Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, gets ready to give his first State of the State address at the Utah State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News, via AP, Pool)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox outlined his priorities, including expanding funding for public education and infrastructure, during his first State of the State address Thursday evening.
The Republican governor delivered his virtual address in the House chamber of the state’s Capitol. The new governor said he significantly shortened his speech to about 15 minutes to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus for the few lawmakers and reporters who attended in person.
Cox lauded recent economic successes but said the state needs to address educational inequities, specifically for children in rural Utah and communities of color, to disrupt intergenerational poverty in the state.
“If I can be so bold, putting up a sign or joining a rally isn’t enough,” he said, “The best way we can bring to life the American promise — of liberty and justice for all — is to make sure that every single child, brown or Black, rural or urban, has the same opportunity as every other child.”
Cox also thanked all essential workers for the sacrifices they’ve made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and applauded state lawmakers who pledged $112 million in bonuses for teachers. Earlier this month, Cox proposed a nearly 6% increase in the state’s education funding.
The governor emphasized some of his other key budget recommendations, including an $80 million tax cut targeted at older residents and families and increasing infrastructure investments in transportation, water and rural internet access.
Cox also used the speech to denounce political tribalism and division. He told fellow lawmakers that he may not agree with them on everything but said they must not take those decisions personally.
“There must be no room for contempt or hate,” he said. “We are friends. We must always be friends.”
The state’s Democratic leaders also pushed a message of unity in their response. Rep. Brian King, the House minority leader, said he supports many of Cox’s top budget priorities and looks forward to working with him.
“We’re not interested in political posturing or divisiveness,” King said. “We are here as public servants to solve problems and to get things done.”
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.