Utah Democrats Lay Out Priorities for 2014

Utah Senator Gene Davis speaks to the media, with Democrats from the Utah legislature standing in the background.
Utah Senator Gene Davis speaks to the media, with Democrats from the Utah legislature standing in the background.

(KCPW News) In preparation for the Utah legislative session convening next week, Democrats from the House of Representatives and Senate held a press conference on Tuesday to summarize their priorities.

Senator Gene Davis of District 3 began the press conference by saying the Democratic Party has to move away from partisan politics and focus on what they really stand for: families.

“We know that families in the state of Utah have challenges. Economic challenges, the challenges to be able to really focus on their families,” Davis said. “They’re focused on that opportunity that they have to provide for them. And they look towards us, their state legislators, for guidance in making sure that they have the supports that they need.”

One of the areas where Davis says Utahns look for guidance is education. State representative Tim Cosgrove of the 44th District said, when it comes to funding, Utah has done nothing more than maintain the status quo in public education, but we should be doing more.

“We’re looking at ways of restructuring the payments for taxes that people pay, maybe on a quarterly basis to increase funding, making it a more stable revenue source for education,” Cosgrove said. “And we’re looking at some additional increased funding revenues for public education.”

Cosgrove also criticized Governor Gary Herbert for postponing a decision on Medicaid expansion, saying our state is missing out on millions of federal dollars for healthcare.

“That’s money that should come to our state in providing healthcare and ensuring that our citizens have that stability for their health and well-being,” he said.

Another focus of the press conference was the economy. In that area, Representative Lynn Hemingway of the 44th District isn’t shy about introducing the often-contentious issue of raising the minimum wage. He wants to bring Utah’s minimum wage up from $7.25 per hour to $10.25, saying the current minimum isn’t a livable wage.

Responding to a question on whether wage increases adversely affect business owners, Hemingway had this to say: “You would think that a small increase wouldn’t drive people out of business, but you never know. If you go to McDonald’s, and instead of paying a dollar for a cup of coffee, if you pay a dollar and ten cents, is that going to make you stop buying your coffee at McDonald’s? I don’t think so.”

Representative Patrice Arent of the 36th District said air quality is also a top priority for Democrats, but specific details won’t be revealed until a bipartisan press conference dedicated to the issue.

Utah Republican Party Executive Director Julian Babbitt said no press conference laying out Republican priorities is planned, but much of the party’s energy is focused on preparing for the legislative session and the upcoming caucus season.

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