BRAD DEE ON THE ISSUES
Education is the most critical public policy issue facing the legislature. Utah has unique challenges because we have the largest school age population of any state in the nation. I have led the charge and sponsored several bills to increase funding for our schools and increase pay for our teachers. The results speak for themselves, in the last four-years, we have:
• Increased total (State and Federal) education funding by $1.15 billion (45% increase)
• Increased state funding for education by more than $870 million (48% increase)
• Increased per student spending (the value of the Weighted Pupil Unit) by 17%
• Directly increased teacher salaries $4,200 per teacher with a $1,000 per teacher bonus.
• Used $60 million in one-time revenue to boost education technology and on-line testing infrastructure in schools.
• Appropriated $80 million in one-time funding to support school construction and renovation in school districts.
I will continue my support for public education by fighting for additional funding and innovative solutions to the unique challenges Utah students face.
Utah’s economy has blossomed in recent years. This is not something that spontaneously generated, but the result of years of work and investment at many levels. The Legislature has appropriated:
• $200 million to support basic research of notable scientists like Nobel Prize Winner Mario Capecchi through the USTAR program.
• $14 million in targeted job creation initiatives
• $22.5 million in tax incentives to attract new businesses and jobs to Utah
• $11.5 million to draw major motion picture productions like High School Musical to Utah
Funding new initiatives, technology and infrastructure is important, but we also have to work to bolster our existing economic base. That is why I fought for millions in funding for aerospace development zones and the Falcon Ridge development to protect and enhance Hill Air Force Base.
How many hours do we spend in the car traveling to work, school or other locations? How much of it is wasted in traffic? Too much! That’s why I’m happy to report that in the last four years the Legislature has funded more than $600 million in transportation projects using one-time cash without incurring debt.
I have carried appropriations funding the Riverdale Road project, Legacy Highway, and I-15 reconstruction through Weber County.
Our county is growing and we need to continue to identify transportation corridors for new roads. If we plan early we can purchase the land for new roads before it becomes too expensive. We also can’t ignore public transit programs, like FrontRunner, to help alleviate traffic and pollution. I will continue to fight for transportation funding for our district.
No one likes taxes, but taxes provide roads, schools, law enforcement & fire services. It is the responsibility of the Legislature to ensure government services are lean and necessary. I have supported legislation that has reduced taxes by nearly $400 million annually, including reduction in income tax from 7% to 5% and sales tax on food from 4.75% to 1.75%.
You know best how to spend your hard earned income and I will continue to support a fiscally responsible budget process that returns surplus money to the people.
Health care is an area of growing concern for our state and an area of major focus for the Legislature. We are in the process of conducting a year-long task force that is identifying ways to improve quality and access to health care while decreasing costs.
In pursuit of those goals we have: opened year-round enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), provided tax credits for certain health insurance premiums, and created a tax deduction for self-employed, self-insured individuals. This is the beginning of a multi-year effort and I will be working to ensure reforms provide REAL relief and not just a short-term band-aide.
For many years now we had hoped to build a second veterans nursing home in Utah. Last session I sponsored a bill to appropriate $19.7 million for the design and construction of this facility. Construction of the Utah State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Ogden is slated to begin this fall and will provide much needed long term care to Utah’s veteran community.
Utah has been ranked as THE best managed state in 2006 and again in 2008 by the Pew Center on the States! We’ve deposited nearly $350 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund and reserved $100 million in current revenue to address future needs in public education.
While Utah is not immune from the economic storms that are affecting the nation, you can rest assured that the Legislature has acted in a fiscally responsible way and set money aside for a rainy day. I will continue to advocate for a wise fiscal policy that uses cash- not bonds- to pay for infrastructure projects, that set aside surplus funds for tougher times, and use best practices to mange state liabilities.