The last day of the Legislature. And, not surprisingly, the two main issues of the session - whether Utahns will see a property tax freeze and/or a tax cut - await resolution.
In short, it's a typical final day.Almost every year, the last day yields the most important decisions and the most bills passed. When midnight chimes Wednesday, leaders in the House and Senate, along with Gov. Norm Bangerter, expect a satisfactory conclusion.
Not that there won't be a lot of political bloodletting along the way. Still undecided by midday Wednesday was whether to pass a $19 million tax cut and, if so, whether that's a quarter-cent sales reduction, a reduction in state income tax rates or an increase in the deduction for federal taxes paid on state returns. All would equal about $19 million.
Also undecided was whether Bangerter will get some kind of property tax freeze. That bill was introduced in the Senate Wednesday morning and was to be debated later in the day.
As usual, the final fight won't be a partisan affair between Republicans and Democrats as much as a "family" argument - Senate Republicans against House Republicans. Republicans hold hefty majorities in both houses.
House Republicans are angry at their Senate counterparts for threatening to "hold hostage" a $52 million bonding package for new buildings to force acquiescence in tax-cutting matters.
The House has already passed a bill to cut sales taxes by $19 million, but the Senate is split over spending that $19 million on "buying down" the borrowing for new buildings or using the $19 million for income tax relief.
Just before noon Wednesday, senators for the second time voted down a bill that would restore part of the federal deduction on state returns - Bangerter's tax relief package. However, it could always surface again before midnight.
"Those House boys really want their bonding bill," smiled Senate President Arnold Christensen, R-Sandy, who favors an income tax cut. "I have (the bonding bill) right here," he said tapping his finger on his desk. "Maybe they'll come around to our way of thinking (on a tax cut)."
Hold a bill hostage? "I never use that word," Christensen replied. But a final day doesn't come and go without some bill being held in one house or the other until a compromise is struck.
The governor and his aides were working hard Wednesday, trying to persuade GOP House and Senate members to uphold the governor's six-point tax promise made before November's election.
When Bangerter promised voters he would freeze property taxes and reduce other state taxes where possible, he had at his side the GOP leadership of the House and Senate. Now he's reminding them of their promises made that day, even though some may wish what was said then is better now forgotten.
Bangerter kept quiet for much of the session about which tax should be reduced by $19 million. Monday, he said the deduction for federal taxes paid on state returns should be increased from one-third to one-half. The Senate has passed, then defeated, that proposal already. House Republicans don't much like that alternative, and Democrats hate it intensely.
Just this week, a group of Republican and Democratic senators voted instead to spend the $19 million on reducing borrowing for state buildings. But Bangerter opposes that and it is unlikely that Republican leaders in the House and Senate will allow wayward Republicans and Democrats to decide the most important tax matter of this session.
Tuesday, the governor was calling one wayward Republican senator after another down into his office for a little heart-to-heart chat, kind of a "why-don't-you-help-me-with-my-tax-cut-or-I'll-rip-your-face-off" chat.
Bangerter promised a tax decrease before the session, and he wants it.
"Representatives are dug in deep in favor of tax reduction and they prefer the sales tax," said House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy. "And every (caucus) vote we take they are digging in deeper."
Republican senators' fall-back position to an increase in the federal deduction is a rate reduction on the income tax. House leaders - both Republicans and Democrats - say their fall-back to their sales tax cut is also an income tax rate reduction. Sounds like a compromise could be reached.
All House Democrats are categorically opposed to restoring the deductibility of federal income taxes. "We'd all jump from the top of the Capitol Building before we'd support that," said House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich.