Lawmakers should focus on our environment, education and taxes and leave aside divisive culture war issues.
Members of the Utah Legislative Assembly, due to begin their 2022 regular session on Tuesday, may well gather harassed by the feeling that they are, in the words of philosopher possum Pogo, “in the face of insurmountable opportunities.”
Some of them will be opportunities to mingle, pose and take a stand on culture war issues that shouldn’t concern them or anyone else. There are other issues, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on which state officials have long reached their degree of incompetence and should leave to others.
There are, however, problems that cannot and should not be dodged, avoided, or pushed down the road. And some members of the legislature have shown glimmers of understanding of who they are and what to do about them.
The most obvious issue before the state is that it is literally visible from space. Although not as clearly as before.
Speaker of the House Brad Wilson leads a growing awareness that the Great Salt Lake is in trouble and needs our help. Losing the shrinking brine body that gave the state’s largest city, county, baseball team and news agency its name would be beyond embarrassing. And it would affect more than the lake’s native species and extractive industries.
Exposing the lake bed to westerly winds would kick up generations of trash, including toxic metals and decaying brine shrimp, which would blow through the Wasatch Front and beyond, into the sky and into the lungs. of a community that already has more than its share of bad air days – including, on a few occasions last summer, the worst in the world.
The situation also shows how everything in our natural and human environments is intertwined. The lake’s shrinkage is clearly tied to the state’s wasting of its limited water supply, bad habits that shouldn’t be aggravated by damming the Bear River, or anything else that would further reduce the flow of water. ‘water.
The dusty lake isn’t the only threat to our air quality. Everything from the growing number of automobiles, to building standards that are not fully up to date, to the state’s irrational devotion to the fossil fuel industry, conspires to threaten the very quality of life that has attracted so many people to come or stay here. .
It is high time to study. It’s time to act. Water conservation rather than ‘development’. Active monitoring and regulation of air quality. Above all, a simple recognition that not only are fossil fuels on the way out, but also that Utah happens to be perfectly situated to be a world leader in sustainable energy technologies, including wind, solar and geothermal, a godsend not only for our lungs but also our bank accounts.
The legislator has proven that he is not competent to deal with the pandemic, absurdly declare an end date and give yourself the power to stop people who really know what they’re doing from doing it. But lawmakers can take care of cleaning up the mess, especially by helping the part of our culture that already needed it most.
Our public education system — traditional and charter, colleges, but especially K-12 — has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Even when entire schools have not had to close as a precaution, individual classrooms and students have been denied their full and irreplaceable opportunity to receive the education necessary for their healthy academic and emotional growth.
A state that is as close to state and federal revenue as ours should make strengthening schools its top priority, doing many of the things that should have been done anyway. Smaller classes. Modern classrooms with better ventilation. Nurses, counselors and other professional support staff in each building.
This healthy fiscal situation has, of course, prompted many in Utah’s political class to reflexively call for a reduction in the state’s already regressive tax rate. But it’s not the right tool for the job. Such tax cuts make sense when an economy is sluggish, but Utah’s is booming and its growing pains – as noted above – include water shortages, bad air and slammed schools, solutions to each of them will cost money.
If lawmakers really insist on calling themselves tax-relievers, more appropriate channels include removing the sales tax on groceries and adding a working income tax credit for low-income working families. Both would put money in the hands of those who need it most.
To focus on the important stuff, legislative leaders should make it clear that they don’t have time to mess with corner issues that create more heat than light. No bills or resolutions with symbolic or hurtful messages attacking critical race theory, censoring library books, attacking transgender Utahns, attempting to seize federal lands, or limiting the ability to vote.
We urge the Legislature to leverage the state’s historically strong fiscal position and make investments of lasting value for the people of Utah.
The Utah legislature isn’t always known for being responsive to the people, and too much of the actual decision-making happens behind closed doors. But he’s created a robust online presence that anyone with internet access can use to track bills, listen to committee hearings, watch debates and votes in the Senate and House, figure out who’s representing you and him. send your thoughts.
The first door to all of this is le.utah.gov.
These legislators work for you. Keep an eye on them. And tell them what you think.