SALT LAKE CITY — After two consecutive legislative sessions when Utah lawmakers started their work by cutting state agencies' base budgets to the bone, Senate leaders are looking into rumblings that some departments ended up with surplus funds.

Senate President Michael Waddoups said Tuesday that two or three departments of state government may have even given raises or bonuses to some employees, "things we weren't aware of."

"The Senate will dig into that through our appropriation process," Waddoups said during Senate leaders' daily briefing with reporters.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, Executive Appropriations Committee co-chairman, was more circumspect.

"Most of it is word of mouth. We're checking it out to see if it's really true," said Hillyard, R-Logan.

Waddoups said legislative leaders may need to do some further "tightening of the belt" if it is determined that some departments of state government have surpluses or have given raises or bonuses to employees without consulting legislative leaders.

Hillyard said if three employees in a department are now doing the work that used to be performed by five, there may be some justification for pay increases or bonuses. Some departments may need incentives to retain key employees.

"If there's money not being reported being used for that purpose, the problem you create is morale for the rest of state employees because they're working really hard and there's no money available for them," Hillyard aid.

Some agencies that complained their budgets were so decimated that they were "not sure they were going to able to do their work now aren't even asking for money because they had surpluses," Waddoups said.

When asked to identify the agencies, Waddoups said, "Two that come to mind are the judiciary and higher education. It's been suggested perhaps public education. Somebody mentioned natural resources."

Budget committee chairmen for those departments weren't immediately available for comment Tuesday.

All budgets will be carefully scrutinized, Waddoups said. "I'm just telling you we're looking close if there are more efficiencies that perhaps we were unaware of and we ought to be looking at."

Email: [email protected]