Not sharing the state's $110 million surplus with voters will increase their support for tax limitation, Gov. Norm Bangerter told a group of teachers studying the political process.
Bangerter was asked during his hourlong session with teachers participating in an annual seminar whether the state could afford his plan to return $80 million of the surplus to taxpayers."The question is, can we afford not to? There is a mood out there," the governor answered. "If we show how fast we can spend it, I think that'll fuel the initiatives."
Officials are trying to determine if two initiative petitions that would lower taxes and one that would give tax breaks to parents of children in private schools qualify to go before voters in November.
They should know whether enough signatures were gathered on the petitions before a special session of the Legislature meets later this summer to consider Bangerter's plan to distribute the state surplus.
Besides the refund to taxpayers, the plan also calls for public schools and universities to receive $10 million and the remaining $20 million to be set aside for unforeseen emergencies.
The governor was also asked whether he would veto any attempt by lawmakers to use the surplus for teacher raises. He said he'd deal with that issue only if he has to.
Bangerter said that while a raise is not undeserved by teachers, "it would be very adverse in the overall scheme of things." He had said earlier that teachers earnings are proportional to other workers in the state.
The governor also said he would not raise taxes for at least two years if re-elected. After that, he suggested that tax increases may be needed to pay for such long-term projects as meeting the water and transportation needs of the Wasatch Front.
The teachers were gathered at the Capitol as part of a two-week seminar for junior and senior high school teachers from Utah, Idaho and Wyoming sponsored by the Taft Institute for Two-Party Government, a private organization based in New York, and funded by the Hinckley Institute of Politics.