If you paid state income taxes of at least $10 last year, you'll be getting a rebate check the first part of September - the Utah Legislature did exactly what Gov. Norm Bangerter wanted regarding taxes during its long, long Tuesday special session.
For those looking for tax relief, you also just missed a sales tax reduction along with the $80 million income tax cut.Republican lawmakers, frustrated over an extended Democratic filibuster in the House, were ready to propose a quarter-cent reduction in the sales tax, to take effect January 1989, as a compromise.
Bangerter said in an early morning press conference after the session ended that he wouldn't have "stood in the way" of such a sales tax cut as long as he got all of his income tax reduction package. But the deal was never reached in the House. Instead, Democratic representatives decided to give up their hold-out against Ban-gerter's income tax rebate/rate reduction plan and take a change in an injured worker training bill as solace. (See related story.)
In perhaps the understatement of the year, the governor said of the session: "There was a lot of political rhetoric up there."
Indeed there was. In the first time in recent history, the minority party - the Democrats - filibustered in the House hour after hour, extending the session from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 1 a.m. Wednesday. In so doing, they ensured an extra day of legislative pay for themselves and the Republicans, although it's not clear if all lawmakers will take the money.
First, the Democrats talked for several hours about the injured worker training bill. Then they introduced eight amendments to Bangerter's and the Republicans' tax rebate bill and talked for several more hours about several of their amendments before giving up the fight soon after midnight.
The Republicans didn't get a two-thirds majority vote on the tax package in the House, so the rebate can't take place for 60 days. Bangerter said the Tax Commission will have everything in place, however. The 12.5 percent rebate on 1987 taxes should be mailed out soon after Sept. 1, the governor said. "They (Democrats) held the mailing up by maybe 15 days, no more," he said.
Bangerter suggested $80 million of the estimated $110 million surplus be returned to taxpayers via the rebate checks. He got that.
The governor suggested that $10 million of the surplus go to educational supplies and that $20 million go into the state's "rainy day fund" for emergencies. He got that.
To deal with an estimated $70 million ongoing surplus in the income tax in years ahead, Bangerter wanted to lower rates by 5 percent and restore a third of the deduction for federal income taxes paid. He got that.
Even though he put the matter of lost deposits in the five failed thrifts and loans in the session agenda, Ban-gerter suggested that lawmakers not act on the problem because of legal action brought by depositors. He got that.
He also suggested more than a dozen other items for legislative consideration. He got all but one of those - an AIDS bill sponsored by a Democrat senator that was killed in the House.
In closed Republican caucuses held last month, the governor told members of his majority party that getting what he wanted on the taxes was import in his re-election effort - a matter of leadership. They promised to support him and they did. In the final vote, all Senate Republicans stood with him and only one House Republican voted against his tax package.
Even though Democrats fought long and hard for their tax plan, they lost at every turn. The debate over just what to do with the budget surplus involved heated rhetoric as both sides exchanged accusations with a rancor rarely seen on Capitol Hill. Republicans maintained the rebates are necessary as a "matter of ethics and morality," adding the Legislature is duty-bound to return surplus to voters who in 1987 were saddled with the largest tax increase in the state's history.
The Democrats, in turn, charged Republicans with "robbing education," "stealing from the poor" and "roller coaster economics."
"The people who needed the benefits (the poor, elderly, school children) lost the benefits," said Rep. Alan Rushton, D-West Valley, of the rebate bill. "I have seen absolutely no caring about the people of the state. I have seen (the Republicans) protect the privileged at the expense of the working class."
After playing their tune to an empty house for more than two hours, Democrats finally admitted defeat and ended their filibuster.
Rep. Grant Protzman, D-North Ogden, in exasperation quoted the book of Psalms, describing his GOP counterparts as having "eyes that see not and ears that hear not."
"Put the partisan issues aside and deal with the facts before you," he pleaded. The Democratic amendments to the rebate bill were defeated almost on party-line votes.
In the Senate, Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, upset over restoring any of the federal deduction - a move that helps higher-income Utahns more than lower-income Utahns, choked with emotion in saying: "I was feeling pretty good about you (Republicans) before this. Go ahead and do it. Do it. We'll win the next election. There's no money for dental care for the elderly in nursing homes and you give taxes back to people who don't need it least. Who counts? Those who have money."
The only consolation for Democrats was that Republicans wanted the bill to pass by a two-thirds majority so it could take effect immediately. Democrats refused to give it to them. "Bangerter has fought all night for the two-thirds," House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich told Democrats. "We're not going to give it to him." The bill now takes effect in 60 days.