Utah lawmakers meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in special session to decide how much of the state's estimated $110 million surplus to give back to taxpayers, whether the state should kick in some money for the depositors of the failed thrifts and loans, and a dozen other, minor items.
In this election-year atmosphere, politics and campaign rhetoric will play a part in the meeting."I see a two-day session," said House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy. "My preference is to give the Democrats as much time as they want to sock us, then we'll vote and go home."
However, Karras said that because several key lawmakers have personal commitments Thursday and cannot be present, senators and representatives will not meet that day. If they can't finish in two days, lawmakers will adjourn Wednesday, then reconvene perhaps as many as 20 days later to complete their work on the growing list of items placed on the special session agenda.
No one knows what will happen in the thrift matter. Bangerter has been trying this past week to achieve a settlement with the depositors, who have sued the state.
If he succeeds, he'll take the settlement package to the Legislature and ask it to vote the measure up or down without changing it. If he doesn't, GOP lawmakers may try to provide some guidance to him in what they think is an acceptable solution.
"There are 103 different ideas on the thrifts, and that's only because one legislator can't make the session so there are 103 of us instead of 104," said Karras.
House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich agreed, saying Democrats don't have a consensus on the thrift problem and may never have one.
So it will be the tax surplus that will be played more for politics than the thrifts, it appears.
Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate. But they don't hold two-thirds majority in the House, and it takes a two-thirds vote to stop debate in the lower body.
"We can hold them (epublicans) as long as we want on the tax-surplus matter. They don't have the votes to close debate," said Dmitrich, D-Price. But Democrats won't be unreasonable, he added.
"We will have specific amendments to the governor's tax-surplus plan. We'll run those, have our say. I imagine the Republicans will vote us down. But we're going to make the governor and the Republicans pay a bit beforehand," Dmitrich said.
Bangerter wants to return $80 million of the income tax surplus via cash rebate checks this summer. The rebates would be $10 or 12.5 percent of the 1987 income tax return, whichever is greater.
The Democrats don't want a special session on the surplus. They prefer waiting until next January's session and giving the money back via 1988 tax credits. But if they must handle the matter now, they want changes in Bangerter's plan.
"We don't want to give back $80 million. We only have estimates of the income tax revenue. We propose giving back $60 million and holding $20 million," Dmitrich said.
Second, the sales tax, which brought in an additional $15 million to $20 million this year, should be reduced by a quarter-cent. "We Democrats voted for the sales tax increase (n 1987) because we were promised a more progressive income tax. If you give back any of the federal deduction, you break that progressivity promise. We should lower the sales tax to keep faith," Dmitrich said. Sales tax isn't on the session agenda, and Bangerter likely won't put it on, since he doesn't want it cut.
To take care of the ongoing income tax surplus, Dmitrich suggests the following options:
-Re-bracket the income tax by raising each bracket by $700. Thus, the highest bracket, which starts at $7,500, would move to $8,200.
-Allow an income tax credit for 8 percent of the Social Security paid to the federal government.
-Give a 3.6 percent credit on state income tax for federal income tax paid. Dmitrich said this is a fairer way to give a break for the federal tax paid than Bangerter's plan.
To deal with the ongoing income tax surplus, Bangerter suggests cutting state income tax rates by 5 percent and returning a third of the deduction on state taxes for federal taxes paid. Lawmakers did away with the federal deduction in 1987, and many Utahns didn't like the change since it meant higher state tax payments.