The four Republican candidates for governor shared their plans — and criticized current approaches — to help Utah’s economy recover from the downturn spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The candidates laid out their views Thursday, during a forum hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber and EDCUtah.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is intimately involved with the state’s response. He’s the head of the governor’s coronavirus task force. A subcommittee of that task force created an economic recovery plan in mid-March. Cox praised that plan and the state’s response as a whole.
“We believe that we can, by saving people's lives, by flattening the curve, we could open up sooner than anyone else in the country,” Cox said. “And I'm very proud of our response.”
But former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes sharply criticized the state’s actions. He argued that it infringed on people’s liberties and called for restrictions on businesses to be lifted immediately.
“If you let these business owners, not the government, figure out how to keep people safe, keep themselves safe, they know what to do,” Hughes said.
Earlier this week, Utah County officials said that dozens of workers tested positive for COVID-19 after two businesses required employees who tested positive to continue coming to work.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman also criticized the state response, calling on officials to give small businesses more monetary assistance.
“We don’t need lectures,” Huntsman said. “We don't need more working groups. We don't need green, yellow, red indicators. We need cash. That's what businesses need. Plain and simple.”
Former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright laid out four suggestions to address tax revenue decreases and economic woes of workers and businesses. He called on the state government to cut its budget, enact freezes on hiring and capital improvement projects, reallocate economic incentives to help Utah-based businesses and analyze the state’s unemployment program.
“When you're a business owner and you go through tough times, you take care of the people you have,” Wright said. “But you put a freeze on hiring.”
The Republican primary is June 30 and will be conducted almost entirely by mail. The registration deadline is June 19.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson