Gov. Norm Bangerter and Ted Wilson traded jabs at each other this week, but from far away.
Bangerter, in addressing a GOP issues group Thursday, said Wilson, a former Salt Lake mayor and this year's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is a tax-raiser and budget-buster.Wilson, in speaking earlier in the week to a contractor's group, said he's proud of his record in City Hall and that the city had a vibrant, exciting life and economy, which the state could enjoy if he were governor.
Bangerter never mentioned independent candidate Merrill Cook by name in speaking to the Republican group. But his reference to Cook's campaign was clear when he said: "You either vote for me or you vote for Ted Wilson, because either I or he will be governor. No one else." A vote for Cook, Bangerter was saying, is a vote for Wilson, since only Bangerter has a chance of defeating the Democrat. "Republicans should vote for a Republican candidate," Bangerter said.
The governor said that in Wilson's 10 years in City Hall, the city's general fund budget grew by 2 percent a year, after being adjusted for inflation.
But in his 3 1/2 years as governor, the state's budget has declined an average of 1.8 percent a year.
"I have a good record," Bangerter said. "A conservative record that, true, has been misunderstood a bit." Bangerter said some believe he is a spender.
"Not true." State spending has gone down. The large tax increases proposed by the governor and adopted by the Legislature did not even keep pace with the traditional growth in state government, he said.
Wilson told the contractors that the first thing he would do as governor-elect after the Nov. 8 election is to start working on a $150-million bonding program. Such a program would give a shot in the arm to Utah's lagging economy, especially the construction industry.
Bangerter said that is a terrible idea. He has, in the past, favored $30 million to $40 million in bonding each year. But during this past legislative session, Bangerter didn't propose any bonding because of a small state surplus that was spent on buildings. "We can't borrow to build the economy," Bangerter said.
Wilson told the contractors that such a bonding plan is rational and responsible. "We can restructure our debt payments, going from 5 to 7 years, as is now the case, to 15 years, get the construction economy flying again and not raise taxes at all," Wilson said.
Wilson also said he favors a vote on legalizing a state lottery. As governor, Wilson would have no official say in such a vote. The Utah Constitution must be changed to allow a lottery, and that is done by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and majority approval by voters. "The people should be allowed to decide that issue."
Bangerter opposes putting a lottery vote on the ballot.