The 1989 Legislature will be remembered - if it is remembered at all - as 45 days where little was asked and only a bit more given.
In the end, there was no $19 million tax cut or a property tax freeze, both championed by Gov. Norm Bangerter. But a "smooth" session, as Senate President Arnold Christensen put it, isn't necessarily bad.After the 1987 Legislature's record tax increase - spawning the tax-protest movement - and the partisanship of the pre-election 1988 session, the civility and mundane nature of this Legislature seemed a welcome change for lawmakers, bureaucrats and lobbyists alike.
Lawmakers adjourned at midnight Wednesday after adopting a 1989-90 budget of $2.93 billion, 2 percent above this year's spending.
Basically, the 104 lawmakers did the state's business with little fanfare and even less emotion. Controversial issues were put off for further study or compromised into pulp, offensive to no one.
What started as one of the most boring sessions in years ended with a few sparks. But just a few.
It was such a quiet final night that Bangerter sneaked away to attend the Jazz-Lakers game, returning at adjournment to give a backhanded compliment to lawmakers concerning their failure to adopt his $19 million tax cut: "You ended (the session) like the Jazz started," i.e., badly.
It wasn't until after 11 p.m. that the tax issue was settled. Senators decided not to spend the $19 million to lower the state's bonding - a position they'd previously taken. That freed up the money for a tax cut, as Bangerter and House Republicans and Democrats wanted.
But senators wouldn't budge any further. They'd given in on the bonding plan, many of them believed, and they weren't going to give in again.
Conservative GOP senators wanted to restore more of the deduction for federal taxes paid on state returns. That was also Bangerter's first choice of a tax cut. But House Republicans didn't like that approach. And House Democrats hated it. There was a stalemate that senators didn't even try to solve.
The House offered two compromises. "We sent over a (quarter-cent) sales tax cut," said House Speaker Nolan Karras, R-Roy. "They didn't like that. We sent over an income tax rate reduction. They didn't like that." But senators didn't even bother to take votes on those measures.
"I thought the Senate would be more honest with the House, but we didn't see it," said House Majority Whip David Adams, R-Monticello.
So there was no tax cut. The $19 million - which is only an estimate because the budget year doesn't start until July 1 - was left unexpended. It will sit in state accounts drawing interest.
"I thought about calling a special session right now," Bangerter joked with senators, "and have you consider a tax reduction. But the money wasn't spent. It's still available. We can meet later (in a special session) or consider it next year (in the general session). I believe a tax cut is warranted."
Bangerter said in a post-midnight news conference that he really doesn't want to call a special session just for the tax issue. In recent years, there always seems to be a special session for one reason or another, so it may yet be heard, he said.
Democrats don't like the special session idea, preferring to save the money for education. "We played pretty good defense. We prevented the federal deductibility from going through," said House Minority Whip Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake. "I'm worried about a special session, because all the attention would be on tax relief."
Ultimately, this session can't be called a real victory for the governor, who in years past has gotten almost everything he asked of his Republican colleagues.
In last year's campaign, Bangerter announced a six-point tax plan and promised to get it through the Legislature. Leading the plan was a promise to freeze property taxes and cut state taxes where possible.
He failed on both accounts, even though his own party holds large majorities in both houses.
"We didn't cut taxes like he wanted," said one leading GOP senator. "You can bet he's not going to let us or the public forget we didn't give tax relief like he wanted."
Lawmakers did give Bangerter several points in his six-point tax plan - more money for property tax relief for the poor and elderly and a state spending limitation law. Unfortunately, limitation law immediately caused problems.
Lawmakers had to leave $3 million in 1988-89 - the current fiscal year - unspent because if they'd allocated the money for projects they wanted, they'd have exceeded the cap on the new spending-limitation law. That money will now drop into the state's "rainy day" reserve fund.
Warned Sen. Lyle Hillyard, Senate budget chairman, "Next year we will probably butt up against that spending cap again when we consider supplemental (midyear) adjustments (to the budget adopted Wednesday)."
While the governor may not be totally satisfied with what legislators did, most government officials are happy. There's never enough money for education, social services or health, but lawmakers adopted most of what the governor wanted - in some cases more.
Citizens also have little to complain about. Lawmakers didn't raise any taxes, nor did they tamper much with fees. It won't cost you any more to register your car or buy a fishing or hunting license. The only fee increase came in hazardous-waste disposal, so if your business doesn't include such wastes, the Legislature didn't hurt you.
One reason the session was so quiet is that more than $100 million in natural revenue growth next year will allow adequate spending increases in major state programs.
Public schools got enough new money - more than half of all new funds available - to fully fund the growth in new students. Colleges and universities also got enough money for student growth, but tuition will still go up by 9 percent at the four-year schools and 7 percent at the others.
Lawmakers also helped Salt Lake City's bid for the Winter Olympics, promising $4 million a year for a number of years toward construction of Game venues. And they agreed to pay $500,000 a year to subsidize property taxes lost to a new Jazz arena.