1-The 2011 Utah State Legislative Session is going to be one of the more challenging sessions in recent history. What do you anticipate the budget challenges will be and what do we do as a state to continue to plan for less money?
For Utah to continue to maintain it’s status as Best Managed State, we will, as always, be careful and prudent in our decision-making. The budget in the 2011 General Session ( FY 2012) will continue to test and challenge the Legislature. Not only will there be a shortfall to fill in the 2011 budget, but continued expectation of qlower revenues for 2012. The greatest shortfalls are in Income Tax; the funding source for Education. The state’s Rainy Day funds are almost completely spent. All these factors will force the Legislature and Governor to consider further spending reductions or “revenue enhancements”. Taking more money from the families and businesses of Utah will only frustrate economic recovery. The needs and desires of State Government must be prioritized, with essential services maintained and “nice to haves” considered for reduction or elimination.
2-The immigration issue has heated up in recent months. Do you have any feelings on what the state should do or what the legislature might do in this upcoming session?
The immigration issue will be addressed in some manner this session. Rep. Sandstrom’s proposal is now being studied by the legislature. Rep. Ray’s proposal to encourage amendment to the U.S. Constitution will also be considered. The people of Utah are demanding action. The final outcome is unpredictable, but it is clear the Legislature will address the immigration challenges Utah faces as a consequence of failed Federal policy.
3-Transportation has been a major issue to us as a state in funding and in moving forward to secure the proper infrastructure for business and our citizens in the years to come. What do you see as our biggest challenge in transportation in the next 10 years?
Our biggest challenge in transportation will be to maintain the revenue sources we have set aside and earmarked. When the budget discussions become difficult, transportation becomes an easy “pot of money” to raid. This is what happened during the last downturn. We have purposefully worked to statutorily protect the transportation revenue streams, but each year continues to be a fight. Cost effective commitment to infrastructure must be maintained until the economy turns and we see revenue increases from economic growth.
4-Education will be a major priority for business as we move ahead. How do we avoid tax increases with our upwardly mobile birth rate but still keep our students in a position to be competitive both nationally and internationally?
The future of education is in technology and innovation. The business community must become partners with the education system. Our students must be prepared for the workforce, and that will only happen if educators know the needs and requirements of industry and can meet them.
5-What do you see as the biggest challenge with the new Obama care healthcare bill for the State of Utah and its people and its businesses?
Obamacare will not solve the problems we face in healthcare. If fully implemented, rates will continue to rise, or care will be rationed. The individual and small group markets are on their way to extinction. People and businesses will be incentivized to move to the government program. Businesses will be relieved of the burdens associated with offering group plans to employees, but business taxes will increase to pay for a more bureaucratic and rationed system.
6-Do you believe that Utah will eventually turn to nuclear power to address clean air issues and what are your thoughts on the new direction of Energy Solutions?
Nuclear Energy must become a part of the future energy solution. Technologies should be adopted that allow re-use of nuclear fuel. Nuclear energy produces no “greenhouse gases” and will therefore become more popular and accepted. Utah should play a leading role. We need to develop policies that encourage investment in Utah.
7-Are you aware of the proposal to create a bullet train system here in Utah to connect western states?
I am aware of the federal proposal to create a bullet train system that would connect western states. I am concerned that this system would need to be highly subsidized by the taxpayers. I have neither seen details, nor plans for any system I believe would be cost effective.
8-What are the three largest issues that you believe we will face us in the next legislative session?
The three issues of most importance for the 2011 Legislative session will be Education Funding, Immigration, and the overall Budget Challenges. There is always a “sleeper” issue or two that will come to the fore and create media attention and constituent activity.
9-Do you believe that we can ever get legislation past on a federal level in support of the Apple Initiative?
Congressman Rob Bishop is actively engaged in the Apple Initiative and finding ways to communicate to other members of Congress the needs of Utah and the other Western States. Nothing will pass until there is better understanding and more votes in the western states’ delegations. Meeting the goals of the Apple Initiative will require significant appropriations from Congress, and the political will does not exist with enough other Congressmen and Senators.
10-What are your biggest concerns regarding the State of Utah in the next 20 years?
My biggest concerns for the next 20 years for Utah are Education Funding, Economic Development and Infrastructure Expansion and Maintenance. All are interdependent. Economic development relies on an educated workforce and adequate transportation systems. Infrastructure cannot be adequately funded without the revenues created by economic growth, just as education funding relies on the taxes produced by expanded job opportunities and business growth. These three priorities must be considered as a package. We must ensure each receives attention and serious priority. Over-concentration on one to the detriment of the others, will cripple all three.