The state's toughest issues percolate up to the Legislature every year. Here are three that arouse a fair amount of passion — especially between us:

Should school board elections be partisan?

Webb: Yes. Think for a minute. Do you remember who represents you on state and district school boards? Did you know the school board candidates on the ballot? Do you have any idea how your school board members feel about key issues? Having school board candidates run as Republicans or Democrats will provide a great deal more exposure for candidates, will put them through a screening process to win their party nomination, and will result in better candidates who are more accountable.

Yes, candidates will have to work the grass roots in preparation for party caucuses and conventions. That's a good thing. Talking to average citizens and asking for their support is where candidates learn the most and really prepare to serve. Building coalitions at the grass-roots level is great training for effective governance. And, believe me, the far right will not always dominate the nominating process. Mainstream Utahns, who are in the majority, simply need to turn out to regain control of Utah politics. We might just see a mainstream uprising in the 2012 caucuses.

Pignanelli: "God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board." — Mark Twain. Without a doubt, the worst job in American democracy is the local school board. These poor souls suffer a thankless existence until they actually make a decision, then half of their constituents hate them, while the other half ignores them. Therefore, LaVarr is just plain cruel by wanting to force them through Utah's antiquated delegate/convention process, dominated by left- and right-wing extremists. Partisanship does not offer the answer. Many of Utah's inventive thinkers in education are Republicans, but the most innovative school system harbors thousands of liberals — the Salt Lake City School District.

LaVarr is just too old and decrepit to remember the compelling needs of younger, more vibrant parents ... like me. We want the best candidate to determine the education of our children and do not care if the school board representative is Republican, Democrat, Independent or Martian.

Why haven't legislators raised the issue of education vouchers as a way to reduce class sizes and provide more per-pupil money for public education?

Webb: Because "voucher" has unfortunately become a four-letter word in Utah and even conservative Republicans are afraid to mention it. Truth is, vouchers are a great way to have Utah parents voluntarily subsidize their children's education. If a goodly number of students leave the public system, taking, say, half of the money with them that the state is paying for their education, then the other half stays in the state system, shared among those who remain. Even Frank should be able to do that math. Vouchers could reduce class sizes and increase expenditures per pupil. Vouchers could help cope with the current budget crunch. But because most of the education establishment opposes vouchers with an irrational, zealous, religious fervor, ignoring the plain facts, legislators are scared to even raise the issue.

Pignanelli: The only thing more dead than vouchers is LaVarr's sense of humor. Lawmakers clearly understand the 2006 Initiative result was a strong shout from Utahns that they do not want vouchers in the school system. Forced to look beyond vouchers, education activists are prompting better alternatives in public education. Indeed, the hallways of the state Capitol and school district offices are filled with parents and advocates pushing exciting new programs for Utah students including: charter schools, online education, advanced accountability methods, premiums for science education, greater use of technology, etc. Vouchers are "old school."

Should the full sales tax be restored on food and the overall sales tax rate be reduced?

Webb: Absolutely. Good tax policy demands a broad tax base with low rates. Narrowing the tax base is exactly the wrong thing to do for the long-term fiscal health of the state. We should eliminate most exemptions and credits (and triple all taxes on attorney/lobbyists) and let everyone pay a little. Why should wealthy and middle class people avoid paying sales tax on food? It makes no sense. If our concern is for low-income people, then we could provide a refundable tax credit. Personally, I believe everyone should pay a little bit for the government services they receive. This plan would not raise overall taxes. Everyone would pay a tiny bit more for food, but would pay less for all other items. This logic should penetrate even Frank's thick skull.

Pignanelli: Most experts agree that the sales tax on food is horribly regressive and unfair to lower-income families. Once the computer technology existed to assist supermarkets in determining which items should be taxed and not taxed, the Legislature wisely removed this onerous burden. I concur that lower-income individuals should participate in the expense of government services. However it is more efficient that this is accomplished through entitlement reform, which actually prompts more productive behavior.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. E-mail: Democrat Frank Pignanelli is Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. E-mail: