BY REBECCA PALMER
BOUNTIFUL — South Davis Democratic candidates Lyn Anderson, Dan Donahoe and Breck England took on Republican incumbents last week in public debates over education funding, the leasing of public land, mineral extraction taxes and economic development.
All debaters agreed that improved education was a sure path to long-term economic prosperity, but discussions about where to find funding for schools, who to tax and how to use public money differed dramatically between the two camps.
Dan Donahoe is running against Rep. Becky Edwards in House District 20, which is made up of West Bountiful, North Salt Lake and Woods Cross. Donahoe, a renowned engineer, said the bulk of state funding problems come from the fact that all the biggest campaign donors here are either extracting minerals from the state or trying to build real estate developments on it.
“(Obtaining federal lands) is the most wrong-headed idea that the legislature could ever come up with,” he said. “The state legislature is made up of Realtors, so of course they want to do this. We should preserve the lands we have because they have no price.”
Rather than obtaining and selling federal lands or further reducing taxes, he recommended “spending money like Democrats” to build a community that is well-educated and capable of jobs in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM). He also wants more focus on bringing manufacturing jobs to Utah.
Edwards, who sits on the Utah Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and House Education Committee, supports the idea of taking over federal lands, but said she didn’t know how possible doing so would actually be.
“We could manage those lands in a more efficient way than the federal government,” she said, adding that documents from Utah’s ratification say that the property in question would eventually be given to the state. Land in the Uintah Basin should be taken over and sold, she said.
Other Republican incumbents supported her position.
Anderson is hoping to unseat Jim Nielson in House District 19, which comprises most of Bountiful. Nielson was elected two years ago. Both candidates agreed that the state should not put away severance tax money in a special fund for future use, but Anderson went further, saying taxes for taking nonrenewable resources from the ground should be increased to pay for more good teachers and decreased class sizes.
“We have taken too much from education already to put toward roads,” she said. “We are the only state that is not charging any severance tax on coal. We should tax that which is shipped for use out of state.”
Nielson defended Utah’s severance tax rates, saying that the market has adjusted to them and that if Utah’s rates were increased, prices would inevitably follow. That would hurt economic development, he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, who is running as an incumbent against England in Senate District 23, agreed with Nielsen. He added that although the state doesn’t tax the extraction of coal, taxpayers are gaining “hundreds of millions on coal extracted from state trust lands,” which are set aside to fund public education.
In response, England said that there is no proof that public lands in Utah would produce the kinds of revenue that state Republicans have projected.
The general election will take place on Nov. 6. For more information about the candidates, voting locations and more, read the Clipper’s Davis Decides supplement published on Oct. 25 or download it for free online at davisclipper.com.