The College of Eastern Utah-Utah State University merger and the tobacco tax increase were two of the major topics that representatives of Carbon County came away with as the Utah State Legislature's 2010 session concluded last week.
The reasons are mainly due to the impact the bills are expected to have on education and the economy in the area.
The merger, SB (senate bill) 69, covers the College of Eastern Utah's affiliation with Utah State University. According to the measure's language, it "establishes USU-CEU as a comprehensive regional college of USU, allows a comprehensive regional college to participate in the public employees' benefit and insurance program's risk pools, changes the composition of USU's board of trustees, includes provisions for campus locations, a chancellor, a regional advisory council, legal succession and makes technical changes."
"This was inevitable," said State Sen. David Hinkins, (R-27). "It has been talked about for awhile because of the situation CEU was in with state funding. We have so much potential for the school, the students and the area because of it."
With the merger between USU and CEU, Hinkins thinks that it could possibly spur growth in Carbon County's businesses, population and economy.
"We'll be able to do a lot with this. People may come down here to Price, go to school at CEU and see how it is here and then end up staying even after they've finished school," he said.
There is a big difference in terms of a four-year degree being available in Price with about 3,000 to 4,000 students, compared to the other big schools in the state with more students, Painter said. He also said that because of the size difference, more time can be devoted to the students.
"I think the merger has the chance to be an absolute boon to Carbon County," said House Rep. Patrick Painter, (R-67).
"It will keep students here in the area, attract students from around Utah and keep faculty here as well."
Affiliation with a four-year school makes a big difference, according to Rep. Christine Watkins, house representative (D-69).
"More companies may come here, providing more opportunities for research at the school," Watkins said. "It's happening up in Vernal with their affiliation with USU. I don't see why that can't happen down here in Price."
Now with the merger between the two schools winding down, Watkins thinks the real work begins.
"The hard emotional part of the process is over," Watkins said. "Now the hard reorganizing part is ahead of us."
The other topic of interest at the legislature was the tobacco tax increase. HB (house bill) 196, tobacco tax revisions, amends the cigarette and tobacco tax by increasing the tax rates on the sale, use storage or distribution of cigarettes in the state and the sale, use or storage of tobacco products in the state.
The money accumulated from the tax increase will go towards education and into the general fund. However, Hinkins thinks that the money should be spent in another way.
"Instead of using the money to balance the budget and for the general fund, it should be used to help people quit smoking and prevention programs," Hinkins said.
All three representatives interviewed for this article voted against the tax increase. But Painter isn't sure that the tax increase will help at all.
"It's simply a tax increase," Painter said. "It's simply taking more money away from people."
As the state legislature ended it's session for the 2010 year, all three area representatives came away pleased with what took place.
"It went very well, but we're still in tough times right now," Hinkins said. "We've been able to balance the budget without too much of an increase in taxes and now we need to turn our focus to creating jobs."
"The economy should get better," Painter added. "We didn't run a deficit, because if we did, we would be scrambling for money and possibly cutting programs."