Park Record 2020 Voter Guide: House District 28
With Election Day approaching on Nov. 3 and mail-in ballots on their way to voters, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions on topics important to Summit County residents. Click here for the Senate District 19 race, here for the House District 53 race, here for the House District 54 race and here for the First Congressional District race.
Utah House District 28: Brian King (Democrat) vs. Carol Hunter (Republican)
• What are your qualifications for office and why are you running?
King: I am well qualified to represent House District 28. I’m a life-long resident of Utah, have represented individuals and families as a lawyer suing life, health, and disability companies for over 25 years, and am committed to representing the interests or regular working Utahns. In my time in the legislature, I have a proven record of fighting for public education, campaign finance reform, and supporting the environment. The recent brouhaha over the Hideout annexation attempt shows Summit County needs high quality and effective Democratic representation in the legislature. I’ve provided that. I have good relationships with legislative leaders, which has allowed me to work across the aisle. Other issues I’ve worked on are preserving our public lands, enhancing the safety of Utahns by advocating for laws to reduce gun violence, and providing more resources to protect people from sexual assault and domestic violence.
Hunter: I entered the workforce in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and later obtained a master’s degree in business administration. Over the next 36-years I held a number of breakthrough positions in planning, economic development and finally energy efficiency; where I was responsible for development and implementation. In my various roles I had the opportunity to work with and testify before city, county and state leaders across six states. I retired as a Vice President in 2013 to be with my husband until his death in 2014.
I know first-hand the most effective decisions are built on diverse views and the ability to advocate for those views in the room where decisions are made. I am weary of the hearing about what divides us and am committed to working across the aisle to ensure voters in District 28 have a voice in their future.
• How would you assess the state’s response to COVID-19? What specific actions undertaken by state officials have you agreed or disagreed with?
King: Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, and other state GOP leaders have failed to provide the effective and decisive leadership we need. Now we are in the middle of a new wave of positive infection numbers. We could and should have a mask mandate for the entire Wasatch Front and Back and other counties in which there are infection rates above 5%. We need to provide more widespread testing, more effective contact tracing, and better access to PPE. The fundamental problem we see from state and national Republicans is a disregard for public health and medical professionals. In addition, Republican leaders show in their words and their actions that they believe controlling the virus is at odds with limiting its adverse economic consequences. This is fundamentally wrong. It is by controlling the virus as quickly and effectively as possible that we ensure a robust economic recovery.
Hunter: Consistent with prior planning the state began to actively response to the virus in late January. No plan however is perfect. From the initial activation of the emergency center in later January, medical professionals and leadership have continued to evaluate and improve the state’s response to the ever-evolving challenges presented by COVID-19. At this point I believe it’s inappropriate to criticize those who have been faced with the daunting task of guiding the state. There will time to debrief and fully understand the magnitude and response to the pandemic.
As individuals we have been living under the all-encompassing impacts of COVID-19 for close to 9 months. As time goes by its easy for fatigue to set in. It is imperative that regardless of our role in the fight against this virus we continue to be vigilant and remember that our actions not only impact our own lives but our community.
• While Utah has withstood the economic turbulence brought on by the coronavirus pandemic better than many states, the crisis nonetheless has been devastating. What specific policies should the Legislature implement to hasten the recovery?
King: We need to take measures to ensure people will be as safe from the virus as possible. Tying economic assistance to a business’s commitment to enact proven public health protective measures such as requiring masks, social distancing, and other actions recommended by public health officials is a start. We need to put monetary incentives in place to encourage compliance with those things by businesses and economic penalties in place on businesses that fail or refuse to comply with those requirements. We also need to take measures to ensure that taxpayer funds go to individuals and small businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic.
Hunter: Utah’s government, business and educational leaders have worked collectively for decades to build an economy where Utahns cannot only find employment but have the opportunity for economic security. It is not surprising therefore that prior to Covid-19, the state had among the lowest unemployment rates and ranked 2nd in personal income growth.
While Utah’s unemployment rate is down to 4.1% from a high of 10.4% early this year the impact of COVID-19 is still being felt by small businesses and workers in the hospitality and leisure industry. State leadership should encourage Utah’s Congressional delegation to support increased funding for enhanced unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program. At the state level government should continue to work to ensure those in need have access to the funding.
• Protecting the environment is a key issue for Summit County voters, and local governments here have set aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions. In your view, what is the most important action the Legislature should take to curb climate change?
King: There are many things we can and should do. But you ask about the most important. I believe the most important thing we can do to curb climate change is to elect individuals at the local, state, and national level who prioritize reducing carbon emissions. Electing people who feel strongly that taking concrete, specific action to develop renewable energy and move away, not just incrementally but dramatically, from fossil fuels, is the first step. If we can get people in office who believe that climate change is real and understand the threat it is to our state, country, and world, the solutions will come naturally. Many technologies and processes for significantly reducing carbon emissions already exist. But as long as we have Congressional and legislative representatives who don’t believe in or take seriously global warming, the current unsustainable trajectory will not change.
Hunter: Vehicle emissions are a primary contributor to poor air quality in Utah and throughout the US. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted tier 3 standards in 2014. The standards impact vehicles as well as fuels.
In the 2017 session, the state legislature took steps to encourage investments in the production of tier 3 gasoline. To date three of Utah’s five small refineries have converted their operations; giving Utahns the ability to purchase tier 3 gasoline.
Tier 3 gasoline on its own can reduce emissions up to 14%. However, coupling tier 3 gasoline with vehicles rated for tier 3 fuels is estimated to reduce emissions by 80%. Given the state’s success in largely achieving tier 3 gasoline standard, the next step I would recommend would be to look at approaches to accelerating the adoption of tier 3 vehicles.
• The high cost of living continues to be one of the most pressing problems facing Summit County, with many of the working-class people who power the local economy unable to afford housing here. What policies can the Legislature implement to help solve the affordable housing shortage in Summit County?
King: We’ve struggled with affordable housing in western Summit County for decades. But unless we provide affordable housing to individuals, food insecurity, adequate access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, access to education and job training, and transportation congestion will never be successfully addressed. We can put into place more effective ways of incentivizing landowners and property developers to build and maintain affordable housing. Tax credits, subsidies, and other economic inducements can help ensure affordable housing is built. We can be more creative in providing attractive options for public-private partnerships. Doing that will drive capital to affordable housing developments but that are not being planned and constructed right now.
Hunter: Affordable housing is a complicated issue that impacts a number of communities in Utah. A major source of revenue for cities and towns is collected through the local option sales tax. Currently the distribution formula for the local option sales tax creates an incentive for local government to pursue retail development; which in many communities adds to the need for affordable housing. One option would be to update the distribution formula to recognize the need for family sustaining employment opportunities and affordable housing. This change would provide a source of revenue for successful communities and help offset the cost associated with affordable housing for critical community employees.
• Please differentiate yourself from your opponent.
King: My work in the legislature over many years and my position as Leader of the House Democratic Caucus give me the experience and the pull to get good things done for Summit County. I have excellent relationships with many other people on the Republican side of the aisle, including the other Representatives and Senators who represent Summit County. The great majority of bills and issues we deal with at the legislature have bipartisan support. In contrast to what too often happens in Washington D.C., Utah state legislators more often than not work well together to ensure the interests of Utahns are protected. We can do a better job on that score. But Summit County needs Democratic, as well as Republican, perspectives and values in the legislature. I bring those to the table.
Hunter: When I decided to run for the House of Representative, I made a committed to myself, my family and my friends that I would not discuss my opponent. That being said there is an inherent difference other than our political party and gender. My opponent is a lawyer and I am an engineer. Lawyers as Thomas Jefferson observed “question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour.” Engineers on the other hand “turn dreams into reality” (Hayo Miyazaki).
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