Candidates for Utah Governor talk water, environment, economy during online forum

Apr 29, 2020, 7:01 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 3:40 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Five candidates vying to be Utah’s next governor–four Republicans and one Democrat–outlined their plans for the state during an online forum. 

The Envision Utah forum was hosted by KSL’s Doug Wright and focused on a variety of topics, including the environment, water, and how to grow opportunities for people living in rural Utah. 

Former Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) addressed Utah’s growing population and climate change, saying the state needs to do a better job building up it’s water infrastructure. Huntsman believes Utah has a water distribution problem, not a water capacity problem, and pointed to the Colorado River as an example. 

“We’re limited in taking it because we don’t have the right kind of infrastructure, the tunnels and pipelines that we need. Look at what Denver has done. They have outdone us, out-built us in terms of their ability to get water to a city that is well over 5 million people,” Huntsman said. 

Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes (R-Draper) believes spreading the economic growth around the state will help air quality, as people will not have to drive as far to get a job. 

“You go to Tooele County [and] 80% of their workforce drives between the Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake to get into Salt Lake County to find employment. For air quality purposes, we have to see the economic development grow throughout the whole state,” Hughes said. 

Chris Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah and the only Democrat in the race, calls climate change the biggest challenge this generation faces. 

“In the short term…we need to make sure that Tier 3 gasoline is getting used in a broader spectrum in our vehicles across the state. We need to invest in a faster transition to plug in, hybrid, and electric vehicles. We need to invest more of our infrastructure development dollars into mass transit,” Peterson said. 

On the topic of education, there was broad support for paying teachers more. Hughes also believes the current pandemic will encourage more families to give home schooling a try, while Huntsman wants to lower costs at colleges and universities by charging less for online-only classes. Peterson wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to increase per-pupil spending at public schools.

The challenges facing rural Utahns were another topic the candidates talked about. 

Former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright said rural and tourist areas are worried about climate change impacting the snowpack, which could also hurt their economy. He’d also like the state to do something to get young people to live and work in rural towns, specifically by connecting people to broadband internet. 

“There are many counties that never came out of the last recession. They’re not experiencing economic growth…We need to make sure that we are connecting to the internet. Why are we building hundreds of millions of dollars of buildings all over the state if we’re not connecting rural Utah to the internet? We’ve seen in this [COVID-19] pandemic how important connectivity is,” Wright said. 

Current Lt. Governor Spencer Cox (R) agreed with Wright about connectivity, saying it allows people to work from home and brings high paying jobs to rural areas. 

“Broadband is the great equalizer. It gives everyone in rural Utah the same opportunities to compete in a world marketplace as those on the Wasatch Front,” Cox said. 

Cox also pointed out how teleworking has cut costs for the state and increased productivity.   



Today’s Top Stories

Your Voice, Your Vote

ballot count amendments utah...
Lindsay Aerts

County clerks report more poll watchers, scrutiny ahead of Utah primary

Ahead of the 2022 Utah Primary election, clerks Salt Lake and Utah counties are reporting more poll watchers are serving as watchdogs.
2 months ago
Utahns could get a tax cut....

Utah Senate passes a tax cut for Utahns, Gov. Cox says he will sign it

The Utah Senate just unanimously passed a bill, giving Utahns a big tax cut. People in the state could see $193 million back in taxes.
6 months ago
utah poll unfavorable to president biden...
Mary Richards

New poll shows low favorability in Utah for President Biden

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows that 45% of Utah residents have a favorable opinion of President Joe Biden, while 3% aren’t sure.
2 years ago
Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., read the final certifica...

Biden win confirmed after violent pro-Trump protestors storms US Capitol

Congress has confirmed Democrat Joe Biden as the presidential election winner, hours after violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.
2 years ago
president trump trial...
ZEKE MILLER and JILL COLVIN Associated Press

Trump says his term is ending, transition will be orderly

President Donald Trump says there will be an “orderly transition on January 20th” now that Congress has concluded the electoral vote count certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
2 years ago
(Some of the flags and signs outside the Utah State Capitol.  Credit: Paul Nelson)...
Paul Nelson

Hundreds participate in “Stop The Steal” rally at Utah State Capitol

Hundreds of President Trump’s supporters in Utah gather on the Capitol grounds to protest what they call the stealing of the presidential election. 
2 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Candidates for Utah Governor talk water, environment, economy during online forum