The final day of the 1991 Legislature began Wednesday without lawmaker approval for any of the key spending bills, despite a marathon meeting of the budget committee the night before.
The $3.8 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the $69 million supplemental budget and the $100 million bond are all expected to pass before the session ends at midnight.But hours of partisan debate are likely first, especially in the House where Democrats continue to push for more dollars for education and human services at the expense of other areas of government.
Republicans were doing most of their debating over the budget behind closed doors. The majority party in both the House and the Senate caucused repeatedly to come up with a bond both houses could endorse.
The Executive Appropriations Committee spent more than three hours on Tuesday trying to finalize action on the list of items that will be paid for with the supplemental, or surplus, funds.
But they couldn't agree on how much money to give the University of Utah to defend itself against an anti-trust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. They also argued over whether to give $400,000 to the Utah Symphony.
And House Republicans on the committee tried three times - and failed three times - to make sure the law firm of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough doesn't get paid for work on the state's abortion lawsuit.
The state still owes the law firm some $86,000, but the House GOP caucus voted not to pay the bill because Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough had to quit the case due to a conflict of interest.
The law firm has already been paid $95,000 for defending the state against the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the state's law banning most abortions. The lawyer hired to replace them, Mary Anne Wood, has billed the state nearly $500,000 - so far.
"It's a bottomless bucket," said Rep. Haynes Fuller, D-Eden.
Because the Legislature only appropriated $100,000 last year to defend the controversial law, Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam wants enough money to pay bills from the law firm and the new lawyer.
Senate Republicans resisted cutting that request by $86,000. One of their own, former state Sen. Kay Cornaby, is a partner in the law firm and has lobbied for the money.
House Democrats also supported paying the law firm. Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough is headed by former Gov. Cal Rampton - a Democrat.
"There must be a reason why the attorney general is paying them. In the long run, it could cost more money if we don't pay them," said House Minority Whip Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan.
Democrats weren't so successful in their attempts to get more money for education, including restoring $5 million to the technology initiative program started two years ago.
"As far as we're concerned, you're robbing money from public education to pay for other programs," Atkinson said. The Democrats want to eliminate spending for such items as laptop computers for the Utah State Tax Commission.
They also questioned giving state prisons $1.5 million to help cover a budget shortfall. "This department needs to be more responsible," said Assistant House Minority Whip Grant Protzman, D-North Odgen.