Harry Houdini would be proud. David Copperfield envious.

The sleight of hand Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Mike Leavitt used Wednesday to come up with more than $5 million to finally balance the state's $6.4 billion 1998-99 budget was something to behold.Earlier this week, lawmakers approved most of the budget that pays for Utah's services, schools and operations. But they left about $3 million in projects that had to be funded.

"We're at the point in the session where we're sweeping the corners and tying up loose ends," Rep. Christine Fox-Finlinson, R-Lehi, told her colleagues at a noontime meeting.

And search for money they did.

They sampled from a financial pot here, nibbled from saucepan there. First, they contemplated a raise in hazardous-waste fees, then thought about plundering the account where the hazardous waste fees go.

They talked of raiding a Medicaid surplus account, then changed their minds and said they'd take $2 million from court fines earmarked for the new downtown courts building.

Finally, they simplified the ingredients in the stew: Lawmakers decided to take $5 million from an "underground storage tank" fund, which is where budget leaders in the Legislature broke out the white gloves and magic wands.

Because the underground storage tank fund comes from gasoline tax money - designated solely for transportation projects - lawmakers had to take the storage money, put it into the Centennial Highway Fund and then take $5 million in general fund cash for the needed projects.

The cash allowed lawmakers to pay for a number of "must fund" projects, including:

- A new Agriculture Department program to buy up land for conservation.

- A study of the state's motor pool.

- Improvements for Capitol Hill projects.

- Cost-of-living increases for nursing-home care providers.

The total budget is 2.6 percent bigger than last year.

"We got the budget done early this year so it got some good deliberation," said Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, House budget chair-man. "We had three goals: to public education, crime and public safety and transportation. We kept our commitment to these areas."

Although lawmakers' budget was $58 million off the budget proposed by Leavitt, Lynne Koga, director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, said she was pleased by the session's end.

"I think they hit the most critical areas."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

State budget

Fiscal 1998-1999 (Fiscal 1999 Begins July 1, 1998)

Department: Legislature

Fiscal 1998: $11,331,400

Fiscal 1999: $12,437,700

% Change: 9.67

Department: Courts/Corrections/Public Safety/elected officials

Fiscal 1998: $413,183,900

Fiscal 1999: $441,157,300

% Change: 6.77

Department: Administrative Services

Fiscal 1998: $28,539,300

Fiscal 1999: $28,973,600

% Change: 1.52

Department: Debt service

Fiscal 1998: $11,897,100

Fiscal 1999: $134,685,400

% Change: 19.30

Department: Capital facilities

Fiscal 1998: $139,599,200

Fiscal 1999: $124,360,500

% Change: -10.92

Department: Human Services

Fiscal 1998: $362,258,500

Fiscal 1999: $379,258,300

% Change: 4.69

Department: Health

Fiscal 1998: $840,892,600

Fiscal 1999: $823,810,200

% Change: -2.03

Department: Public education

Fiscal 1998: $1,943,857,286

Fiscal 1999: $2,037,693,723

% Change: 4.83

Department: Higher education

Fiscal 1998: $644,984,600

Fiscal 1999: $678,002,000

% Change: 5.12

Department: Natural Resources

Fiscal 1998: $152,761,500

Fiscal 1999: $148,158,900

% Change: -3.01

Department: Commerce and Revenue

Fiscal 1998: $341,756,500

Fiscal 1999: $359,732,600

% Change: 5.26

Department: Econ. Devel./Human Res.

Fiscal 1998: $97,045,400

Fiscal 1999: $100,620,900

% Change: 3.68

Department: Trans./Environ. Quality/National Guard

Fiscal 1998: $1,126,205,000

Fiscal 1999: $1,111,967,100

% Change: -1.26

Department: Circuit breaker

Fiscal 1998: $4,500,000

Fiscal 1999: $4,500,000

% Change: 0

TOTAL

Fiscal 1998: $6,219,812,286

Fiscal 1999: *$6,385,358,223

% Change: 2.66

*Includes $288 million bond

SOURCE: Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Office

State tax dollars

General and uniform school funds - 1999

Where it comes from:

Income tax 46.3%

Sales tax 40.8%

Corporate income tax 5.9%

Beer, liquor, tobacco 2.7%

Insurance premium tax 1.4%

Severance tax .73%

Inheritance tax .3%

Gross receipt tax .22%

Other 1.5%

Where it goes:

Public education 47.0%

Higher education 15.6%

Capital/debt 8.3%

Corrections 6.5%

Human services 5.7%

Health 5.5%

Courts 2.5%

Other 8.9%

State budgets

All funds, including federal

Year Budget

1993 $3,872,623,900

1994 4,246,594,400

1995 4,551,040,600

1996 4,894,486,000

1997 5,334,783,200

1998 5,545,400,500

1999 6,139,684,323