Category Archives: Deseret News Columns

Involve Utahns in National Monument Declarations

Originally published in the Deseret News.

We learned yesterday that 14 senators support the creation of a new national monument in southeastern Utah. They sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting he use the power granted to him under the Antiquities Act to declare greater Canyonlands a national monument and expand protection from 337 thousand acres to 1.8 million acres, a more than fivefold increase. Earlier this year the president foreshadowed such an action when he said in his State of the Union address, “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

News of another national monument by presidential fiat should send shivers down Utahns’ spines. And it’s not because these lands aren’t worthy of protection. They are. It’s because people, particularly those closest to these lands, deserve a voice in the process. Without meaningful dialogue, presidents often make choices without full information and through the single lens of political gain. Even worse, they contribute to the public land wars that divide this state and stand in the way of true protection.

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Gail Miller would make a great governor

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Gov. Gary Herbert made big political news recently when he told a group of high-placed donors his intention to run in 2016. A source who attended the breakfast at The New Yorker quoted Herbert as saying, “I just want to be very clear. I’m running. I’m announcing that today.” While the governor’s spokesperson later said the governor is keeping all options open, the message sent by the governor was clear — beware potential challengers.

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Good choices allow Utahns to enjoy economic success

Originally published in the Deseret News.

You wouldn’t call somebody who just won the lottery “prosperous.” They may be rich and they are certainly lucky, but they are not prosperous. Prosperity has to be earned.

On Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert hosted his annual Utah Economic Summit. Unlike his first year in office when unemployment hovered around 8 percent, Utah’s unemployment rate now stands below 4 percent, a level many economists would call near-full employment.

The Utah economy created 32,200 jobs during the past 12 months and nearly every major industry is growing. Utah’s level of income equality is among the highest in the nation. The governor’s vision of having the state become one of the strongest economies in the nation and a global business destination has largely been met. It may just be time for the governor to claim victory and set an even higher bar.

I made up a new word that characterizes what’s happening in Utah: I like to think of Utahns as Prospertarians. Taken from the root word prosperity, Prospertarians are people who experience remarkable economic success because of the choices they make.

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Who are the real heroes of election reform?

Originally published in the Deseret News.

This week, the Utah Legislature passed landmark legislation that will improve and modernize Utah’s election system. The compromise negotiated by Sen. Curt Bramble and Rep. Dan McCay preserves Utah’s caucus-convention system, institutes a direct primary option, and opens primaries to non-affiliated voters. The result is an election system that will be far more open and expand choices for candidates and voters. The legislation will do much to improve Utah’s abysmal voter participation, which has fallen to one of the bottom 10 states in the nation.

So who are the real heroes in this principled compromise?

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Time to raise Utah’s motor fuel tax

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.

This quip, made by Louisiana Sen. Russell Long, captures Utah’s approach to the motor fuel tax. We’ve been kicking the can down the road for 17 years. It’s time for a serious and informed discussion about raising Utah’s motor fuel tax to make up for lost purchasing power and improved fuel efficiency.

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Gov. Gary Herbert’s budget hits the mark

Originally published in the Deseret News.

This week Gov. Gary Herbert released his fiscal year 2015 budget. He recommended $13.3 billion in spending – a cool $36 million a day to pay for Utah’s education system, transportation network, human services, public safety and other important public functions. I worked in the state budget office for 18 years, and I think the governor got it right. Here’s my take on state finances:

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Utah needs more women in decision making roles

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Next week, Utahns will be summoned to the election booth to vote in municipal elections. Those who do will find far too few women on the ballot. And it’s not just at the ballot box: it’s in boardrooms and businesses. It’s even in our faith institutions. Women, for all of their native talents, are completely underrepresented in leadership positions. Our community is the lesser for it.

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