While not as controversial as past sessions, the recently concluded session of the Utah Legislature was anything but boring, legislators told Davis County mayors Wednesday.
Responding to an assessment by media and political observers that the last session was boring, the lawmakers said it was merely less controversial and more peaceful than previous ones."We're kind of a dull group now," Rep. Kim R. Burningham, R-Bountiful, told the Davis Council of Governments. "We have fewer volatile personalities than in the past. And in this session, we dealt with fewer controversial issues, fewer moral issues that generated controversy."
Burningham said money woes that taxed the lawmakers in past sessions also eased up, with the state's improving economy and apparent budget surplus.
Although the tax limitation initiatives failed in the November election, Burningham said their effect was still felt because legislators paid attention to the support and feelings behind them.
Sen. David H. Steele, R-West Point, told the county's mayors that the needs of Davis County are often different from, and occasionally at odds with, those of the rest of Utah.
The Utah League of Cities and Towns, the prime lobbying agent for cities in the state, is dominated by Salt Lake County representatives and issues and has to broaden its base to represent the concerns of other cities in the state, Steele warned.
Steele said he is wary of Gov. Norman Bangerter's move to raise money by bonding, saying he prefers to use the state's budget surplus to decrease long-term debt instead of going deeper into debt.
Veteran lawmaker Rep. Franklin Knowlton, R-Layton, said the session may not have been controversial, but, for him, it was disappointing. Utah residents were promised a tax break when the state's economy improved, Knowlton said, a promise the Legislature reneged on.
And, cities again were denied their share of the state sales tax the lawmakers appropriated several years ago for building projects, annually promising the share would eventually be restored.
Knowlton said his proposal to speed up the distribution of sales tax revenue collected by the state but owed to the cities also failed.
The state holds the money for as long as six months after collecting it, earning interest, while the money could be turned back monthly to the cities, Knowlton said.
"They're your funds, not our funds," he said.
The Layton legislator predicted Utah could run a budget surplus of up to $50 million by the end of the fiscal year, money that should have been turned back to residents as a tax break.
"We made a commitment to the people of the state when we raised taxes that when the economy improved, we'd reduce taxes," Knowlton said. "We didn't do it."