby in 1939.
Miriam Murphy, associate editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly, said Blood is remembered as one of Utah's most conservative Democratic governors. The legislative session in 1937 was considered by many to be the most liberal in state history, she said, lending understanding to why Blood seemed so stern in 1939.