Utah House and Senate Democrats State of the State Response
Rep. David Litvack, Democratic Leader in the Utah House of Representatives
Good evening. I’m David Litvack, Democratic Leader in the Utah House of Representatives. We are pleased to be able to provide a Democratic response to the Governor’s State of the State message, and give you a taste of our perspective on our wonderful State and the upcoming legislative session.
This evening Democratic legislators will discuss a few of Utah’s most pressing opportunities and challenges, and how we plan to address them. We agree with many of the priorities that have been outlined by Governor Huntsman tonight, and applaud the Governor for his hard work and dedication.
Tonight you will hear from some of my colleagues who will talk about common sense ideas that we believe are important to help us address the challenges ahead. Let me turn to Representative Jim Gowans, a retired Tooele school Administrator, to discuss how Democrats would prioritize education.
Rep. Jim Gowans, Minority Whip in the Utah House of Representatives
Thank you, Representative Litvack. As a father, grandfather and a retired school administrator living and working in rural Utah, I know first hand many of the issues our schools face.
Last year when we came before you, it was with full coffers and noble agendas to increase spending on public education. This year, however, we are faced with different economic realities as a nation and as a state.
In my career I have seen first hand the effects of an already underfunded public education system: Not enough teachers. Too many students per class. And in difficult times, some schools have even had to scale-back or eliminate important elective programs like debate, language, and advanced placement classes.
Our children must have access to a world class education. Though we have made terrific advances in public – and higher -- education in the past few years, now is not the time to go backwards. Adequately funding public and higher education is a top priority, our children deserve no less!
We must also be innovative in looking for ways to address other on-going challenges in education; such as the shortage of teachers. One creative solution is Rep. Lynn Hemingway’s proposal to encourage and sustain quality teachers in the classroom and the community by assisting young and new teachers in purchasing their first home. What a wonderful opportunity to provide what our students deserve – quality teachers in the classroom – while maybe providing a small boost to Utah’s economy. Utah’s future is inseparably connected to the success of its educational system. We will work together with our Republican colleagues to make this a year of continual progress for the children of Utah.
I would now like to introduce Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, who will discuss an issue that is important to all Utahns – Good Government.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee in the Utah House of Representatives
Thank you, Representative Gowans. I am Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, co-chair of the Ethics Committee in the Utah House of Representatives.
This year, as in past, Democrats will propose a series of reforms to establish standards for campaigns and ethical practices of law makers that uphold the trust you place in us as elected officials.
During the 2008 General Session of the Legislature, we put in place approximately 400 new laws to serve as guides for our citizens and businesses in their practices – but we failed to pass any laws or standards for legislators. It is time that we all look at ourselves and the institution of which we are a part. We need to prioritize restoring your faith and confidence in Democracy.
The list of good government proposals you can expect to see from Democrats this year includes the following:
- Banning gifts from lobbyists to legislators
- Prohibiting personal use of campaign funds
- Preventing the revolving door of legislator-to-lobbyist
- Establishment of an independent, citizen ethics commission
- And finally, reforming the redistricting process by creating an independent advisory committee.
We look forward to collaborating with our Republican colleagues on this very important issue. We are also anxious to hear from you on how we can best implement systemic change as we work toward true ethics reform.
We will now hear from Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, who will discuss Utah’s economy.
Senator Pat Jones, Minority Leader in the Utah Senate
Thank you, Representative Chavez-Houck. Tonight I’d like to speak to Utahns about something that is very important to all of us – Utah’s economy.
I am small business owner and a member of the board of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce. I know that many of you are relying on small businesses for your livelihoods. Small businesses are important to Utah. In fact, nearly 90 percent of Utah’s companies are small businesses. Utah Democrats support efforts to bring in large corporations, but our efforts must be balanced to also focus on our small businesses, their sustainability and prosperity. Their success is key to our states economic growth and long-term stability.
Right now, many companies are struggling just to make their monthly payroll. Others are making tough decisions to cut the health care insurance for their employees. Sadly, many small businesses have had to close their doors.
Utah Democrats believe we need to help small businesses not just survive, but thrive.
We have always supported policies that promote fairness and reject policies that protect or reward special interests at the expense of our state’s overall economic progress.
In the 2009 legislative session, Utah Democrats will explore ways to stimulate Utah’s economy by helping our small businesses to function in a shrinking economy.
Utah Democrats will also look at ways we can make it easier for businesses to provide heath insurance to their employees.
We also encourage partnerships between business and education to provide a workforce with the necessary skills and tools to help business in our state thrive.
By supporting Utah’s business owners and promoting fair policies, we create jobs, stimulate the economy, and strengthen our communities.
And now let’s turn the time back to Representative David Litvack. David?
Representative David Litvack
Thank you, Senator Jones.
As we begin the 2009 Legislative session, Utah families are facing struggles like they have not faced in nearly a decade. Our hopes and dreams of the New Year have shifted to the somber realities of growing unemployment and an economic recession.
The ensuing loss of tax revenue has brought the state a budget deficit that we as legislators must address. The challenge we face is how to balance the budget?
Some cuts are unavoidable. They must – and should – be made; however, let’s be creative and balanced in our approach. We call on the legislature to look at a variety of options and opportunities, such as:
- Bonding for critical infrastructure needs in transportation and buildings In difficult times it is the right thing to do for our economy – we must keep people working investing in short-term growth and long-term prosperity.
- Responsibly and carefully utilize the Rainy Day Fund. There is little doubt that it is raining, but we must be prepared to weather a possibly longer and unpredictable storm.
- And where cuts must be made; let’s make them with a scalpel, very cautiously, and with great sensitivity and awareness to the impacts on our constituents and community.
Democrats believe that during these difficult times we must be judged by how we live up to the famous words of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
It is an honor for me and my Democratic colleagues to represent you in the Legislature. We must set aside partisanship and work together for a better future for you, our children, and our State. We look forward to a healthy exchange of ideas with Governor Huntsman, our Republican colleagues and you, the public. Only together can we address the great challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Thank you, and good night.