Priorities to Move Utah Forward

lavarr policy insightsWhen we surveyed Utah leaders about what Utah’s top public policy and development priorities should be (see results in Scott Anderson Deseret News column), we received some good responses that didn’t make the top 10.

Here are those suggestions from a number of different people. Some of them will obviously be difficult to accomplish:

Work on solving under-employment. A host of Utahns had good jobs ten years ago, but their careers were upended. They got laid off during the Great Recession and never got back to their previous level. They were making $120k and now make $70k. Or they just took retirement and Social Security and now can’t make ends meet. Thousands of people are in this situation. One business leader said when his business volumes had returned to pre-recession levels they had 20% fewer employees, and because the business could operate with leaner staffing, he wasn’t going to re-hire to those pre-recession levels.

Moreover, jobs are changing, and many are disappearing. We need a long-term sustainable job training program. We have far too many high school and college drop-outs who will have to work for very low wages, who could be trained without a lot of schooling or college to have pretty high-wage jobs in the new economy. But this will require directed job training, not so much traditional schooling.

We must ensure that the state is aggressively and systematically working to meet its workforce needs, particularly in hard-to-fill positions that are critical to sustained economic growth and development, particularly in clusters such as aerospace/defense, IT, advanced manufacturing. Ensure that the state’s workforce needs are closely aligned with the state’s education K-12 and Higher Education Systems.

Water reform. This includes conservation, water rates, water rights and allocation policies, funding, and development, ensuring enough water for homes, industries, wildlife, agriculture, and recreation, especially as our population booms. If we do it right, perhaps the Lake Powell Pipeline will not need to be built.

Deal with slower population growth. Rapid growth has bolstered Utah’s economy, but we cannot continue our rapid pace of growth indefinitely, and it is, in fact, slowing now. Figure out how to have a healthy economy and tax base with slower population growth. We need a better economic balance that doesn’t depend so much on real estate development and construction jobs or on resource depletion as a source of vitality. 

Utah’s cultural fabric. Advance the interests of women in politics, business, education, and society, creating a more equal society with more diverse leadership. This will enhance the goal of more sustainable economics, too. Also, find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate the tension and conflicts over religion in this society, economy, and political institutions. Now that would be a moonshot, indeed! 

We’re going to see more demographic change, religious diversity, race/ethnicity, and political diversity. We must grapple with the transition as Utah becomes more diverse, multi-ethnic, more cosmopolitan and open.

Olympics. Bring the Olympics back to Utah!

Healthcare reform. Utah needs to find a way to help those left in the coverage gap while protecting the budget from any unintended consequences of expansion.  

Re-imagine rural Utah. Right now we have two Utahs, and we need to rethink rural Utah economic development. It can help with many of the growth pains in Utah’s urban areas and will require public investment and planning. We should build upon our well-distributed institutions of higher learning and create employment centers. We would need major incentives to make this work, but it may be worth it, considering the growth challenges in metropolitan Utah.

Inland port. Part of the broader development around the Salt Lake International Airport and its rebuild could be the creation of an inland port to support international trade and associated commerce. 

Rethink justice system. The prison relocation provides an opportunity for enhanced coordination and planning around the entire criminal justice/human services ecosystem.


Quote of the day. “I have not supported Donald Trump up to this point, I have not endorsed him. I have some concerns with him. He scares me to death; so does Hillary Clinton. There is no easy choice right now.”

-Utah Sen. Mike Lee (Washington Examiner)

Winning a fight with the feds. Wyoming man builds a pond on his property, battles the EPA for five years – and wins. (Deseret News)

Best “no comment” of the week. Sasha Clark, the spokesperson for the Jonathan Johnson campaign, issued a press release accusing of publishing poll results that were “outlandishly wrong” and “beyond rational comprehension.” KUTV 2News asked her if she had any evidence Utah Policy had cooked the results. She said she had no evidence and wouldn’t accuse Utah Policy of “putting out false numbers.” When the reporter pointed out that’s essentially what she did in her statement a few hours earlier, she replied, “I’m not going to comment on that.” In other words, she didn’t want to comment on her own comment. (KUTV News)