Statehouse opponents, at a minimum, disagree on $7.25 per hour |

Statehouse opponents, at a minimum, disagree on $7.25 per hour

Would raising the minimum wage in Utah boost the economy?

Or would it cost jobs?

The two competitors in the campaign for District 54 in the Utah House of Representatives essentially took party lines during a candidate forum Thursday night in the Snyderville Basin.

The incumbent Republican from Heber, Kraig Powell, and Democratic challenger Glenn Wright of Park City briefly discussed the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour during an event organized by an issues group called the Park City Project for Deeper Understanding.

Powell said he is willing to consider raising the state minimum wage, saying it is "an important discussion to have." But he also said he would likely support keeping the wage at its current figure. He said he was concerned increasing the minimum wage would lead to job losses.

Wright, though, argued for an increase. He said $10 per hour would be a starting point for an increase. He said paying a higher minimum wage would "bubble up" through the economy as people earning minimum wage have more money.

"It’s good for the economy as a whole," Wright said.

In an interview afterward, Powell said the minimum wage should be high enough to ensure employers are not cheating their workers. It should not be so high that it has a "social engineering" purpose, Powell said.

The event, held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, drew approximately 25 people. District 54 encompasses Park City, sections of the Snyderville Basin and Wasatch County.

Powell and Wright addressed a wide range of topics with only limited agreement.

The two, though, appeared to reach a consensus on air pollution. Wright said the state should pass restrictions that exceed federal standards, wood-burning devices like stoves should be replaced and there should be more state support for transit systems in the Salt Lake Valley. Powell said he largely agreed with the challenger.

They also appeared to agree as they spoke about their desire that religious issues be separated from Statehouse decisions.

They addressed the prospects of federal lands someday being transferred to the state. Wright said federal lands generate tourism money for the state. He said suing the federal government in an attempt to gain control of the lands is a "waste of time." Powell said he wants Utahns to control the federal lands, describing the issue as one of equality since there is not as much federal land in other states.

Some of the other topics covered on Thursday night included:

  • Powell saying that he does not accept campaign donations from lobbyists, corporate interests, special interest groups or political-action committees. Wright also said he has not received donations from corporate interests.
  • Wright describing that he wants tax breaks for corporate interests ended through a sunset clause
  • Powell describing himself as trying "not to be a typical Republican."
  • Wright saying he wants the state to return to a 1990s system for funding education. Income taxes should fund education from kindergarten through high school, he said.

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