In one of his last speeches before election day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson said Thursday that if he wins Tuesday he'll "seize" the power required to be a strong governor.
"All within the Constitution, of course," he added with a smile.Speaking at the Salt Lake Kiwanis Club, Wilson said that a governor - he's alluding to Gov. Norm Bangerter - shouldn't be telling people that he has little control over education.
True, the elected State Board of Education oversees public education and the appointed Board of Regents oversees colleges and universities.
But said Wilson: "Ninety percent of power is seized in government. You grab from the pulpit, if you will. (Former governor) Scott Matheson once told me that no one knew he didn't have much power in reality, and so it worked out fine for him."
Wilson said if he's elected he'd sit down with the Board of Education and regents and let them know that their budgets come through him - become part of the governor's recommended statewide budget - to the Legislature.
"They (board members) can talk all they want. But I control their budgets. I'd have a good relationship with them. You know me. I don't pick fights. But I'd be firm if I believed their budgets had to be trimmed."
Actual governance and the perceived public responsibility for education are often different things. State lawmakers and Bangerter have been frustrated over being blamed - they believe incorrectly - for not supporting public education enough, when it is the local school districts who decide teacher pay and other classroom issues.
On other matters, Wilson said he'd begin independent performance audits of state agencies. He had such audits in Salt Lake City when he was mayor and credits them for cutting government over several years.
"I believe we can trim state government by 4-5 percent over four years with the help of these audits," Wilson said. "But we couldn't cut 13 percent without harming services, as (Merrill) Cook and the tax protesters would say."
He added that if the tax initiatives pass and he's elected, he'd hold public hearings around the state, both to educate the citizens and take suggestions on where cuts should come. "In the 1990 Legislature I would then suggest fine tuning the initiatives so they'd work, even some of the proponents admit they need that."
Whether they pass or not, Utah must rebuild its economy, he said. "I would work on that every day . . . ."
Among other things, Wilson said he'd start a national advertising campaign that would, "with quality and clarity," tell Americans that Utah has a new, sensible liquor law. "People need to know that we have hospitable laws for the social drinker."
He also said he'd make sure the Wall Street Journal reporter who has written several tough pieces on Utah "is invited out, brought out, to see Utah for himself. I'd take him skiing, and if he didn't change his mind, well, maybe he wouldn't be going back," Wilson joked.