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"... make sure that we pay starting salaries that will attract people into the teaching profession, and then pay them commensurate so that they will stay in the teaching profession" Governor Herbert
ANNOUNCER: KUED presents the governor's monthly news conference, an exchange between Utah reporters and Governor Gary Herbert.
GOV. HERBERT Herbert: Good morning, everyone. Great to be with you. Thank you very much for taking time.
Last month, we talked about back to school. And it's certainly still that time of year, people going back to school, and we talked about students. Today, I'd like to just mention our teachers. We have a great system that's working and producing great results because of our teachers. We can't thank them enough for the good work that they're doing. And it just so happens this week, I'm going to be going to help present the Teacher of the Year award. And out of 28,000 teachers, I'm going to tell you we have a lot of great teachers, and it's hard to pick just one.
But our teachers are doing some really wonderful things, and US Chamber of Commerce in fact continues to call us the best value for education in America today. And that's in large part because of the good work of our teachers in the classroom really doing great things. And with the exception of parents, teachers have the most impact on the outcome of our students, our children, in the classroom. I don't think we can over emphasize, in fact, the significant role they play, and we can't tell them thanks enough.
Because of that, I'm grateful for the successes that we've had in providing better and more resources into the classroom. You've heard me say before we provided about $1.8 billion of new money over these past 5 years, and that's good news. The fact that we have made this a number one budget priority over these last 5 years, myself and the legislature, portends well for the future.
We still have challenges going forward, though. Last year, we put $458 million of new money into education, $5 million--$6 million rather of that went for teacher supplies. Again, a common lament is teachers having to spend money out of their own wallet for some of the supplies they need in the classroom, so we helped to defray that. We've put a big emphasis on increasing the weighted pupil unit, which is the basic unit to fund teacher salaries. Recognizing local control, the need to have those decisions made at the localest of levels.
And again, I would tell you that, again, we've had successes. Two-thirds of our budget now, the state budget, goes to education. And three out of every four new dollars that comes into the system goes into education. I appreciate the successes, but we also have challenges going forward. We are a fast-growing state, our population's growing, and our student population's growing, which is somewhat unique compared to other states around the country. And so, we've got to find ways to fund at the level that would be appropriate for us to improve our outcomes.
We want to be the best performing education system in America. That's going to take a collaborative effort. It's also going to take some more money to help our teachers. And if we in fact do believe in local control, that means we need to increase the weighted pupil unit. We need to put more money into the system so that we can in fact attract people into the business of teaching, and more importantly retain them into the business of teaching.
So, as we go forward into this next legislative session, I'm now starting to put together my budget for recommendation to legislature. You'll find that education funding will continue to be my top budget priority as we go forward. And I expect you'll find the same thing will be true with the legislature, so we'll continue in this quest to make sure that our teachers have every opportunity to be the best they can be, which means that they'll help our students become the best that they can be, and become college and career ready as they go forward. So, with that, welcome back to school, and I'll take your questions.
TERRY GILDEA, KUER: Governor, let's start off with a bit of a difficult question. The Holy War resumes this weekend. Speaking of education, who are you rooting for in the football game between BYU and Utah?
GOV. HERBERT: Boy, that is a tough one. I have divided loyalties there. As the governor of the great state, I recognize our great public institutions, and certainly the University of Utah. Kyle Whittingham is a friend of mine, and we've played a little tennis together, and so I appreciate his significant prowess when it comes to coaching, and his success as a football coach. On the other hand, I attended Brigham Young University, and my son-in-law is the wide receiver coach at BYU. And so, I'm expecting a very good game. And I expect everybody in Utah's going to be paying rapt attention to the game this coming Saturday, as am I. And it's hard for me to pick a winner, but my loyalty to my family probably tips the edge in favor of BYU. Although I expect the odds makers are going to give the University of Utah the nod as far as the outcome.
BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: Governor, you just said you need more money for education. And education first in the Salt Lake Chamber as Prosperity 2020 going to at some point ask for a tax increase, maybe in 2017 session. Do you favor or oppose a seventh--eighth increase in the state personal income tax?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, as you know, Bob, there's only three ways in fact to fund education. One is to reprioritize the revenue stream that we have right now. And that means take from this area and put it into education. And we've done some of that. Another way that we've chosen to do, which has worked very successfully for us, is to grow the economy. The fact that we've put $1.8 billion of new money into education over these last 5 years is a tribute to the expanding, growing economy that's allowed us to, in fact, have more revenue.
We actually have had some tax increases too, that's the third way. And we've done it here a year--two years ago, we had an equalization on property tax to help us, in fact, make sure that the poor school districts, so-called economically, are not disadvantaged in comparison to the richer districts. So, we've had a tax equalization on property taxes. And this past session, we also made a change in how we fund transportation, a tax increase there that helped us get more back funding roads through user fees, as opposed to subsidizing out of the general fund. What we're finding happening with funding out the general fund is we were taking and robbing money that could have gone into education. So, we've actually done all three.
I expect that's been a very balanced and measured approach. And certainly, as we see the outcome of a healthy economy continuing to be robust, that has been a successful process. I expect we'll see some of that continue in the future. A lot depends on what the proposals are that would come forward. We don't want to do the Illinois model, where they raised income taxes, and immediately lost 100,000 jobs and took in less revenue at a higher tax rate, and made it more difficult for business.
LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: So, do you see tax increases being proposed in your budget to help further education this session?
GOV. HERBERT: I don't see any tax increases being proposed in my budget. I know there's been always--every year, somebody's proposing some kind of a tax increase. But in order to make the economic engine hum, it's really a matter of having the right balance, the right mixture here to make sure that we in fact have a growing, expanding economy, which produces more revenue. It really is how you pay the bills. Expand the economy, you have more revenue coming in. And we have less personal income that has to be paid into taxes, more household money spent and ripples through the economy, and continues to spiral upward as opposed to spiral downward.
So, our approach has been very successful. You don't become the number one best performing economy in America by just hope and chance. We've actually had a very measured approach of how we structured our policies here, our tax policies, and things that surround that, so that we've--it's been listed by CNBC again as the top state for business in America, to go along with all the other rankings that we've had here recently.
BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Winslow: What are you going to do to retain teachers?
GOV. HERBERT: I think a lot of it has to do with not only just saying thank you. I mentioned we can't tell them thank you enough, and sometimes all they hear is criticism, people trying to find better ways to do things. And yet the result, what they hear is, "You're just criticizing me, and my teaching methods, and what we're doing in school." And so, we've got to get away from that and make sure that we have better dialogue, and better communication, and certainly a better appreciation for the significant role that teachers play in the classroom.
BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: But thank you doesn't pay the bills. That's been the biggest complaint is they're not making enough.
GOV. HERBERT: You're right, BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: that's what I was going to say. The second part of this is it's not all about the money, but it is some about the money. And so, we've got to make sure we're paying commensurate to what the market demands are out there.
Because of our healthy, growing economy, you know, we have in fact shortages in a lot of ways out there, whether it be engineers, or scientists, or welders, or machinists, or computer technicians. And teaching is finding that same competition. Those that have those kind of skills can find a better paying job somewhere else. And by the way, this is not just a Utah situation. This is a shortage of teachers throughout the country.
So, we're not unique in this. But clearly what we've got to do is, in fact, make sure that we pay starting salaries that will attract people into the teaching profession, and then pay them commensurate so that they will stay in the teaching profession. So, it's not all about the money, but it certainly is some about the money, and that's something we need to work as far as making sure that we pay our teachers fairly so that they can make this a profession of a lifetime.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: So, how do you get there and make that a reality sooner rather than later?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, we're doing some of that now. That's why I've had such an emphasis on increasing the weighted pupil unit. And we've increased, you know, teachers' salaries by a significant amount over the last few years. Maybe not enough in my view, and I think we need to continue to make sure that that's the quest and see if we can't achieve the goal.
I think we're going to have to raise starting salaries. I think we're going to have to pay on the ladder scale more money. I think we need, in fact, to maybe extend the ladder so that teachers' salaries don't top out, and then have the teachers say, "Well, the only way I can get more money is to move over into administration." They may be great teachers, but maybe not so good administrators, and we ought to pay them for teaching. And so, I think an extension of the ladder so that they get paid more money by staying in the classroom being teachers is something we ought to have a discussion about. But again, it's a matter of appreciation, and it's a matter of paying them more money.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: What about merit pay? That's a suggestion that's been put forward, you know, year after year. Should good teachers get paid more for achieving results, and they should--or should teachers get paid more for going to at-risk schools, or failing schools?
GOV. HERBERT: There's certainly--merit pay is something that I think we have some of that taking place, where teachers that are performing better in a classroom, there's some flexibility so that the principal can pay them more money for their efforts. I don't think everybody should be paid the same. I think merit is certainly an aspect of life, and those who perform better get paid better. And I think that should be true in the teaching profession too. So again, I think there's a lot of ways we can set people, some of our rural areas, more difficult areas to in fact attract teachers. Maybe there should be a rural component part that gives you maybe a bonus for going and teaching in a more rural area. So, all those things ought to be on the table.
I am a local control guy, though, and so I think local school districts know best what they need in fact to have. And so, if we believe in local control, if we believe teachers need to have higher salaries, we need to increase the WPU. The weighted pupil unit needs to in fact go upwards, and I think that will solve our problems. But that means, again, reprioritization, making sure that of the available funds we have that they're being put into education. And again, the good news is we're doing that.
Two-thirds of our state budget goes into education. Three out of every four new dollars goes into education. So, we are prioritizing I think correctly. We need to continue to do what we're doing. And just think, we put in $468 million of new money this past year. If we could just put in $300 million of new money over the next 4 years, we'll have $1.2 billion of additional new money into education. That's a good start.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Governor, you talk about growing the economy being key to funding education. One of--there's a proposal to give a quarter billion dollar sales tax incentive to Project Discus to come to West Jordan. But on top of it, state sales tax break, and probably state incentives that we don't know yet. Topping out, this would be about 300 jobs, and the mayor of Salt Lake counties has expressed concerns, and says it's too generous. You've been supportive of this, is 300 jobs for roughly $300 million in incentives a good deal for Utahns?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, that's the discussion, and that's the debate. That's how the system's designed to work. This has really been driven not by the state. This has been driven by local governments, West Jordan and Salt Lake County. Salt Lake County originally was on board. In fact, the initial proposal given to Project Discus came from Salt Lake County, which interestingly enough West Jordan thought it was too rich, and rejected on the West Jordan side. So, there's been a give and take and back and forth, and the state's involvement here is very minimal.
Mainly, we've been called upon to help facilitate discussion. I think there was a good counter-proposal that came out of the state school board, which I thought addressed some of the issues that certainly had been raised by Salt Lake County. For whatever reason, West Jordan rejected that, and so consequently this issue seems to be dormant at best, and maybe lost. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
But the legislature has outlined a process for us to go through. The NR process is post-performance. It's a misnomer to say we're giving money to Project Discus in advance. That's not the case. They, in fact, say we will increase economic development, we'll pay more taxes, and consequently we have a post-performance incentive package that says, "If you do that, we'll give some of the money back after you produce it." And that's how we've done all of our projects. And obviously, this system works. You know, we are the best performing, most diverse economy in America today.
So again, the legislature has outlined a good process. It allows for the give and take between the local governments and those involved in the process for public input. And that process has worked, as far as I can see, in this particular instance.
HEIDI HATCH, KUTV2: But has Project Discus has actually helped West Jordan in some regards? Right now, their school districts are struggling to keep up with their students. If they were to have a large building out in that area, it would take up space that otherwise would likely be filled with other homes very quickly that would have to be children. So, tax money would be coming in, but it wouldn't be putting new tax money to students.
GOV. HERBERT: Yes. And of course, the argument has been, by the West Jordan people, that where we're getting virtually nothing, now we can get $300 million if we have this $1.5 billion dollar construction project come in.
The good news they say is that we'll have a lot of construction, increase property taxes dramatically, and yet not have a lot more children put into the classroom, as opposed to having it developed into housing. But that's why you have the local component. They are the ones that can best ascertain whether this is a good deal or not. That's why they weigh in, they debate, they discuss, they come up with the proposal, they work with the entity involved here, Project Discus. Salt Lake County has weighed in, there's debate back and forth, and we end up getting a result out of that process. And that's happened here. It will happen in the future. Our history shows that the process works very well. Again, we just look at the outcome, and we have the best economy in America
BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: Governor, there's an election going on right now, and you are facing re-election.
GOV. HERBERT: Boy, call the presses. Is that true?
BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: And are you going to debate your Democratic opponent? He's asked for five debates. You didn't debate your Republican opponent after the conventions. What are you going to do?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, I think the debate commission, in fact, has us scheduled for debate coming up here in the next couple of weeks, so I know that we're going to have a debate. I expect--
BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: Only one debate?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, yet to be determined, Bob. I know the challenger wants to have as many debates as they can to help them improve their name identification, and no other reason. We all will end up knowing what our positions are, and the public will be aware of that. We have processes involved. So, he's got plenty of assets to get his message out there so that people understand his positions as a Democrat. So, I'm not worried about that. But we will have debates, and I expect we'll have an opportunity to have joint appearances. We just had one here just a week ago up at This Is the Place State Park, so we've had our first joint appearance, where we ended up defining ourselves to the audiences there. I expect we'll have more of those, and certainly the debate commission's got some debates lined up for us.
BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: But will you agree to more than just one debate, the one that's already been scheduled?
GOV. HERBERT: I expect we'll have more than one. I don't know that we'll have five, but I expect we'll have more than one
LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: Also with the election, governor, the presidential race still is making headlines here in Utah. There's still a reluctance among your fellow Republicans to embrace your party's nominee. Now, you said you support Trump. What would you tell Utah voters who are still on the fence? There are newly released poll numbers show in the fourth district, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, actually can beat Trump.
GOV. HERBERT: Well, they're difficult decisions. This year is a little bit different than any other election year I've ever been around, certainly on the presidential side. Whatever the rules have been have kind of been changed, modified. So, people have a difficult decision to make, and I wish them well in that decision. I'm a practical guy, and you know how I'm going to vote. I really do believe in Mike Pence. I believe he brings some stability and vision, and he certainly lines up well with Utah.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: There was a statement that was put out by the party when Mike Pence came to town, praising Donald Trump's policies. You didn't sign that statement, we asked you why, you said you didn't have time. I've been told that they--that your staff or you declined to sign the statement endorsing Donald Trump
GOV. HERBERT: You know, Robert, you know how I'm going to vote. You know, I don't need to talk about this anymore. I'm focused on my own election here. I'm in my own campaign. And what the people of Utah want me to concentrate on is not the presidential race. I'm not an advocate for anybody. I'm not an apologist for anybody. They want me to concentrate on being governor. Doesn't matter who I vote for or who my opponent votes for. It matters about our vision for the state of Utah, and our future, and what policies we're going to implement as governor. That's the important thing.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: But you did support--you did endorse Ted Cruz during the primary season. You endorsed Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign 4 years ago. And you're declining to endorse Donald Trump this time
GOV. HERBERT: I'm going to vote for the ticket.
MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: To that end, governor, the state's got a kind of a track record on suing the federal government, and it was announced recently that another lawsuit was being prepared against the EPA and regional haze rules. What makes you think that's going to prevail this time, where we've not been all that successful in the past?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, we hope common sense prevails. I guess that's our position. Utah's been at the forefront when it comes to regional haze issues since its very beginning. We were the first one in our region. In fact, I put forth a plan to help us with regional haze. Regional haze really is a visibility issue around our national parks. And we have actually in Utah the best air of any area and national parks in our country. So, we've done some really good things.
The thing that's concerning to us and really is a puzzlement is what we're having the EPA say to us is, "We want you to spend $700 million plus to initiate this change, and additional $150 million per year." So, we're going to spend, you know, close to a billion dollars. And in their own report, they say, "It will be imperceptible, the change that we'll see, the visual aspect of the regional haze."
So, we're going to spend a lot of money, a billion dollars, and see no change, no difference. And if we're going to spend that kind of money, we ought to put that where it's going to make a difference in the air quality. We have issues along the Wasatch Front. That money could be spent in a much more rational way, which has a much more effective outcome. And again, we want to make sure that we clean up the air, that's certainly priority one. But in doing so, we ought to make sure we respect the taxpayers who have to foot the bill. This is a waste of money, whereas we could put the money in some other area where we'd have a better outcome
MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: Does that portend the state will at some point suggest stricter rules than would be coming from the federal government, given the fact that we have such a robust outdoor retailer economy and tourism economy?
GOV. HERBERT: Well, I don't want to speculate on the future, but I expect that we can look at the history and say, "Well, what we've done in the past will probably portend what we do in the future." And we've put in rules, about 21 different rules on the Wasatch Front with manufacturing and industry and business.
We've reduced the pollution levels by 35% along the Wasatch Front, which in fact, at the same time, we've had about 350,000 more people call Utah home along the Wasatch Front. So, we're doing some good things. It's not enough, but it certainly shows what we intend to do, and I expect that trend will continue. So, why waste our money on regional haze when it's not going to make any difference? We ought to redirect the monies into areas where we can actually make a positive change.
LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: Governor, would you go back to Trump? I know, you made it clear you don't want to talk about it, but Utahns do. Utahns do want to know how to handle this election. This is a Republican state since 1964, and yet this year, so many of your fellow Republicans, fellow conservatives, independents are having trouble with the ticket. What do you tell those people? Why do you think they're having trouble with that ticket?
You've been able to reconcile--
GOV. HERBERT: Let me ask you a question then, Lisa. Why are Democrats having such a problem with Hillary Clinton?
LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: Not in the fourth district.
GOV. HERBERT: You know, well, but all over the country. I mean, this is a unique election. You can't just point out the trouble with Mr. Trump and not point out the trouble with Hillary Clinton. More people in Utah support Donald Trump than support Hillary Clinton, so at least as far as the how we line up as a state. But we all recognize there are certainly things that are causing us concern on both sides of the aisle. So, you know, it is a unique year. Again, I don't need to get involved in that issue about being a pundit about this thing. I'm concentrating on my own election. I'm concerned about being governor of this great state, and having Utah become the great example which it is already for this country because the country is troubled.
There's problems out there. After we get through November 8th, let's talk about a new process. Because the question people ask is, why is the process not delivering us the best and brightest as the nominees of the parties? That's the question we ought to have a long discussion on, and maybe we can do that after November the 8th.
BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: What would you like to see?
GOV. HERBERT: I've got some suggestions. I'll hold that for later.
LISA RILEY ROCHE, DESERET NEWS: We've talked about a regional primary before. Is that what you're suggesting now?
GOV. HERBERT: Some of that would be a part of it.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: There's only a few days--a few dozen days left, working days left for this Congress. The Public Lands Initiative is looking unlikely to pass at this point. If they're unable to pass this, would you support a national monument to protect Bears Ears? You've said you support protection, but the protection through the PLI is looking less and less likely.
GOV. HERBERT: Well, what I do support is a legislative fix. I think that is the best way that brings people together. It has, I think, a better outcome certainly for the Native Americans. I don't think the national monument approach actually serves the Native Americans very well. So again, I'm hopeful that the PLI will get through and get passed.
I think that's the better approach by far, and will address 18 million acres of public lands rather than just 1.9 million. If it can't, then let's see if there's another proposal out there. I'd like to have the Obama administration lead out on something other than just, "Hey, let's just create a national monument," which creates a significant problem for the Native Americans, and actually for that area. Again, we've seen it with the Grand Staircase Escalante, 1,400 violations just this past year of violation on that land. Whereas the Bears Ears, which is open to everybody, last year we had five.
HEIDI HATCH, KUTV2: Governor, switching gears really quickly, state senator Jim Dabakis has called in the FBI to release everything they have, all their files, all their research on John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff in regards to Shurtleff's case being dropped. And they're talking that if Hillary Clinton's files are going to be released, why not release this for the people of Utah? Would you agree with that?
GOV. HERBERT: Haven't really thought about it. Jim did call me to let me know what he was doing. So again, I'm all for openness and transparency. I think that's the thing we need to have more of in government. And openness and transparency will help the public understand and make their own decisions based on information, and not rumor or innuendo, but based on the facts.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Going back to Bears Ears real quickly, have you heard any--have you had any correspondence with Secretary Jewell or the administration on--
GOV. HERBERT: I have had conversation with Secretary Jewell, and Neil Kornze, the BLM.
ROBERT GEHRKE, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Recently?
GOV. HERBERT: And I'll be going back to Washington here in a couple of weeks, and hopefully have an opportunity to talk with them face to face. I think there is better ways to approach this, and certainly which will present us with an opportunity to ameliorate the confrontational aspects of what's taken place on public lands, and not only Utah, but other states. And I think there's--we need to understand that aspect of it.
TERRY GILDEA, KUER: Thank you, Governor. Due to KUED's election coverage, there will be no Governor's News Conference next month, but please join us in November. And thank you for joining us today on KUED television.
ANNOUNCER: This has been the Governor's Monthly News Conference. An archive of transcripts, video, and audio is available online. Please visit kued.org. Thanks for joining us.