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KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from GOP candidates for Utah governor

Jun 12, 2024, 7:44 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – In a busy week of Republican debates, the spotlight Tuesday night focused on the governor’s race, with incumbent Spencer Cox and challenger Phil Lyman squaring off on issues from the 2034 Olympics to school funding.

The KSL Investigators fact-checked a range of their statements, putting them through the KSL Truth Test. Here’s what we found:

Teacher salaries

Cox made this statement about teacher’s salaries in Utah: “We now have a starting salary that is greater in Utah than all our surrounding states.”

Utah is ranked No. 10 in the nation, with the average teacher salary starting at $49,555, according to the National Education Association’s 2024 review of educator pay in America.

The Utah salary bests neighboring Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, but New Mexico has the Beehive State beat. The analysis found New Mexico ranks No. 8 nationally, with a starting salary of $50,628.

Utahns’ views on the Olympics

The candidates disagreed over Utahns’ interest in hosting another Winter Games in 2034.

Lyman said this: “I don’t believe if you took a poll in Utah that it would overwhelmingly be in favor of paying for and bringing the Olympics to Utah.”

Cox responded by noting a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll out this week took Utahns’ temperature on the possibility. Cox said: “It just came out yesterday, and 79% of Utahns are excited for the Olympics to come back – 79%!”

Here’s what the poll of about 900 Utahns showed: 48% are strongly supportive and 31% are somewhat supportive.

The public’s ability to see state officials’ work calendars

Cox signed a measure into law in February making the work calendars of all Utah public and elected officials secret.

During the debate Tuesday, Cox said this about how much access the press and public had to their schedules before the law changed: “It was pretty clear that it was not a public document, and then there was a push to make those public, and the Legislature responded accordingly.”

According to First Amendment attorney David Reymann, that perspective on the history of access to public officials’ calendars is not accurate.

“They have been requested and received before by the news media,” Reymann previously told KSL.

The Utah State Records Committee and a judge ruled that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ calendar is a public record and ordered it be released to KSL in February. Within hours of the judge’s ruling, state lawmakers raced to pass the bill making the schedules secret moving forward. Cox signed it the following day.

Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from lawmakers who voted to make their calendars secret

Roads and federal lands

Phil Lyman, making a case that Utah should try to exercise more authority over roads crossing federal lands, said this: “The state owns the roads across BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, the state and the county, 100%, with no federal involvement in those roads at all.”

This issue is more complex. In some cases, a party can assert ownership of roads crossing federal lands. Counties in Utah and other states have filed lawsuits to do just that. But these cases can drag on for years, like one Kane County filed in 2010 that’s still not decided.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from GOP candidates for Utah governor