Gubernatorial candidate Stewart Hanson says other candidates for governor "have their heads in the sand" in vowing not to raise taxes for education.
Hanson, a Democrat, refuses to make such a "read-my-lips" declaration."With all due respect, I wonder if the other candidates have looked at the frightening education finance numbers here in Utah." He said that in the 1990-91 fiscal year, Utah ranked last in spending per student at $2,993. "The national average was $5,261 per child." The average of surrounding states was $4,411.
To bring Utah to the national average per-student expenditure would cost an additional $1.03 billion a year. To bring Utah to the average of surrounding states would cost an extra $644 million a year.
In meetings with the Utah Education Association, the other gubernatorial candidates - Richard Eyre, Mike Leavitt, Mike Stewart, Dixie Minson and Pat Shea - all promised not to raise taxes, says Hanson. Only Hanson said he wouldn't rule out a tax increase. The UEA endorsed Shea and Leavitt.
"If you ask why the UEA would endorse candidates who oppose its own stands on the issues, all I can say is that they're more interested in short-term, quick fix than in long-term educational reform," says Hanson.
Hanson speculates that the UEA picked Shea as its Democratic endorsement because Shea "has been an insider politician for years, and this is the kind of reward insiders receive.
"My campaign is not captive to special interests and only under those circumstances can I be a governor for the entire state and all its citizens," says Hanson.
Hanson also lays the blame of a Board of Regents' recent decision on university enrollment restrictions at the feet of GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter. "Gov. Bangerter has done nothing to plan for or finance the added students, so now the board has been forced to cap enrollment."
Even with recent tuition increases, there still won't be enough money to pay for all the students who want to attend college next fall, Hanson says. "It means lower educational quaility, larger classes, less attention from faculty, and to students who can't get the classes they need, delaying graduation." If elected governor, he promises to work closely with higher education officials for a methodical, long-term solution.