Rookie legislator faces challenging session
|While the Utah State Capitol is all wrapped and boarded up during construction, the legislature will meet in the new west office building in the foreground.|
For Patrick Painter, who will be serving his first term in the Utah Legislature as representative from District 67, the 2005 session will probably be a learning experience.
Painter became the latest legislator in an area encompassing conservative Utah, Juab and Sanpete County. But District 67 of the Utah House of representatives also includes one-third of more liberal Carbon County.
Painter said he knows he has a long row to hoe in bringing people in Helper, Spring Glen and Carbonville to understand he plans to represent them and he wants to hear their views.
"I want people to understand that there really are two representatives in Carbon County for the house," commented Painter in a phone interview from Nephi on Tuesday. "Brad (King) has done a good job for Carbon, but I am here to help, too."
Traditionally, Carbon has been represented at the Utah Legislature by an individual who not only lives locally on the eastern side of the Wasatch Plateau, but who is a member of the Democratic Party.
Painter is a Republican businessman from Juab County.
"I realize I will be new at this and, on many issues, I don't have a total sense of where things are going. But I will work to win Carbon County citizen's trust," said the District 76 representative.
As a new legislator, Painter will be thrown into representation in a year when the state is in transition in finances and leadership.
All the leadership in the Republican Party at the Legislature will be new and the state will also have a rookie governor.
Financially, the state is just trying to turn the corner on four long years of decline, not only in economic growth, but state revenues as well.
"I think the number one issue for Carbon residents is transportation, and of course that means Highway 6," said Painter. "I'm just not sure how much cream we can get to rise to the top to have money to take care of the the problems there."
Painter indicated that he has spent a couple of weekends since he was elected in Carbon County to get a feel for things and he equates the situation Carbon is presently in to the days when the "Sigurd death strip" ran between Nephi and Sigurd. Dozens of people were killed over the years on that road before I-15 replaced it as the main travel route.
"I saw a couple of accidents in Carbon while I was visiting and at least one of them had to include fatalities," he commented. "Something needs to be done, but I am not sure that can happen this year."
Another issue Painter thinks will be important is tax reform. Outgoing governor Olene Walker has put together a proposal to change some of the ways sales tax is administered, creating some new sources of taxation while lowering taxation in other areas.
"I think that proposal may have some merit, but it needs more study and I am not sure much will come of it this year," stated Painter.
He is also concerned about tuition tax credits for people who want to put their kids in private schools.
"I believe that will be a big issue in this legislature," he pointed out. "There is a bill that concerns this already in the works, but my worry is that we can hurt rural school districts with such a change. Many of the rural districts are losing population already, but they also have so many fixed costs to handle. The state just can't take money away from them if they lose students. I think legislators must be respectful to public education and take into consideration that the schools would still have to do their jobs even if they did lose students to private schools."
Painter said getting his feet wet in the legislature will be a completely new experience, but one he looks forward to. He also added that he has spent some time in Carbon County, most recently traveling to Helper to see this year's light parade.
"It was a wonderful event. I just want people to realize that I like the people I have met from the county and am proud to represent them in the legislature," he concluded.