|Rhett Wilkinson says more money should be budgeted for education.|
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Governor’s New Budget Outlook: Addressing Lingering Problems Through Taxation Isn’t a Move to the Dark Side
By Rhett Wilkinson
“Do what must be done.” – Chancellor Palpatine (Darth Sidious) to Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader)
That was the instruction the Sith Lord gave to his new apprentice. Palpatine took advantage of Anakin’s desperation for the powers of the dark side.
Raising taxes may not be an act of the dark side. But sometimes, I believe they are a necessary evil. At times, elected officials should “do what must be done,” and call for new revenue through higher taxes.
As a member of the Finance and Economics Club at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, I take great interest in the governor’s outlook.
Education spending is still an emphasis, Executive Director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services Kristen Cox told the Deseret News. I believe Gov. Herbert largely seems to reflect that this year, having committed $60 million in this year’s budget to education due to an anticipated 10,500 increase in student enrollment.
Also, House Speaker Becky Lockhart told The Salt Lake Tribune that paying for the education growth will again be a top priority.
"That’s one of the things we look at very first," she was quoted as saying. “We’ll be looking at that right away.”
The rankings show me that the governor’s pulling from the state reservoir isn’t enough, and that Speaker Lockhart’s words aren’t convincing. This year, Utah remained 51st – dead last – among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-pupil spending. The Beehive State won’t be near the middle, or higher, since it routinely ranks at or near the top in class sizes. But in a state and legislature where the majority says it believes “the glory of God is intelligence,” among other reasons, it undoubtedly should do better than dead last.
Gov. Herbert is promoting an initiative to raise the percentage of Utahns with college degrees, or certificates, to 66% by 2020. But, I believe that focuses attention at the wrong end of the education channel. Investing in early-childhood education would encourage more long-lasting results, rather than trying to make up for pre-elementary school shortcomings after high school. By then, one-quarter of Utah kids have already dropped out.
It has been reported that the state allocates effectively 25% of sales tax collections to roads. But, money must be found at some point to account for what will be an $11 billion deficit in roads funding by 2040. I think it makes sense to increase the gas tax. That has not been raised since 1997.
The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce endorses the measure. It has indicated that it’s a good option, because then, those people who are actually using the roads are the ones who pay.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser is a solid Republican, but he acknowledged the dilemma: “We need to look at ways to either cut the cost of roads, or you are going to have to have some additional revenue in the future,” he told the Deseret News.
Ultimately, the problem is that politics might get in the way. In the election year that is 2014, I believe most lawmakers may not consider tax increases. Both Speaker Lockhart and Pres. Niederhauser acknowledged the same to the Deseret News.
I think it’s disappointing that the legislature would shy away from helping children, and assuring safe and efficient transportation, at the expense of maintaining power.
It is time to “do what must be done”—but in this case, by forgetting power, as opposed to the desires of Sith Lords in a galaxy far, far away.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
By Ken Snyder
We were in a meeting last week talking about how we are going to finish the building so that we can open for classes in Fall 2015. In the course of the conversation, our construction superintendent gave me a cute list of things he thinks need to happen in order to reach that goal. I am going to share with you an edited version of that list. He offers seven suggestions:
- The steel construction must be completed as quickly as possible.
- Footings and foundations must be ready for the steel construction.
- The building must be closed in early enough so that the work inside on Huntsman Hall can continue without delay.
- Only subcontractors who can perform their work in a timely manner should be selected.
- We need to identify steps that can overlap (i.e. be done in parallel) so we can wring time out of the schedule.
- We must constantly look for ways to save time on this project.
- We should pray for a mild winter.
Clearly faith is not a routine part of a building strategy for all people, but for those of us who wouldn’t mind seeing a little divine intervention, it’s worth a try. I know I am trying it. I just hope the skiers aren’t praying for the opposite.
Friday, November 8, 2013
By Ken Snyder
For once I wish that William Shakespeare was right. He was the one who started his famous play “As You Like It” with the words “All the world’s a stage…”
That’s because when it comes to Huntsman Hall, space is in short supply and it would be much easier if all the world was a staging area. The staging area, when it comes to construction, is where the contractor puts the tools, equipment and supplies. In our case if you eliminate the area where the actual building is going to be located, there isn’t much space left over for staging.
That’s why we are dividing the building in to three sections and working on the part of Huntsman Hall that will be to the south and west of the building first. We are leaving the middle part that connects the two sides together until later so that we can save that piece of prime real estate for staging.
After we get to a certain point we’ll have to shift things so we can build the part that will connect the two buildings. That’s going to require some heavy-duty juggling and some smart planning.
I just thought I’d offer a little background to those of you who are watching our webcam so you will know why, at first, only two thirds of Huntsman Hall will be taking shape and you won’t be asking yourself if the full building is … “to be or not to be.”