Education is one of our shared core values. With changes in family demographics and the rapid growth of our population, we need to be judicious with our education structure, staffing, and funding in order to provide our youth and communities with the outcomes that will lead to success.
- Pre-K Education: 6 out of 10 low-income children in Utah are not kindergarten ready in literacy standards when they start school. The Utah School Readiness Initiative provides pre-kindergarten education for at-risk kids. 93% of the children who have participated in the program have avoided special education, resulting in $1.7 million in savings for taxpayers. This is the type of program that deserves more support from our legislature. It’s fiscally responsible. More importantly, it puts these children in a position for educational success.
Elementary through High School: Education policy in Utah needs to be driven by analysis of education outcomes, so that education expenditures can be more focused and effective. For example, children that are not reading at grade proficiency by 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school than those that are reading proficient at that age. STEM education is a priority in our state. Utah should be leading the nation in educational achievement. Current studies show that is not the case, and that Utah students may be increasingly falling behind. While financial investment is a key component of success, we must also be better at managing our education infrastructure.
Applied Tech Colleges (ATC): Our state's ATCs are an underutilized resource for students that do not want to pursue a college degree. We have an acute shortage of skilled labor in key industries that can be addressed through this system. These are well paying jobs with potential for career advancement. The availability of skilled labor is a key factor in enticing industry to locate and expand in Utah. We need to capture these opportunities if we want our kids and grandkids to be able to live, work, learn and play in our state.
- Taxation policy: Our state tax code has not had a major overhaul in several decades. During this period, a myriad of tax breaks, conflicting provisions and redundancies have made our code difficult to navigate. This isn’t fair for businesses. It has given some industries and companies an unfair advantage. We need to close the loopholes and level the playing field. We need to make it easy for businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed.
- Business attraction and retention: Northern Utah has been successful over the last 20 years at creating jobs and opportunities for economic growth by attracting new industry. We need to double down on our efforts in the outdoor industry to build on past success. We also need strategic analysis of the resources that will allow us to target other industries that can thrive in this area of our state. The State of Utah and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU) are key partners in this effort and we need to engage with them in a more significant way than we have in the past. We also need a comprehensive plan with Weber County and our cities to attract these businesses.
Recreation Land Management
- Pineview Reservoir: is a recreational gem in Weber County. However, increased usage and a lack of adequate infrastructure is taking a toll on this asset. We need to work with the County and Forest Service to ensure that Pineview is cared for, so that our future generations can recreate there.
- Trails, Rivers, Streams: Our trails, rivers and streams are a critical component to our recreation and quality of life. They are also important to our economic development strategy. We need to ensure that we are caring for these critical assets. Partnerships between government, private organizations, and volunteer groups need to be encouraged and facilitated to maintain and improve these vital assets.
- Open Space: Our ability to preserve and manage open space is a critical aspect of our quality of life. We need to increase our efforts in preserving and maintaining our open spaces, while providing opportunities for affordable and accessible housing options for our growing workforce.
- Balanced budget: Our state does an amazing job of balancing the budget every year. We need to continue this practice of fiscal responsibility. This money belongs to us, the taxpayers. It should be used prudently.
- Limited debt: We need to continue to limit the amount of debt that we take on in our public institutions. Debt is not always a bad thing, but it needs to be carefully managed. It should never become the solution to every problem. Debt never sleeps, and never takes a vacation.
- Reduce the burden on taxpayers: By managing our debt and continuing a balanced budget, we can reduce the burden on ourselves as taxpayers and fund a responsible and responsive government.
We have an annual shortfall of $600 million in our roads, highways and transportation infrastructure. $600 million! This is currently funded from our state general fund, and takes resources away from education and other priorities. Utahns are responsible. This is not. We need to balance our infrastructure budget the same way we balance our overall budget.