An effort to remove the sales tax from food and increase the state's minimum wage is already losing steam as Democrats and the Utah State AFL-CIO continue to distance themselves from supporters of last year's failed tax initiatives.

State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi will announce as early as Friday the party's intentions on the minimum wage petition and a second petition that would remove the sales tax from food.Horiuchi, who has been criticized by some of the state's leading Democrats for joining with the Tax Limitation Coalition in support of the two petitions, is likely to propose letting delegates at the party's June convention decide.

Meanwhile, labor leaders from throughout the state have planned to meet at the end of the month. They'll decide how to proceed with their effort to boost the state's minimum wage to equal or surpass the federally mandated level.

The Tax Limitation Coalition, whose attempt last year to cut taxes by initiative were opposed by Democrats and labor as well as many other groups, has problems of its own.

Last weekend, the coalition's Weber County organization voted not to circulate the proposed minimum wage petition. As a result, the coalition has filed only the petition that would remove sales tax from food.

Coalition spokesman Merrill Cook said the drive to collect enough signatures on that petition to qualify it for a spot on the 1990 general election ballot is still scheduled for April 15 in Ogden.

No one has yet said the so-called "unholy alliance" formed between the conservative coalition and two of the state's most liberal organizations has dissolved.

But leaders from each of the groups in the alliance, mindful of the opposition forming within their own ranks, are talking now of what they can do on their own, rather than as a group.

"These things hurt. They're a blow, but by no means a death blow," Cook said. "Even if it weakens or falls apart, I don't think we will be in danger of not getting enough signatures or winning in 1990."

That's on the initiative to remove the sales tax from food. Cook said he will continue to push for support among coalition members for increasing the state's minimum wage, but is not certain he can convince them.

Mayne's concern is with the initiative to remove the sales tax from food. He and Horiuchi have said they want a guarantee that programs won't be cut to make up an estimated $100 million that would be lost in state revenues.

Both Mayne and Horiuchi are also insisting that the share of sales tax that would be lost by local governments be made up. Both concerns sound like tax increases to the conservatives in the coalition, and neither is popular.

That could lead to an alternative initiative, Mayne said, which would be identical to the coalition's proposal except it would also include those provisions.

The labor leader hopes the Utah State AFL-CIO Executive Board will vote at its late April meeting to join with Democrats in circulating an initiative to hike the state's minimum wage beyond $2.30.

If the Democrats aren't interested, Mayne said, the state's organized labor force will likely do it themselves - with or without the Tax Limitation Coalition.