Democrats respond to State of State Address and layout priorities for 2022 session
Jan 20, 2022, 6:57 PM | Updated: 7:05 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – Democratic leaders in the Utah Legislature responded to Gov. Spencer Cox’s State of the State Address Thursday night by saying they need to come together with Republicans on critical issues but they also laid out their priorities for the current session.
“Let me first say, there ARE some of Gov. Cox’s proposals that Democrats can agree with. While we might disagree on the best policy approach, our state faces many critical issues that we must come together as a legislature to resolve,” House Minority Leader, Rep. Brian King said.
Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Karen Mayne laid out those issues.
“We need to create more options for housing that is affordable. We need to better protect our precious water supplies. We need to invest in sustainable infrastructure and make our communities more resilient to natural disasters. And we need to help our families, our friends, and every community throughout our great state get through this current wave of the pandemic. All Utahns should have quality affordable healthcare. But right now, our hospitals are again overrun with sick, mostly unvaccinated patients. And healthcare workers are overwhelmed and tired. Our communities have been hit hard by the current COVID-19 variant. After nearly two years now, we are all sick of this pandemic. But, as lawmakers, we cannot simply legislate this virus away.”
Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over mask mandates and how our schools and economy should operate during the pandemic.
“Our policies must reflect the guidance of medical and public health experts,” King said. “We know vaccines WORK to keep people from getting terribly sick. We know that masks, testing protocols, and social distancing measures WORK to stop the virus from spreading. And we know that vaccine requirements WORK so businesses can stay open and keep their employees and their customers protected. And they WORK so that our kids can go to school safely. As Democrats, we will not back down from pushing data-driven policies that will keep all Utahns safe and protected.”
Mayne said Democrats want to address the pandemic’s continuing impact on jobs and other reasons people move to Utah.
“There is no denying the pandemic has changed our economy. Having a Good Job now means having choices, autonomy, flexibility. It means a livable wage. Paid family leave,” Mayne said. “Vacation and sick leave. Worker protections. Affordable options for childcare. As a legislature, we would be wise to wake up and realize people aren’t moving to Utah for low taxes or GDP growth. Job seekers and businesses are drawn to our state to enjoy our public lands and beautiful landscapes. Others come to raise a family in a safe and healthy place. Our greatest asset is our quality of life.”
King said the Legislature should work on the rising prices and scarcity of homes.
“The chronic shortage of affordable houses and apartments in Utah prevents many Utahns from achieving their dreams,” he said. “As a state, and as a legislature, we have simply not made the investments in housing that are needed. Thousands of Utahns across the state are in need of safe and reasonably priced places to live. In some areas, police officers, teachers, and even healthcare workers cannot afford to live in the cities they work. The governor’s proposed $228 million for affordable housing, including funding for housing for very low-income Utahns, would be a step in the right direction.”
He said lawmakers need to allocate more money to recruit and keep good teachers.
“Investing in Children should be another top goal this session,” Mayne said. “Even before the pandemic, schools and teachers were severely underfunded. Too many Utah teachers continue to leave the profession for better opportunities. And we continue to be the lowest in the nation for per-pupil spending.”
The Democratic leaders do not support large tax cuts.
King said: “Instead of sweeping cuts, let’s support targeted tax proposals for our seniors; for our families; for those with fixed incomes; and importantly, let’s eliminate the state’s regressive sales tax on food.”
He also wanted lawmakers to address inequity and racism.
“This session, we also must take action to help our institutions and communities be more inclusive for all Utahns, regardless of their gender, ethnic or racial background, and culture. Structural racism and inequity hurts all of us. While there are some who can’t even confront the words “equity,” or “inclusion,” or acknowledge the injustices of our nation’s history, we must continue to work towards a future of equal opportunity for everyone. We don’t ask for equal results for all, but rather every Utahn deserves a fair chance to reach their goals. As a rapidly diversifying state, we seek to celebrate our common humanity, goals, and optimism. Because as Utahns, we do not have one shared story but many stories to share.”
“Investing in sustainable infrastructure, building resilient communities, and maintaining our limited supply of water should be a top priority this session,” Sen. Mayne said. “We need big ideas, innovative advances, and sensible goals to address the outdated structures of yesterday. We can, and we must continue to set the stage for all Utahns—urban and rural—to thrive in the present economy and a nourishing environment. Championing the wellbeing of our communities demands an inventive spirit and a desire to answer pressing challenges like drought, growth, and development with commitment to a sustainable future.”
King concluded: “Finally, this session Democrats will strive to empower people over special interests. Utahns expect us to come together and pass balance, common-sense solutions. To focus on the real challenges they experience every day. Unfortunately, too often corporate special interests throw millions of dollars at this legislature hoping to influence what policies get passed. Big moneyed interests want to keep bad policies alive and stop progress and good changes from happening. This needs to end.”
“Utahns also want us, as a legislature, to protect our democracy, not undermine it with lies and misinformation,” Mayne said. “Utahns want their elections to be fair, secure, and accessible, not needlessly and falsely maligned. We urge the governor, and our legislative colleagues, to take a stand against the extremist voices of a fringe minority, and work with us – join us where most Utahns are – and let’s get things done for the people of Utah. Because this is the time for us to accomplish some GREAT things as a state.”