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Candidates slice up surplus

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The three people vying for a local state Senate seat, commenting on Utah’s tax surplus, explained how they would divvy up the money, with the major-party candidates largely aligning their earmarks to traditional places like schools and roads.

At a candidate forum at the fire station at The Canyons Wednesday night, Kevin Van Tassell, the Republican in the contest for the seat in District 26 of the Senate, said the surplus should be put into what he described as a rainy day fund. The money, he said, could be set aside in case Utah’s hot economy weakens. Van Tassell also said some of the money could be put toward education and infrastructure.

His Democratic opponent, Roland Uresk, said Utah’s schools should get first dibs, followed by infrastructure. He said uneducated people are a threat to democracy as he explained how he would split the money.

Sonya Ray, the Constitution Party candidate in the Senate district, said she prefers that state lawmen receive the surplus. She claimed that state highway patrolmen earn less money than teachers. That, she said, is inappropriate.

Ray also said putting more money into Utah’s schools does not ensure that students will receive a better education. She indicated that some of the money should also pay for infrastructure improvements.

District 26 encompasses the West Side of Summit County but most of the district sits outside of the county, in more rural parts of northeastern Utah. Beverly Evans, a Republican from Altamont, currently holds the seat but is retiring. None of the three candidates is from Summit County.

Van Tassell is expected to easily defeat his two opponents. Traditionally, however, the Republican in the district does not have as strong a showing in the West Side of Summit County as they do in other parts of the district.

David Ure, the popular legislator from Kamas, challenged for the Republican nomination that Van Tassell won.

Other politicians seeking Summit County seats overshadowed the comments from the Senate candidates. The forum, which drew an audience of about 50 people, featured candidates seeking a variety of offices, including the Summit County Commission, the Summit County sheriff and the Summit County clerk.

The three Senate candidates agreed that the government should protect people’s private property rights, an apparent reference to development-related legislation that the Statehouse might consider.

When asked if land should be seized to allow trails to be built, the three hesitated, with Ray unwilling to answer with details, Van Tassell saying that it is not appropriate for the government to take land for trails and Uresk saying that, perhaps if one landowner was holding out, the land could be seized but saying that, typically, that sort of move should not be employed.

Property rights were addressed at an earlier candidate forum, with the politicians at that gathering also saying that they support private property rights.

Meanwhile, at the Wednesday event, the three people competing for the House of Representatives District 53 seat, as they had at the earlier forum, agreed in their assessment of what they see as the importance of private property rights.

Republican Mel Brown, Democrat Laura Bonham and Gary Shumway, a Libertarian, briefly offered their opinions. Brown said the Bill of Rights is under siege. Shumway said the government should not be allowed to seize property in an effort to boost the economy. Bonham conceded, sometimes, the needs of a community outweigh a person’s property rights but she said she would support people’s rights.


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