It was a stare-down of Old West proportions.
The House wanted to borrow $52 million for new buildings. The Senate wanted the same buildings, but they wanted to borrow only $25 million, spend $8 million from the rainy day fund and then spend $19 million cash - cash the governor wanted for a tax reduction.Finally, the Senate backed down. With just two minutes left in the 1989 Legislature, the Senate buckled under and passed the $52 million bond to build or remodel buildings, construct roads and clean up uranium tailings.
Over in the House, representatives were smiling like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. "Sure we wanted the bond. The governor wanted the bond," said Rep. Haze Hunter, R-Cedar City.
"But there was nothing on that bill that couldn't have waited another year," added House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy. "And we were willing to do that if necessary."
But that wasn't necessary. As it turned out, senators wanted the new buildings just as much as representatives. After all, the capital projects would benefit senators' districts as well.
The list of capital projects was also everything Gov. Norm Bangerter wanted. Bangerter has frequently stated his preference for regular bonds of about $50 million a year. And this year was no exception.
But senators refused to go along with a bond, saying it didn't make any sense to give a $19 million tax cut and then turn around and borrow $52 million for buildings.
The $52 million will be divided up over several major projects - some critical, some not. Add in another $16 million cash for West Valley Highway, another $700,000 cash to finish a new animal research facility - dubbed the "cat house" - at the University of Utah, $1.1 million cash for a highway at 72nd South and $2 million in federal matching funds and the state will be spending almost $70 million on capital projects next year.
At the top of the state's priority list was $17.78 million to finish the first phase of the Gunnison prison, making it ready for 600 inmates to move into next year. Construction of the facility has already begun, and funding was needed to complete it.
Other not-so-high-priority items were a new museum at Hill Air Force Base (a pet-project of House Speaker Nolan Karras), buying a parking lot for the Department of Health and new rest rooms for four state parks.
"These are all things that need to be done, and we are doing them within the governor's plan," said Hunter.
The 1990 bond will raise the state's overall indebtedness to $346 million, on which the state will pay $10 million-to-$15 million interest per year.