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New fiscal analyst tapped for Legislature

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John Massey, a nine-year veteran of the legislative budget office, has been appointed legislative fiscal analyst, the head budget officer for the 104 part-time lawmakers.

Massey, 51, succeeds long-time fiscal analyst Leo Memmott, who retires Sept. 1 after nearly 30 years working for the Legislature.Legislative leaders said 48 people applied for the job, some from out of state. They winnowed the number to six and interviewed those applicants, several of whom currently work for the Legislature.

As reported previously, one finalist was Gordon Crabtree, former head of finance for the state. More recently, Crabtree worked as the chief financial officer for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympics.

Crabtree resigned from that post last year and has since been a consultant for SLOC and lobbied lawmakers on behalf of the committee. Ultimately, Crabtree was not selected.

Massey was born and reared in Ogden. He graduated from local schools and Weber State with a degree in secondary education.

Finding no teaching jobs here in 1972, he moved briefly to Arizona, returning a year later to run the Utah State Employees Credit Union.

He worked for Walker Bank and Trust for several years in the commercial loan area, then for a local development company as its business manager for 10 years.

Massey joined the Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office in 1989 as a senior analyst and since then has overseen the budgets of half a dozen different agencies.

Memmott is famous in Capitol halls for finding pots of money the last days of each Legislature so lawmakers can pay for pet projects, tax cuts and so on.

The joke is that Memmott would go out at night with a map of the Capitol grounds and dig up coffee cans full of hidden money.

The reality is that Memmott's office comes up with revenue estimates that legislators follow in setting the next year's budget.

And sometimes legislators let it be known they'd like Memmott to come up with higher tax revenue estimates so there's enough money for their programs. Over the years Memmott has resisted those suggestions.

Massey says that, like Memmott, he won't be pressured into increasing revenue estimates just so legislators can spend more or give bigger tax cuts.

"But if there are funding mechanisms that legislators don't know of, but we do, we'll point those out," Massey said. "We will continue to be responsible" in putting together detailed revenue estimates for the now $6.5 billion state budget.

"We'll stand firm on projections," he said.

Several years ago, Memmott's office was sued by a woman seeking employment who claimed the office was too male. Now there is one woman on the professional staff of 16. Massey said that he will hire based on qualifications, not gender.

"We'll look for the best people. If that happens to be a woman or a (racial) minority, so much the better," he said.

Currently, the legislative staffs in the auditor general, research and general counsel and budget offices serve all lawmakers - Republican and Democratic alike.

Democrats, the minority in the House and Senate since the late 1970s, have said the time may be approaching when they will want their own budget, research and legal staffs - as is the case in Congress and a number of other states.

Massey said he doesn't see the need for that now. "We try to serve both (political) parties equally."

He recognizes sometimes that is a problem, for ultimately his staff must put together a budget that will pass - and that is the budget ordered by the majority party.

"But we're willing to burn the midnight oil to get information for Democrats and Republicans."

The Utah Legislature is unique in that it is the only state legislature where all members sit on budget committees. Having to staff 10 appropriation subcommittees instead of just one budget committee (as most legislatures have) adds to the staff workload.

But Massey says his staff is used to that "and will provide whatever information the Legislature wishes" in putting together the budget.