House District 15: Gibbs Smith challenges Wilson

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:59 PM

Antone Clark

KAYSVILLE — A pair of businessmen square off in the race for the Utah House District 15 seat.

Incumbent Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, faces Gibbs Smith in a bid to represent the newly redrawn district, which runs from the southern part of Syracuse to Kaysville along the western edge of Davis County.

Wilson, 44, is chief executive officer of Destination Homes and says the differences between the two come down to their approach to problems.

Smith, 72, who is the owner of Gibbs Smith Publishing Company of Layton, says it comes down to some basic party philosophies.

“The Legislature in Utah is too one-sided. I think we need to have more balance. I have 42 years in business and I know how to run an organization. The state can be run a lot better,” Smith said of the current situation in the Legislature. He maintains the imbalance means all points of view are not represented.

Wilson doesn’t argue there is room for improvement, but said it is an ongoing challenge to balance the ability of business to thrive with environmental concerns and the need to fund education.

“I think Utah wins by having a well-educated work force and a regulatory and tax environment that is friendly to business. If we have those things in place, businesses that are in place can flourish,” Wilson said.

Wilson and Smith both cite the need to fund education as a priority for the state. They differ on whether a legislative move this past session to challenge the federal government’s control of approximately 67 percent of the land in the Beehive State will help the state and lead to more funding for schools.

Smith wants the state to impose a severance tax as one way to add more money to the coffers, but says the state needs to partner with the federal government, not create a fight between the two over land issues. He said Utah has benefited greatly from the federal government in its history.

“Politicians pit us against the federal government. Davis County is dependent on Hill (Air Force Base). We’re playing politics that is bad for us,” Smith said.

Wilson disagrees on the value of the challenge.

“I hope it doesn’t come to a lawsuit. You get things done if you get people on board with you. If we can get the rest of the western states on board with us, we’ll have a much stronger case and a much louder voice. It’s tough sledding if Utah is the lone voice in the wilderness,” Wilson said.

Wilson says the Legislature needs to provide more funding for schools and he hopes to see more cuts to find funding for education and to see growth in the economy directed toward schools.

Smith claims Utah’s low spending on education costs the state in the long run.

“Utah schools rank so low it’s bad for business. It’s bad for public programs,” Smith said. He claims the level of education funding hurts efforts to recruit new businesses to Utah.

A graduate of Weber State University, Wilson was assigned last session to chair a state task force on economic development, which he claims is a rare honor for a freshman lawmaker. He said he is focused on job creation and value creation. He said land development and economic development are not the same thing.

“I want to make sure businesses that are here have a healthy environment to work in and are not over-regulated, with a tax code that is fair and that government doesn’t put obstacles in their way, intentionally or unintentionally,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s accomplishments the past session include legislation that requires drug testing for welfare recipients, and passing a bill to erect memorial signage for fallen highway patrol officers.

The Kaysville lawmaker said he took some flak for his stance on the drug testing measure, but said the bill doesn’t limit the ability of needy families to get assistance as much as it helps get people who have a problem into a treatment program. He said legislators from other states have contacted him about the measure.

Both candidates agree there is a need to address air quality standards. Smith thinks the standards can be imposed without hurting the business climate.

With a wife and child who suffer from asthma, Wilson said the issue is personal to him. He said the air quality is getting better than it was 30 years ago, but noted Utah had 17 red air days last year. He said lawmakers are looking for levers they can pull to create better air. He suggested there are measures lawmakers are looking at to improve air quality.

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