With Utah state government potentially facing a $1 billion shortfall, conservative legislators are banding together to make sure that Utahns’ tax burden is not increased to plug the hole. In a Dec. 7 blog posting, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, says he has convinced almost half of the state senators to sign a pledge vowing to vote against all tax increases that are not offset by tax decreases elsewhere, and multiple conservative caucuses in the Utah House have agreed to the same pledge. Their position is in step with Gov. Gary Herbert, who has previously said his proposed budget, which will be released Dec. 11, will not raise taxes. But by eliminating all tax increases as an option, lawmakers are forced to cut budgets to cover the shortfall. Trimming fat is one thing, but a $1 billion revenue loss is almost 10 percent of the state budget. Legislators are going to be forced to get very creative if they don’t want to seriously impact public education and other human services. One suggestion: How about a three-day work week for state employees?
Southern Utah University will now specifically protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from discrimination. The university’s board of trustees approved the change Dec. 5, after a yearlong effort by student groups. SUU Student Body President Cody Alderson told the Daily Spectrum that it was important to make sure the campus is “safe, friendly and accomodating to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.” SUU was actually the last public university in the state to implement the anti-discrimination protections for LGBT students, which leaves the Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University as the only hold-out. But it seems like only a matter of time before BYU takes the same steps ... right?
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, officially resigned his seat Dec. 4, leaving a void in the Utah Senate. Initially referred to as “the gay” by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, after McCoy won a special election for the seat in 2005, McCoy proved himself an articulate legislator who was not afraid to tackle thorny issues during his four years of service. It is hoped that his replacement, who will be selected Dec. 19 by delegates in his Senate district, will bring a similar intellect and compassion to the seat. If he or she can also be a senator who confounds Buttars’ vocabulary, all the better.