« Home | State spending limit: decreased chatter » | Rainy Day Funds at All-time Highs » | Are Utah's Tax and Fee Burdens Overstated? » | Income Tax Reform Must Include Automatic Bracket A... » | Utah Foundation Forum » | Don Gale misses the point on school choice » | Responding to The Critics, Part 1 » | Congestion Pricing in Sweden » | Sleeper Issue for 2007 General Session » | State individual income tax rates keep dropping »

Interview with Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper)

On Wednesday, September 27th, Utah Taxpayer Association vice president Mike Jerman interviewed Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper). Hughes, along with Rep. Wayne Harper (R-West Jordan), was the recipient of the association's 2006 Taxpayer Advocate of the Year. A small business owner, Hughes is also the chairman of the House Conservative Caucus.

Mike Jerman: What are the biggest issues in the 2007 General Session?
Rep. Greg Hughes: Slowing the growth in state government spending is a major issue. The state's general revenues increased 18% in the recently concluded fiscal year (2006), and this follows a 12.4% annual increase in 2005. We had some lean years a couple of years ago, but overall state revenue growth has exceeded inflation and population growth over the last ten years. We'll always have unfunded needs in Utah, but we can't forget the taxpayers nor can we pretend that high tax burdens don't negatively impact long term economic growth. Reform is also a big issue.

MJ: What type of reform?
Hughes: Tax reform, education reform, and transportation reform. If the education and transportation lobbies had their way, we would see an avalanche of taxes that would kill our economy. We would have to raise our individual income taxes by more than 80% to increase our per student spending to the national average. And then we would have to increase local property taxes to build new schools to accommodate class size reduction. Education reform entails many changes, including merit pay, differential pay, and more parental choice. I also support increasing funding in the classroom as a percent of total education funding.

MJ: What about transportation reform?
Hughes: We need to make sure that transportation is adequately funded because economic development depends in large part on the viability of our transportation infrastructure. However, I am opposed to simply throwing money at the problem, and that's where transportation reform comes in. In the recent special session, I worked with my legislative colleagues to require side-by-side prioritization of road and transit projects. Prioritization will be based on cost-effectiveness of reducing congestion. We should have done this years ago. I also successfully fought for increased funding for corridor preservation. We can save a lot of money by buying up road corridors now before residential and commercial development encroaches on these corridors. This is also something we should have been aggressively pursuing years ago.

MJ: Politics usually focuses on the bad news. Is there any good news out there?
Hughes: Yes, the economy is growing which is why tax revenues are exploding. We significantly increased education funding in the recent general session, even though education groups don't acknowledge this. The education appropriation for FY2007 is 11.3% higher than the original pre-supplemental appropriation for FY2006.

When calculating spending increases, spending groups like to include supplemental appropriations for the base year even when the supplemental appropriations are not known for the current year. This understates actual expenditure growth. Supplemental appropriations should be included only when the supplemental amount is known for both years that are being compared.

The rainy day funds and the "working" rainy day funds are at all time highs, $255 million and $708 million respectively. The state has the highest possible credit rating. As a growing state with large families, we will always face challenges, but I am optimistic about the future of this state. I wouldn't be in the Legislature if I had a pessimistic view of Utah's future.

MJ: One last question. Are your Pirates going to let my Astros win so the Astros can have another shot at the World Series?
Hughes: I hope not. The Disastros embarrassed the entire National League last year when they were swept by the White Sox.

Why didn't you bring up the spending limit? Hughes sponsored the legislation that enacted the current legislation.

Interesting comments by Hughes, particularly the comments about the Disastros. The Pirates did their part, but it took them extra innings to lose.

Can you say "mutual appreciation society?" Hughes is nothing more than a lapdog for Howard Stephenson and Mike Jerman. It's a good thing we have the UTA - we need someone protecting wealthy business interests from things like children and poor people (unless they're customers, of course).

Unless they're customers? Which ones would NOT be customers?

Yep, let's tax those big bad businesses so "the people" won't have to pay any taxes. Too bad too many people fall for that BS. But as long as business can pass those taxes on to the rest of us without us knowing about it, then everything will be OK.

Hughes is chairman of the conservative caucus. Is a list of the caucus membership available? I've been told that the so-called conservative caucus has several not-so-conservative legislators.

Just like the "moderate caucus" has Greg Curtis, embarrasment to the people of our district, and sure as hell is not moderate.

Since your a Draper based org. let me ask you about all the east vs west legislation that has been going on and get your take.

We have had in the last year or so:

-School district splits (for east Slco)
-Real soccer stadiums (for Dolan)
-Toll Roads (for slco west side)
-Vouchers (For the rich, lets not kid our selfs the poor cant afford private)

So with this legislation comming from what would seem Draper and Sandy City govs, how can we get away from such bias and put accountability on our legislator?

School districts-
We support legislation that would equalize property taxes for school capital projects just as the state uses income tax to equalize school operations costs. Therefore, even if the east side broke off from the west side, the west side would not be harmed.

Real soccer stadium -
We oppose tax dollars for RSL's soccer stadium. We have commented numerous times on this issue in our newsletter, blog, and in the press

Toll roads -
We support congestion pricing (a variable toll that would be imposed only during rush hour) for all state roads in Utah that experience congestion, including roads in Davis County, SLCo east side, and Utah County.

We support vouchers. Contrary to opponents' claims, a $3,000 voucher plus financial assistance from private schools will enable students from low income families to attend private schools. Catholic schools, for example, charge about $4,000 for K-8. The Catholic schools also offer financial assistance (on average about $1,500).

I agree with the school district Idea you pose, but it is not the case currently, the poor affording private schools is very unlikley left up to oppinion I guess...


So with this legislation comming from what would seem Draper and Sandy City govs, how can we get away from such bias and put accountability on our legislator?

Post a Comment