Salt Lake City (June 16, 2016) — Utahns want more early childhood education and teacher support. They are open to taxing online purchases and reconsidering the gas tax. And they remain concerned about the service levels provided by Utah Transit Authority.

These are among the findings of a series of focus groups convened by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, in partnership with the KSL Broadcasting and Deseret News. The focus groups are part of INFORMED DECISIONS 2016, an effort to educate the public on the issues and gauge voter priorities in the run up to Election Day.

Six focus groups comprised of members of the public, business, nonprofits and government met in April and answered a catalog of issue questions. Their responses are summarized in the three policy “Snapshots” being released today: Education, Taxes and Infrastructure.

Snapshot Highlights

  • All levels of public education — from early childhood classes to post-secondary options — need additional funding and stability.
  • Utah teachers deserve better pay, more support and less blame for public education’s challenges.
  • Policymakers should consider higher gas taxes and an online sales tax; they should also proceed cautiously on granting tax breaks for out-of-state companies.
  • Utah Transit Authority should regain public trust through more accountability and better service, especially on Salt Lake City’s west side.
  • Water pricing that’s tied to usage should be considered as the population grows.

“We put a lot of stock in the heartfelt comments made by these community members and leaders, and we’re grateful for their insights,” said Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. “We hope the findings will spur everyone to learn more about the issues and cast votes during this year’s important primary and general elections.”

“While national politics is predictably taking center stage, Utah voters have a chance to make a real difference at the state and local levels,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics. “The issues presented in these Snapshots, along with upcoming events and issue briefs, will help voters and candidates alike prepare for the voting booth.”

The Snapshots are prelude to a series of Candidate Conversations that Perry will moderate. The first will be held Monday, June 20 at 10:30 a.m. at the Moot Court at the University of Utah, where Republican Third District Congressman Jason Chaffetz and his Democratic challenger Chia-Chi Teng will attend. The event will be broadcast on KSL-TV and live streamed on hinckley.utah.edu. More information is available at gardner.utah.edu and hinckley.utah.edu.