Ammon’s Vision For Utah
In 2019, the Utah Legislature pushed through a massive tax bill during a special session. Our current representative Brad Wilson was one of the loudest and strongest proponents of this bill that would have raised taxes on gas and almost tripled taxes on food. These tax hikes would have been an even greater burden considering our current economic situation. To make up for these tax increases, the legislature sought to cut income taxes, which cuts would have come directly out of education funding. Brad Wilson attended listening sessions throughout the state and was aware that Utah voters did not want this law, and yet passed it anyway. Utahns rallied to gather enough signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in November, which forced the legislature to reluctantly backpedal and repeal the bill.
Even after the repeal, Brad Wilson continued to insist that the legislature knew better than Utahns, and criticized their involvement in the political process calling such involvement “ruinous”. As a representative, I will listen to my constituents and remember that I am there to represent them. I will work to protect Utahns financially and make sure that Utah’s tax decisions make sense for everyone. The last thing we need to be doing right now is raising taxes on essentials while cutting funding for education.
Utah has long been the state that spends the least money per student on education of any state in the country, and as a result we also have the largest class sizes of any state. We are paying our teachers part-time pay for full time work, and failing to adequately prepare our children for the 21st century economy. Each year Utahns spend hundreds of millions of dollars on corporate tax breaks with money that would otherwise be constitutionally earmarked for education. We already have the funding available to do more for our schools without raising taxes. We just need leadership that is dedicated to making sure we are taking care of our students and assuring high quality education for our kids.
Better Listening and Communication
Voter satisfaction with the Utah Government is at a historic low due to recent actions that blatantly ignored public sentiment on tax reform and voter-approved initiatives. There needs to be a fundamental shift in how communicative and responsive the legislature must be with the public. Legislators should be required to hold multiple public town-hall meetings each year, and real contact information should be made available to the public. This better communication would decrease the need for Utahns to bypass the legislature with citizen initiatives; however, when such initiatives pass, the legislature should have to submit any modifications for voter approval. Read more about this issue here.
While Americans recognize the essential need for healthy competition in business, we have allowed our two major political parties to stifle it in our political system. Due to one-party dominance in many districts, the vast majority of races around the country are decided in closed partisan primaries in which only about 20% of voters participate. These primary voters also tend to be more ideologically extreme than the general electorate and often vote out incumbents who seek bipartisan solutions.
One solution to these problems is to institute Final Five primaries with Ranked-Choice general elections. Final Five voting puts all primary contenders regardless of party affiliation onto a single primary ballot. People vote for their favorite, and the top 5 vote-getters advance to the general election which uses Ranked-Choice Voting.
Ranked-Choice Voting is an innovative voting method that allows voters to rank their preferences from first to last. These rankings are then used in an instant runoff system which eliminates low-performing candidates and reallocates their votes to voters’ second choices. It removes the spoiler effect and ensures that the ultimate winner does so with a true majority of the vote even in races with multiple candidates. This reform is already gaining momentum in Utah with Payson and Vineyard having already used it for municipal elections, and the legislature set to consider a bill to implement it for all state primary elections. Read Ammon’s op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune on Ranked-Choice Voting here.
Campaign Finance Reform
Utah currently has no campaign finance limits for state and local politicians. Many state leaders including my opponent Brad Wilson receive almost all of their campaign contributions from the very corporations and industries that they are supposed to be regulating. This is the definition of legalized corruption. It’s no different than athletes paying off referees before games or criminals paying off judges hoping for more favorable rulings. With the current situation, it’s no wonder Utah spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year in corporate tax breaks with money that would otherwise go to education. Read more about campaign finance reform here.
Common Sense Over Ideology
With ever increasing political polarization in recent years, more and more Utahns are feeling politically unrepresented and forced to choose the lesser of two evils representing opposite ideological extremes. Although the two major parties like to think they have a monopoly on political thought, the numbers of self-identified independents, largely from the middle of the political spectrum, are increasing. Issues only become political because they are complicated, nuanced, and not easily reduced to good vs. evil as the two sides would have us think. There has to be a better way to approach difficult issues. I prioritize listening to others and supporting my constituents. I want to make sure we can have good discussions even though we may not always agree, and I pride myself on my ability to change my view when presented with compelling arguments and evidence.
The use of firearms is deeply ingrained in Utah’s culture. Our goal should be to promote responsible and educated use.
Protecting the Environment
Most Utahns care deeply about keeping our air clean and protecting the beauty of our natural environment. We should focus on finding market-based consensus approaches to achieving these goals.
Recent national protests have brought to the forefront of America’s consciousness the need for real policing reform. This should not become a fool’s choice between supporting even the worst police action or supporting destructive rioting. In reality, most people respect the difficult and necessary job that police perform while condemning the actions of a few. Likewise, most people support the peaceful protests of those seeking equal protection under the law, but condemn those who turn to violence and rioting. We need to focus on meaningful reform instead of demonizing the other side because of the actions of a few bad people.