Nearly two-thirds of Utahns give state lawmakers a passing grade for their 2017 general session, finished last month, a new UtahPolicy.com poll shows.
Dan Jones & Associates asked if the GOP-controlled Legislature should get an A, B, C, D, F, or an incomplete for its 45-day annual session.
For the purposes of this analysis, an A, B, or C is considered passing, a D or F not passing.
- Only 5 percent of the state said the Legislature deserves an A. By current high school or college grading, that is not good.
- But a third (33 percent) said lawmakers should get a B.
- And another quarter (25 percent) said they should get a C.
Add the top three grades together, and 63 percent said legislators did OK.
At the very least, they passed and should move on in their jobs as state legislators.
- However, 13 percent said they got a D, and 7 percent said they just plain failed, an F.
- 8 percent said they should get an “incomplete,” too much undone work still remains.
- 10 percent didn’t have an opinion on how the Legislature did earlier this year.
Besides adopting a balanced budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, lawmakers did have get a lot done – despite what some Utahns may think.
They decided to bond for $1 billion in new road projects – the many orange cones around the state this spring and summer will attest to that.
They “reformed” state liquor laws, giving the option of doing away with the so-called Zion Curtain – a 7-foot opaque barrier shielding patrons from seeing liquor dispensed.
And they lowered the blood alcohol level for a DUI from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent – a move that will be reviewed in a promised special legislative session this summer.
But they also didn’t do some big things – like tax reform.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate surprised their colleagues by suggesting a broadening of the state sales and income tax bases, and lowering the rates.
If done, it would have been the largest tax reform in decades.
But while GOP senators seemed interested in such moves, House Republicans stalled.
At first the House GOP said they didn’t want to do anything now with the personal income tax – more study needed.
Then House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said after several days of intense study by his top budget staffers, it appeared to him that the money-saving efforts of placing most of the state sales back on unprepared food would not yield the hoped-for results.
So that reform, also, died a quiet death.
Lawmakers will study tax reform over this interim, and come into the 2018 Legislature with – it is hoped – specific plans for improving the state’s tax posture.
Meanwhile, back to the poll.
Jones finds that Republicans give the Legislature – dominated by their same political party lawmakers – much higher grades than do Democrats and independents:
- 44 percent of Utah Republicans say the Legislature should get a B this term – 72 percent say passing grades combined.
- Only 8 percent of Republicans say the Legislature should fail.
Democrats? Not so much.
- Almost half (48 percent) say the Legislature needs to take their law-making course again – they get a D or an F.
Independents are a bit more friendly,
- A quarter (23 percent) say lawmakers should fail, a D or an F.
- But 61 percent give them an A, B, or C – passing grades.
With the surprise announcement by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz that he won’t run for re-election in 2018, a handful of Westside Salt Lake and Davis County GOP legislators are looking to run for that seat in 18 months.
So they, at least, will be calling the 2018 Legislature their last.
And will be looking to get out of (graduate from?) the part-time Legislature.
Jones polled 844 adults from March 22-29. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.37 percent.