New Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson upped the ante on Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday, calling for an at least $225 million tax cut this year, more than Herbert’s $200 million.
In his general session opening day speech from the House floor, Wilson also said the State Office Building – located just north of the Capitol, should be torn down and replaced with some kind of state museum/reception area and solve – for a long time – the problem of parking on the Hill – building a large public parking facility, a call echoed by new Senate President Stuart Adams.
The House got down to business immediately on Monday morning, taking votes on bills shortly after the opening ceremonies concluded, something that has not happened in recent memory. The House and Senate both had scheduled floor time on Monday afternoon.
The House opening ceremonies were hosted by outgoing former Speaker Greg Hughes, who retired the end of 2018, while outgoing Senate President Wayne Niederhauser swore in the new members of that body before turning the gavel over to Adams.
Wilson’s voice broke when he praised Hughes, who may well run for governor in 2020. “Just like in church, I’m crying already,” said Wilson, who said Hughes can’t be replaced, but was a groundbreaking speaker.
Adams challenged the members of his body to not only meet the challenges facing lawmakers today, but also to keep an eye on the future.
“The world is always changing. Do you want Utah to be a state that used to be the best?” he said. “To build the Utah of tomorrow, we must build common ground. All of us want what is best for Utah.”
Hughes gave Wilson a huge new gavel, made out of Utah mahogany and copper from Kennecott Copper. It will stand as a classic piece of history for the state, said Hughes.
Wilson said beside tax cuts – which should be more than $200 million – the state must deal with health care (Medicaid expansion), reforming the sales tax, broadening the base (as Herbert has called for), water development, infrastructure expansion, and protecting the unique public lands all Utahns value.
“We must put policy above politics,” said Wilson, a homebuilder in his private business.
He named several veteran House members as he said they are taking on specific assignments to fix a number of problems facing this session:
A broken tax structure, expanding the sales tax base by including any number of currently untaxed services. (That will be a thankless job, as lobbyists for those individual special interests will be on their backs.
Housing affordability, something close to Wilson’s own profession.
The Legislature’s role in continuing the long-term planning for the state. While the executive and judicial branches have their important functions, Wilson said the Legislature must step up to become the major long term planning responsibility.
These, and others, are obstacles to Utah keeping its long admired high quality of life, which include strong families, businesses and sense of community.