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Candidates: leave money mess to Washington

Politicians campaigning for the Statehouse said Thursday night the nationwide economic mess should be left to the politicians in Washington, D.C.

They indicated there is not much a Utah legislator can accomplish since President Bush and Congress are handling the crisis themselves. Three of the candidates seeking local Statehouse seats appeared at a forum in the Snyderville Basin, with each of them saying the state Legislature’s influence on the federal government’s bailouts of troubled financial companies is essentially nil.

Democrats Christine Johnson and Kathy Lofft and Republican Mel Brown offered brief comments about the crisis to about 30 people at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Johnson was especially stark in her assessment, saying the U.S. could face a depression. Brown indicated legislators could provide more oversight of the state’s financial institutions, and Lofft said "there’s probably little we can do" as a state government.

The comments came hours after the opening of a special session of the Legislature to fix the state budget, which is suffering from a projected shortfall in revenue.

Brown, the incumbent Republican from Coalville, and Park City Democrat Lofft are competing for the 53rd District seat, representing Park City, the East Side of Summit County and parts of several outlying counties.

Johnson, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, is the incumbent in District 25, which stretches from the eastern edge of Salt Lake City to the Snyderville Basin. Her Republican and Constitution Party opponents did not attend the Thursday event.

The three candidates took questions submitted by audience members, and they covered a range of issues, some central to the campaign and others on the political fringes.

They spoke about transit systems in the area and the potential of someday having mass transit between the West Side and Salt Lake City, long a wish of local leaders.

Johnson said a public-private partnership is preferred, adding that extending Salt Lake City’s light-rail system into the Sugar House neighborhood someday would open up possibilities for bus service between there and Park City. Under her scenario, park-and ride lots would be put in the Park City area and Sugar House, a bus would run between the lots, and the light-rail line would link the Salt Lake bus stop with the rest of the TRAX system.

Lofft acknowledged there have been repeated calls for a mass-transit system between the West Side and Salt Lake City, but she acknowledged one would be "very expensive." The state’s financial situation pushes a Park City-Salt Lake City bus line well into the future, she said.

Brown, meanwhile, said legislators must grapple with traffic on the two state highways that serve as Park City’s entryways before moving to more ambitious ideas for Park City-Salt Lake City transit.

The three largely followed party lines on issues like gun control and gay rights, and they briefly touched on their disparate fundraising strategies.

They agreed that state liquor laws need to be revamped, but they did not provide details.


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