Gov. Spencer Cox On His First 100 Days in Office
Wednesday marks Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s 100th day in office. Two-thirds of Utahns approve of the job he’s done so far, according to a recent poll from the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
KUER’s Sonja Hutson caught up with Cox to ask him about what he’s accomplished so far and what still needs to be done.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sonja Hutson: One of your priorities when you first took office was to make the vaccine rollout more efficient. Utah has consistently ranked among the top 15 states for the percent of its supply used. But racial minorities make up a disportionately small amount of the vaccines administered so far. There’s also a rural/urban divide. How is your administration addressing vaccine equity?
Spencer Cox: This was a real big priority for us — to start getting the vaccine out the door. I think we were close to fortieth [in the nation], and [when] I checked [Sunday] we were eighth. We've been in the top 15 pretty consistently, so we feel good about that.
But one of the reasons that we actually made the change earlier than expected to go to everyone over the age of 16 was really equity-based. We have an equity plan that we put together, and we were one of the first in the country to do that. But to really take full advantage of that plan to get this vaccine out to harder-to-reach places — both geographically and culturally — we decided to open it up to everyone. That allows us and our partners to go in and just vaccinate everyone in those communities without having to worry about age or underlying health conditions so we could start to close that gap.
It's amazing, when we don't need to have people find a time and sign up [and] they can just come, we tend to get much higher numbers. We really believe that over the next couple of weeks that Utah will be one of the top states in the nation for hitting those populations.
SH: You opened a rural office as a way to help your administration address the needs of rural Utah. What investments has the state made in rural Utah so far? And what's next on your list to address their needs?
SC: This is one area where we've seen tremendous progress. We heard from some legislators that there was a little bit of rural fatigue during the legislative session. [Laughs] That's the first time I've ever heard that and it was music to my ears.
We have identified over 50 state jobs that are relocating to rural areas. We expect to have more of those in the coming weeks and months as our cabinet members are working with their agencies to identify jobs that can be performed in these rural areas.
But most importantly, now it will be implementing several pieces of legislation that we were able to get passed — the biggest of which [is] the rural economic development changes [which] change the incentive structure for businesses relocating into rural areas — and making sure that we take advantage of that. Infrastructure investment in those areas is also going to be huge with monies that were funded from the Legislature this year for next budget year, starting in July. Then federal monies that are coming our way — making sure that we're putting those where they will have the biggest return on investment and can really help these rural economies that are struggling.
SH: Sticking with economic opportunity, part of the plan that you and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson released includes expanding economic opportunities for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people. What changes have you made to address the needs of those groups?
SC: We've made several changes. One is in our boards and commissions. We're working to diversify those and we're starting to see the fruits of those changes.
From an economic standpoint, we announced last week this “returnship” program that we're doing specifically to help women who are coming back into the workforce. And, we're working with private sector partners to implement these same types of programs in their areas.
We also have the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget doing the first ever wage gap study of government agencies in the state. We've asked every one of our division directors to look internally for their assessments of how we're doing with equity opportunities for women and people of color. There are a whole bunch of different items that we're engaged in right now that we believe over the next couple of months will really pay off in a positive way.
SH: How would you grade your first 100 days in office?
SC: Well, I won't. I'll let other people do that. I mean, I guess if I had to grade it, it would be “incomplete” because we still have so much more work to do. But I think people are genuinely positive about the direction that our state is headed if you look at people's responses to questions about whether they think the state's on the right track. That's good news for us.