Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson has been criticized by Gov. Norm Bangerter as a lightweight, long on personality, short on concrete proposals.
Even some Democratic Party insiders have worried that Wilson's campaign lacks substance.But it will be difficult to make those arguments now, following Wilson's extensive, almost exhaustive, proposals on economic development released Wednesday.
As Wilson told a small group of business people called together to preview his ideas: "My plan is as specific as any in the campaign. There's a danger in that, it opens you up for criticism." But Wilson said the people should know what he'd do as governor. "The plan isn't set in concrete, it can change."
In fact, it already has. Last April, Wilson addressed a group of real estate agents with what was called at the time his major economic-development speech. He had a three-point plan then.
The original three points are still in the plan. But now it's grown to a nine-point plan, complete with prizes for free-lance journalists who write the best pro-Utah stories published in national magazines and newspapers.
In all, Wilson has 49 specific tasks that his administration will perform to reach the nine-point goal. "This is substance, isn't it?" Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi told reporters at the Wilson meeting. "This is mega substance, this is massive substance."
While Wilson is specific about tasks and goals, he doesn't know all of the costs. For example, he calls for various tax incentives for expanding Utah businesses and elimination of taxes that disadvantage Utah businesses. But he can't say now what those taxes are or how much they will cost in lost state revenue.
"I can't say now what those costs are. But on the incentives, they are incremental cuts. You'd take away (from tax revenues) only the growth (in an expanding business' taxes). You wouldn't harm the (existing tax) base, never do that. My employee tax credit would be only in the margin of growth. You have to do that or there is no incentive for a business to grow and hire new people."
Wilson has a five-point, short-term plan to jump-start Utah's economy and a four-point, long-term plan to create what he calls a solid base for growth.
Here is Wilson's plan:
1. With local governments, create a long-term economic plan for Utah.
2. Bond and spend the money on needed construction projects. In the past Wilson has said, and been roundly criticized by his opponents, that the state could bond for $150 million. He didn't use that figure in his latest plan.
3. Change Utah's image among other Americans, even foreigners, to what accurately reflects the state's lifestyle and assets. Wilson would hold monthly news conferences stressing economic development success stories and running advertisements featuring prominent Utahns, like Robert Redford and Debbie Fields, in national publications like the Wall Street Journal. He'd also give prizes to free-lance journalists who have pro-Utah stories printed in national publications.
4. Increase tourism through enhanced marketing. The state already spends considerable money in this effort, but Wilson says it is misplaced. "We have to identify specific markets and go strongly after them, not run huge, generic ads that have little or no effect."
5. Improve the response of state government to the needs of business. Wilson would appoint an economic-development ombudsman in the governor's office who would work daily and directly with business. He'd have a "one-stop-shopping" office in the Division of Economic Development to administer economic-development incentives offered by the state. He'd conduct "exit interviews" with each business leaving Utah to find out what went wrong. He'd do away with Utah's unitary tax and create a forum where Utah business people can talk to each other about their concerns and successes.
1. Strengthen the relationship between education and business through letting university researchers keep more of their grant money, set up a committee of educators and local business people who would change college courses with an aim toward job creation and push the current Centers of Excellence programs toward targeted Utah industries.
2. Increase investment capital for business creation. He'd bond to fund a Utah Reinvestment Corp., whose money would go to new businesses. He'd give a tax credit for investment in venture capital or seed capital funds. And he'd get the Utah State Retirement Board to change its investment policies to allow more investment in Utah businesses.
3. Keep Utah's tax rates competitive. He'd identify all taxes that affect economic development, compare those tax rates with those of surrounding states and suggest changes in any non-competitive tax rates.
4. Develop a system of statewide tax incentives to encourage business expansion. He'd push for a employee tax credit, where each new employee meant a tax break for the business. He'd allow local governments to give similar tax credits. He'd create a revolving loan fund used by local governments to buy land or build streets and sewers for expanding businesses. He'd establish a specific job-training program to help offset start-up costs for new businesses. And he'd bring back Rampton's Raiders - which would be called Wilson's Warriors - groups of local business people who would travel the country touting Utah's economic advantages.