During his monthly news conference Thursday, Gov. Norm Bangerter again defended his decision to call a special session of the Legislature to consider refunding a state income tax surplus that could reach $85 million.
He dismissed critics who have labeled his proposal to return the surplus through a special session as political, and who've suggested instead that taxpayers should vote on how to use the money."If you look at the legality of it, there's no clean way to do that," Bangerter said of allowing the decision to be made at the polls.
The governor said that although the actual amount of the surplus won't be available until about June 15, he believes the income tax surplus could be at least $75 million and possibility as much as $10 million higher.
The total surplus could reach as much as $120 million, Bangerter said, depending upon how much more sales tax is collected than was budgeted.
He also said during questioning by reporters from throughout the state in the KUED Channel 7 studio that other issues may be brought up at the special session.
The governor believes state taxpayers should get back their deduction for federal income taxes paid, but he is waiting for "final figures" before proposing that the issue be discussed at the special session.
Besides returning part of the state surplus to taxpayers in the form of a tax credit or rebate, Bangerter said lawmakers will also discuss restoring a $3 million shortfall in public education funds when they meet in June or July.
The so-called weighted pupil unit, the formula used to distribute funds to public schools, was set at $1,200 but has fallen about $6 short per unit, for a total shortfall of about $3 million, the governor said.
Bangerter said he would have to hear a good argument in favor of adding the state's liquor laws to the list of topics that will come up at the special session.
The governor said legislation regarding the deadly disease AIDS is too controversial to be discussed at the special session. He said special sessions should not be used to discuss important issues over which there is major disagreement.
"You can't have too many issues that take too much debate at a special session," Bangerter said.
He was also asked whether he would become more vocal in opposing the tax initiatives if the tax-cutting measures qualify for the November ballot. The governor said it should be very clear that he does not favor the tax initiatives, drafted in response to a tax hike he supported two years ago.
But questioned whether he would be able to both run his own campaign for re-election and fight the tax initiatives, Bangerter answered that he was not saying that he was fighting the measures.
Instead of mounting "scare campaigns" against rolling back recent tax increases, the governor said he has asked his administration officials to honestly tell voters what services would be lost if the measures are approved.