New 2020 Concern
Updated May 2020
ARE CRUCIAL STATE BUDGET CUTS REALLY NECESSARY?
The Corona Virus Pandemic has upended our state revenue and state budget. We can look forward to our State Legislature seeking to cut important state programs with the belief that our state funds will be insufficient to pay for existing programs with drastically reduced commercial business as residents stay home during the Pandemic, "Utah braces for budget cuts brought on by COVID-19," Fox 13 (May 11, 2020), "Utah economic recovery could take years, lawmakers warn," Deseret News (May 12, 2020), "Pandemic blows holes in state budget," Standard-Examiner (May 20, 2020). "On chopping block: Funding for school, social services," The Salt Lake Tribune (June 3, 2020). However, such cuts might not be necessary, at least for the coming year. It depends, and thus we need more than ever a state legislator who will make sure that we find out how much money the state actually has to spend for the coming year.
Our current state legislature has continued to attempt to pass tax laws that according to some would have actually increased our taxes even while telling us they are tax cuts, all this even before the Pandemic raced through out our state back in March. According to Utah Legislative Watch, the December 2019 tax reform laws passed by our state legislature in special session would actually have amounted to an annual $330 million TAX INCREASE in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 (now repealed thanks mostly to the January 2020 citizens' petition against the tax reform law). Even as taxpayers are told that the state needs more money because of declining sales tax revenue, just the opposite might have occurred. Our sales taxes likely have actually continuously increased to record levels as the state legislature has been increasing our sales tax rates which suggests that our state has more money to spend than officially reported.
These major tax changes would have likely hurt you and the low and moderate-income families as well as our senior citizens, your parents or grandparents. For the second time, our State Legislature rushed through important changes in our laws. First was ignoring the public's desire for medical marijuana and expanded Medicaid and now our state legislators went after our pocketbooks without affording the public the opportunity to attend committee hearings and bypassing the regular legislative process again using a special session. What emergency before the Pandemic was so important that the state legislature had to push through these major changes without allowing public and public interest group input? What terrible consequences would have occurred with the non-action that ultimately happened with a drastically reduced tax reform bill passed?
We need state representatives who trust the public more than themselves.
The problem with our Utah state legislative efforts to change our tax system is that these efforts continue to benefit the rich who least need tax reform ("Utah tax 'reform' should be rejected," The Salt Lake Tribune, December 12, 2019, "Top earners would benefit most from Utah tax reform," The Salt Lake Tribune, October 29, 2019). While understandably our State and the public have been focused on trying to improve public education, the real problem maybe the diminishing income value of the middle class that has been the foundation of the economic vitality of our nation. "From 1979 to 2017, as the average real annual wages of the top 1 percent of Americans rose 156 percent (and the top. 01 percent's wages rose by a stunning 343 percent), the purchasing power of the average American's paycheck did not increase." Nick, Hanauer, Better Schools Won’t Fix America, The Atlantic Magazine, July 2019; See also "Is a booming economy hiding working-class suffering? A look at who is thriving and who is not," Deseret News, February 20, 2020. Mr. Hanauer argues that the problem is that the rest of us, the bottom 90 percent of the population, are forced into trying to divvy up a shrinking share of the national wealth while the rest is siphoned off by the increasingly wealthy dynasties.
Our Legislative District deserves a State Representative who understands the burden that the hard working middle class in our community carries and contending with increasing property and sales taxes, and government fees in the face of possible budget surpluses that don't seem to provide any relief. I commit to:
Being more flexible about what the hundreds of millions of dollars in our State's "Rainy Day Fund" which amounts to approximately $800 million ("Why unemployment claims are so low in South Dakota, Utah and Nebraska," CNN, May 12, 2020) is supposed to be for. Davis County needs a state legislator who is open to considering that what we've been experiencing, this COVID-19 Pandemic might actually be an emergency that justifies finally using surplus funds to help move our State back to near normal. Then we can start replenishing the fund when our economy and residents can best afford to save and invest in our State for future "emergencies."
Considering government investment in selected urgently needed public assistance programs such as even more health services for women with children which studies have suggested will more than pay back the taxpayer in the future. "Social Programs Can Sometimes Turn a Profit for Taxpayers," The Washington Post (July 10, 2020).
Working to pass government finance reform laws that involves Utahns paying their "fair share" of government services, making sure that those families earning over a million dollars a year contribute their share of the burden of operating our state and local governments.
Researching and making sure that the residents of Northern Davis County understand in detail how much and where government revenue is actually coming from to operate State government programs each year, including how much internet sales taxes have helped to balance the loss of retail sales from our bricks and mortar stores, which has been estimated to add between $30 million to $70 million dollars each year to the state budget, according to Brett Hastings of Utah Legislative Watch, at a United Women's Forum on January 8, 2020.
Involving local residents, especially those educated in accounting and economics to help develop our Community position on tax reform and then directly involving local residents in helping me as your Representative to come up with our own position on how we pay taxes and spend your money for government services. See the movie Dave (1993) starring Kevin Kline who as a stand-in for the real President brings in his neighborhood friend, a certified public accountant, to help with developing the federal budget.
Updated November 1, 2020
Helping Our Businesses while
Protecting Employees and Consumers
*Since August, the mink population in Utah has been devastated by COVID-19 infections, "At least 8,000 mink dead in Utah after contracting Covid-19," CNN October 8, 2020. This unique and potentially dire event in Utah only increases the danger and necessity to continue focusing on containing COVID-19 instead of allowing it to expand and intrude into the public sphere. The rare but theoretically possible explosion of human to animal to human infection could raise exponential ruin to both human and animal life on earth if this virus is allowed to mutate by allowing it to grow into more and more people allowing this virus a vast breeding ground.
Instead of downplaying the cost of a state-wide shut down to protect lives and our health in order to supposedly save our state economy, too many politicians have ignored the potentially devastating impact on thousands of survivors of COVID-19 who haven't died and who are unable to go back to work and help our economy grow. Instead they face an uncertain future of dementia-like "brain fog" clouding their ability to remain employed or to even live a normal life. Thousands of more jobs may be lost because of our continued refusal to admit to the seriousness of this national novel viral infection and hurt our economy even more. ‘I Feel Like I Have Dementia’: Brain Fog Plagues Covid Survivors,' The New York Times (October 12, 2020).
Residents more than ever need to see that their tax dollars are invested into those businesses that will give back the biggest community returns for our dollars:
getting employees back to work
ensuring employee and consumer health protections.
Instead our State Legislature and Governor want to protect businesses from even negligent disregard for our health and safety by passing liability immunity for businesses. "Guv signs bill giving immunity to businesses," The Salt Lake Tribune (May 5, 2020). Instead a reasonable middle of the road solution should have been to enact laws that recognized the precious value of human life along with lawful expectations that businesses would adhere to public safety standards to protect its employees and consumers from the Coronas Virus. It's government's responsibility not an employee nor the consumer to have to worry about understanding and inspecting each business each time they go to work or go to shop to ensure that their well-being is being protected. "Their dad died after a COVID-19 outbreak at work. Utah has made it difficult for them to sue," The Salt Lake Tribune (September 6, 2020).
It will be the vital and healthy middle class healthy residents that will help drive our economy back from recession. But we cannot underestimate the devastating impact of COVID-19 has on the health of our hardworking residents. "Utah coronavirus patients experience long-term effects from COVID-19," The Salt Lake Tribune (September 7, 2020). As more and more people are able to spend for more and more goods and services, our businesses will be able to:
hire more people and increase sales and commercial property taxes, and
begin to replenish severely depleted local and state coffers to pay for important public health and education programs.
The Corona Virus has demonstrated the importance to invest in local businesses instead of spending tens of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to bring out of state corporations that only serves to bring more people from out state to Utah, increasing traffic congestion, driving up housing costs, and contributes to over development that pollutes our environment and changes our way of life.
Let's restart our economy with sound policies that won't jeopardize the hard sacrifices we have already made.
It's time to stop subsidizing corporations, our policy of government-business welfare, to move to Utah and instead begin to focus on the quality of life not the quantity of over-development that has created a housing shortage and rapid acceleration of housing development that is destroying our state's pristine open spaces and rural environment, creating more traffic congestion, and unacceptable, unhealthy pollution.
Our state needs to promote self-sufficiency and focus on local businesses hiring local residents. The foundation of and employee-generator and innovator in this Country has been small business that provides those goods and services that we really need and want. Let's keep it that way.
Our Jobs Threatened by Artificial Intelligence and Automation
The future is here. More and more human jobs are being eliminated as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence used by corporations save labor costs, earn profits, and replace humans "Soaring joblessness could shake U.S. economy, politics for years," The Washington Post (May 8, 2020). Already, more and more consumers are using self-service machines providing services that used to be provided by human beings.
Gasoline service station pumps
Grocery store check-out lines
Drive-through ATM machines
A new study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank..."predicted that Salt Lake and Ogden-Clearfield would be among the 10 top regions in the United States for workforces impacted by artificial intelligence," Deseret News, (December 7, 2019). This new study reveals how artificial intelligence may now extend to impacting middle class white-collar jobs in the fields of health care, finance, insurance, and information services in addition to manufacturing and agricultural jobs that have already been experiencing AI effects. Walmart appears to be proposing to cut hourly supervisor and assistant manager positions, hitting the white collar middle class the hardest while it replaces other employees with robots to stock shelves, sort deliveries, scrub floors." "Walmart employees say they're preparing for job cuts as retailer rolls out its 'Great Workplace' program," The Washington Post (February 18, 2020).
There was a time when automation was being called a miracle to make our lives more convenient and more productive. Yet it seems that most of the benefits may now be going to those large corporations that have acquired the means to purchase and own automated devices and use artificial intelligence to replace low income and middle class jobs. Perhaps it's time for our state representative to call for a compensation on behalf of the thousands of employees who are being replaced by technology. Perhaps our society and ordinary people should also reap the benefits of automation that are enjoyed by employers and corporations that now get to retain the corporate earnings of technology. Perhaps it's time for states severely impacted by automation and artificial intelligence to tax such robotic equipment and artificial intelligent services so that you and I can also enjoy the benefits of these scientific discoveries and progress.
A Mini-Vendors' Fair in Clearfield held on June 20, 2020.
Our precious farmland is a special local resource that benefits families with more healthy and better tasting food. The availability of such food closer to the people also protects our environment through reducing transportation and distribution resources and costs. Such productive land should not be taken away lightly. Local government use of eminent domain to take property away from private owners has been traditionally reserved for redevelopment purposes to improve blighted or difficult to develop property not simply for more housing and business development. The use of the government's power to take farmland away from private citizens should only occur as a last resort after other, even moderately more expensive, options have been considered. Utah instead needs to consider the promotion of government-university sponsored research and pilot projects into the feasibility of transforming our local farms into productive farmland year round.
Our Farms On The Verge Of Failure
The COVID-19 has devastated much of the crucial commercial markets our local farms need to survive. Deseret News (April 8, 2020). Our local farms now more than ever before need State and local resident support to continue operating and so that we and our families will have affordable and adequate food to eat. Instead of allowing our sales dollars to flow outside our community (especially to out of state online corporations), we need to keep and retain our own valuable pocketbooks and buy from and sell to each other. I am committed to expanding and transforming our farmer markets into a community-wide commercial vendors' market that would become a destination business center for the County year round.
Our Businesses Deserve Educated and Qualified Utah Employees.
Utah had some of the lowest unemployment rates in years and Utah employers found it more and more difficult to hire educated and qualified employees they need "Utah is facing a major worker shortage," Deseret News (January 14, 2020). Instead of businesses having to hire more and more employees from out of state or experience a labor shortage in the future, more Utah residents need better access to higher education opportunities, childcare, and affordable housing. Utah needs an educated, healthy local workforce using their skills in meaningful employment to stay number one.
Look into the economic feasibility of offering “reduced cost" higher education programs for residents committed to working for Utah businesses.
Opening up to the idea of business tax credits or deductions for providing on-site child care services for operating costs for private contractors and capital expenditures for construction or remodeling of child care rooms or centers that offer child care that has often been difficult for employees and owners to find and afford.
Explore non-traditional housing options such smaller housing designs to lower the exorbitant cost of housing for Utah employees, especially for Millennials and lower-income employees, and carefully plan neighborhoods based on sustainable urban-design principles to accommodate moderate increases in housing density to minimize their impact on our communities.