Like too much of our country, Utah is a tale of two states. The economy is strong and unemployment is low overall — but there remain many Utah families who are still being left behind, particularly Utahns who get up early, get home late, then do it all over again.
Utah workers deserve a living wage. I support raising the minimum wage. Utah workers’ rights must be preserved. Labor unions deserve fair representation. I support the PRO Act — Protecting the Right to Organize — which has been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but is stalled in the U.S. Senate. We need only look to Utah’s own ski resorts to see the power of organizing, with Park City ski patrollers recently rallying public support for a basic hourly wage increase. Strong unions make Utah stronger. Strong unions make our country stronger.
Workers, whose jobs go away due to factors beyond their control such as automation and market shifts, deserve assistance to transition to new jobs through training and education and government investments in infrastructure that bring new opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Education, both K-12 and higher education, need to be available, affordable, and of high quality to prepare Utahns for productive lives.
Tax fairness will require a more equitable distribution of who pays what, not today’s system of who-gets-to-use-all-the-loopholes to avoid paying their fair share. Billionaires and the largest U.S. corporations should not continue to be allowed to pay little or no taxes. Billionaires can afford a tax increase. Hardworking Utah families have been squeezed enough by legislation that favors the ultra-rich.
The Democratic Party-passed Child Tax Credit has now expired but helped reduce childhood poverty nationwide by an estimated 40%. No child in Utah, or in the U.S., should go to bed hungry when the wealthiest country in the world, ours, can afford to do more to help provide our nation’s poorest kids with better futures.
Housing affordability and homelessness are critical concerns in our state. Poverty is one of the most significant root causes of homelessness. Stagnant wages, unemployment, and high housing and healthcare costs all play into becoming first poor and then homeless. Being unable to afford essentials like housing, food, education, and more greatly increases a person’s or family’s risk to go to a shelter. Therefore public policies directed to reduce poverty will also reduce homelessness.
Universal coverage should not continue to remain out of reach for millions of Americans. Health care insurance reform is desperately needed. We need to continue and protect the insurance reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, including protections for pre-existing conditions, coverage for more Americans — 14 million just this year — and increased funding for rural community health centers. Insurance reform is smart policy that needs to be protected from repeated efforts to repeal. In Utah the percentage of people without health insurance today is 10%, thanks to insurance reforms in the ACA.
Medicaid and Medicare serve the common good and remain popular with Americans. Utah’s Medicaid program was expanded by popular vote in 2018. Medicare and Medicaid are also the largest payers of addiction treatment and mental health services in the U.S. and often the only healthcare lifeline in rural communities. These programs are vital given Utah has some of the highest rates of suicide and addiction in the nation. I believe in keeping these programs accessible and on strong financial footing. An important reminder is that U.S. active-duty military personnel are covered by Tricare. Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare show that we have the ability to make these popular and cost-effective single-payer programs work.
We need to improve healthcare delivery to our people. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world, but our healthcare system performance ranks below other industrialized countries. Two key steps to improving healthcare delivery in this country are to strengthen primary care in all communities and reduce administrative costs through continuing insurance reform including how we pay for primary care services. I support the provisions of the Build Back Better Act that support improvements in primary care.
Like other Democrats, I favor reducing prescription drug costs. No one should die in America because they lack access to life-saving drugs due to excessive costs. The U.S. government should be allowed to negotiate lower prices just like private insurers already do, and out-of-pocket expenses for some Medicare recipients should be capped.
Our country is dangerously divided. January 6, 2021, proved how precarious our national stability remains. We are not in a political truce but rather in a political hold.
Democracy is under threat from attacks on longstanding institutions and on our electoral process, from the inside. Voting rights remain integral to a strong democracy. National legislation should be passed in order to protect the vote. I support Democrats’ efforts to pass The Freedom to Vote Act — 15 days for early voting, mail-in ballots, making Election Day a national holiday — and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — which would make illegal any voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race, language, or ethnicity and would empower voters to challenge discriminatory laws. Like former President Obama, I believe some form of voter ID requirement is reasonable, especially if the requirement is supported with steps to register all eligible voters and provide government-issued identification cards. Polling shows that a majority of Americans support more protections for voting rights.
In Utah, the Legislature’s gerrymander of the state’s political maps for the next decade has exacerbated divides in our fast-growing Beehive State. By splitting up Salt Lake County into four parts for the Congressional map, Democrats and urban minority communities appear to have been specifically targeted for disenfranchisement. The election in 2022 is an important check on Utah’s Republican supermajority. All Utahns deserve ballots, filled top to bottom, with good candidates seeking their support, from whichever party.
Any effort to further disenfranchise voters by ballot manipulation, or by limiting Election Day choices, is wrong. This includes any plan to suppress Election Day options for Utahns. Over half-a-million Utah voters chose to vote for a Democratic candidate in 2020.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an assault on democracy. Dictators cannot be allowed to invade neighbors, to change boundaries at the point of a gun. Putin’s invasion is being blunted by a united Europe and NATO response and American leadership. President Biden has repaired our alliances and made the investments in diplomacy necessary for a better world and set the stage for a unified response to Putin’s aggression. As a former State Department official serving in war zones, I am acutely aware of the necessity and effectiveness of building alliances and partnerships.
Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. High-growth opportunities in our diversifying state are accompanied by challenges, not the least of which are drought and water conservation, housing affordability, infrastructure, and clean air. Our state must position itself to continue to welcome new Utahns who are born in the state and those who arrive by car, train, or plane. Whether a Utah family arrived in 1850 or last week, we are all Utahns. NIMBYism and Nostalgia are not strategies.
Our housing prices and rent increases reflect the reality of growth. Housing affordability is a statewide problem — some counties are doing better than others in meeting the challenge. Local communities should be encouraged and incentivized to develop smart growth housing policies to accommodate Utahns of every kind including young people beginning their working lives.
Utah must continue to prioritize water conservation in an era where the Great Salt Lake is shrinking, Utah Lake is under consideration for a rushed plan for a tax-payer supported dredging project to benefit private developers, the Colorado River and Lake Powell are at record-low levels — all the while some state leaders and vested water interests continue to press the construction of a massive water pipeline to St. George, an area most suited to tortoises, ant hills, and lizards, not more golf courses. Even the Utah Legislature’s audit suggests that this huge water project might never pay for itself and perhaps would have to be bailed out by taxpayers. It is encouraging that Washington County officials have recently advanced higher water conservation goals, which are long overdue and water conservation for new development is being mandated in communities such as Santa Clara. It is likewise encouraging that the Utah Legislature has passed legislation to foster water conservation and help protect the Great Salt Lake.
Utah, as the second sunniest state, can and should be a leader in renewable energy rather than exporting most of that clean power to California. The future of Utah is increasingly about solar and wind farms and geothermal plants, such as those outside my parents’ hometown of Milford, Utah. Smart energy policies will create and support high-tech jobs and industries and help clean our often worst-in-the-nation air quality.
Finally, Utah’s iconic public lands are our state’s legacy and one of our greatest shared resources. When contemplating our public lands, I’m reminded of the inscription on “Roosevelt Arch” at Yellowstone National Park: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”
Our public lands, monuments, and state and national parks are currently being loved to death, however. Visitation to Southern Utah’s national parks continue to break records, with even more campers and hikers and visitors expected across the coming years and decades. Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation shares, unfortunately, a mostly one-sided view toward Utah public lands at odds with public opinion. Some of the West’s most iconic national parks were initially opposed by local politicians, who later expressed their regret — such as former Wyoming governor, Republican Cliff Hansen, regarding the creation of Grand Teton National Park. The federal government has a legitimate role in overseeing these lands as recognized in the U.S. and Utah constitutions, even as indigenous communities and local officials at the county level belong in key discussions regarding wise stewardship of Utah’s vast public acreage.
Climate change is occurring and is obvious to the most casual observer. We keep having the ”’hottest year/season/month” on record. In the West, we are in the midst of a persistent, mega-drought with shrinking reservoirs, massive wildfires, and reduced water supplies. Global climate change is a serious problem calling for immediate national action.
There are many actions that can and should be taken by governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. As senator, I will support the creation of a carbon tax supported by bi-partisan economists and legislators. Such a tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary. By correcting a market failure where the costs and benefits of fossil fuel consumption are not reflected in price, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.
A sufficiently robust and gradually rising carbon tax will replace the need for various carbon regulations that are less efficient. Substituting a price signal for cumbersome regulations will promote economic growth and provide the regulatory certainty companies need for long-term investment in clean-energy alternatives. This would be a first step to addressing the climate crisis.
Equality for everyone is a key component of Liberty and Justice for ALL. Utah is not a state known for its diversity, yet 18% of the state is Latino, 15% are Asian / African American / Pacific Islander / Native American, and recently Salt Lake City ranked 7th in the nation for the largest LGBTQIA+ community on a per-capita basis.
Despite this reality, legislation at the state level has continued to discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community by restricting access and including language that “others” those who live here.
We need to continue to pass legislation at the federal level that protects the rights of ALL people in this country. If passed, the Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public education, federally funded programs, credit, and jury service.
Discrimination of any group must become a thing of the past in every state, county, and city.