The Utah Senate passed the huge $90 million property tax cut bill Friday. Its passage in the House next week is assured, because both majority Republican caucuses and GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt have already agreed on the cut.

But while Republican legislators praised the passage, Senate Democrats scowled, saying the majority party and Leavitt didn't fund critical needs as they should and cuts today will lead to tax hikes later.The bill "floats" the mill levy for the state's Uniform School Fund. Later in the year, the Tax Commission will decide what rate is needed to bring in $90 million less than contained in this year's fund.

The bill also says that the Tax Commission's factoring order will not be collected in the school fund. No one knows exactly how much tax that huge order would have raised from homeowners.

In total, the $90 million actual cut plus eliminating the future tax hike the order required means that more than $140 million will not be taken in property taxes in 1995.

The bill also increases other taxes on private utilities, like Utah Power, to offset the $32.2 million they gain by reducing the property tax mill levy statewide. "We always said we'd do that to stop their windfall," said Senate Majority Whip Leonard Blackham, R-Moroni.

Just to get a little credit for the big property tax cut, the bill also requires that each property tax notice that goes out to property owners must detail how much money the Legislature saved that tax-payer.

The notices will go out this June, final notices this November.

The bill passed the Senate on a straight party line vote, 19-10. All Republicans voted yes, all Democrats voted no.

Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, D-Sandy, said, "This is the wrong tax cut for the state. We didn't invest enough money into education, transportation and crime prevention. This is a feel-good tax cut when there are too many state needs. And the needs of the ordinary citizen aren't being met. You wait, the tax-and-spend conservatives of the Legislature will be back raising taxes in a year or two."

Senate Assistant Minority Whip Joe Hull, D-Hooper, said, "It's ridiculous to give a huge tax cut this year and be back here next year with a 5-cent or 8-cent increase in the gasoline tax to pay for our great transportation needs. Renters get nothing out of this year's cuts. College kids get nothing out of them, but you can bet they'll all be paying higher gasoline taxes soon."

But without the property tax cuts, said GOP leaders, Utah homeowners would have seen a 24 percent increase in property taxes statewide because of the Tax Commission's factoring order. That's an average $103 increase on a $100,000 home.

Because some parts of Salt Lake County weren't reappraised during the run-away real estate market in the past several years, if Republicans hadn't lowered the property taxes, a home on the east bench of Salt Lake City would have seen a $579 increase per $100,000 of value, the Avenues area a $518 increase per $100,000 value and Sandy a $407 increase.

In Davis County, a 45-year-old home (age, not location, was the determining factor in the Davis County factoring order) would have seen a $507 increase per $100,000 in value.

"And many of the older homes are owned by senior citizens on fixed incomes," said Rep. Ray Short, R-Holladay. "What would the Democrats (who oppose the Republican cuts) say to them?"