It's crunch time at the Legislature.
Republican caucuses are being closed. Democrats are complaining. The decisions on where to spend $3 billion are being made.
The updated 1989-90 revenue estimates have come in a bit higher than previously expected _ Gov. Norm Bangerter says $10 million higher, the Legislature says $5 million.
But it's not enough money to allow lawmakers to:
_Give a $19 million tax cut.
_Construct $50 million worth of state buildings and/or water projects without borrowing.
_Pay for numerous programs created by new laws.
_Give state employees and public educators more than a 3 percent pay raise.
Bangerter said Tuesday that the slightly higher revenue picture for next year means it will be easier to give the $19 million tax cut he's recommended. He still won't say where he wants that cut to come, however. "I'll have a recommendation before the session ends (a week from Wednesday)," he said.
But Republican senators, after a two-hour closed caucus, emerged to say they're back where they began three weeks ago _ "We don't have the votes for a tax cut, we're trying to decide if we have enough money ($19 million) for the cuts considering all the needs," said Senate President Arnold Christensen, R-Sandy. "If we go with a tax cut, our preference is still restoring the (federal income tax) deduction."
"I stand by my recommendation to cut taxes by $19 million," repeated Bangerter. "I won't back down from that," he said after being informed of the Senate GOP caucus's problems.
The recommendation from House Republicans on which tax to cut could change as well. Although the caucus was solidly behind cutting sales tax midway through the session, members raised some new doubts Tuesday.
After hearing another pitch for cutting the sales tax by .25 percent _ which would lower state revenue by $35 million annually _ at least 22 of the 47 GOP representatives decided to look at reducing the income tax instead.
The split between House Republicans could hurt the chances of either type of tax cut passing. House Democrats appear united in their opposition to a tax cut, so whatever tax the House Republicans decide to cut they'll need 38 votes in favor of it.
"If we want to meet all state needs, now is not the time to cut taxes," said House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price. "They have none of us. No Democrats will support a reduction in income tax."
Some Senate Republicans want to either spend the $19 million on state programs, a move many Democrats want, or use it to pay cash for needed state building projects rather than bond (a form of government borrowing) for them.
Bangerter opposes both alternatives, saying his $50-million bonding proposal is prudent and citizens deserve a small tax cut considering the state will have more than $100 million in natural revenue growth next year.
Referring to the $5 million difference between the Legislature's and his revenue estimates for next year, Bangerter said: "Five million isn't much (of a miss) in the $1.5 billion general fund."
But the projected money still matters to lawmakers. "We can't do all we want," Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, told Senate colleagues. "But we could get $5 million more by accepting the governor's revenue estimates instead of our own." Any bets on which revenue estimates will be used? Some senators were already nodding at the alternative.