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Huntsman, lawmakers rocking boat

Published February 4, 2005 2:59 am

If governor vetoes budget, bill restores last year's funding
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The relationship between Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and top lawmakers resembles happy newlyweds learning to live together, according to Mike Mower, Huntsman's legislative point man.

But he looks at House Bill 97 as the unexpected "divorce" papers.

HB97, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Curtis, would give Utah a fall-back position if the Legislature and the governor cannot compromise on a budget. If the Legislature can't come to a consensus or if the governor vetoes the budget, state agencies would receive the same amount as the previous year.

A House committee approved the fail-safe bill Thursday, despite the strong opposition from the governor's office.



Huntsman is concerned the measure would water down the threat of a veto, limiting his ability to persuade lawmakers to adopt his proposals.

Huntsman Chief of Staff Jason Chaffetz said he is not sure people understand that HB 97 will give legislators an "inordinate amount of power."

But, according to Curtis, the fail-safe bill is not "the power grab" the governor thinks it is. Huntsman would retain his ability to veto certain portions of the budget or the entire thing. Though the Republican's super majority in the Legislature also would retain its ability to override the governor.

The bill is not targeting Huntsman, Curtis said. Rather he and Senate President John Valentine developed the idea months before Huntsman was elected.

HB 97 stems from a budget battle in 2004, during which former Gov. Olene Walker threatened to veto the entire budget if lawmakers couldn't find $30 million for a reading program she supported. A compromise was reached in the waning hours of the session.

Curtis and Valentine concluded the state needs a provision in place to ward off a possible government shutdown if a stalemate can't be resolved. Congress can issue continuing resolutions to keep the government going when agreement can be reached, but the Utah Legislature does not have that option because it meets for only 45 days a year.

"I haven't heard President Bush complaining about it, but apparently it is bad policy here," Curtis said later. The bill would apply to the budget currently being debated if Curtis can get two-thirds of his colleagues in the House and Senate to vote for it.

"We're surprised they're going to slam this through so quickly," Chaffetz said.

mcanham@sltrib.com

 

 

 

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