Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter blasted Utah Democrats Wednesday for trying to paint him as a supporter of tax increases while attempting to portray former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson as a supporter of tax restraint.
In a speech to the Layton Rotary Club, Bangerter claimed close examination of his and Wilson's rec-ords show an opposite picture. He said that during Wilson's tenure in Salt Lake City, residents experienced an 85 percent increase in city spending. By the same token, in his three years as governor, Bangerter said, spending has actually decreased by 8 percent, despite the tax increases of last year."In Salt Lake City, taxpayers were paying $100 more per person at the end of Wilson's term, while Utahns today are paying about $100 less per person in state taxes," the governor said.
Bangerter also lashed out at claims that Utah has stagnated under his leadership.
The governor said the state endured a number of harsh economic turns as he entered office, including the shutdown of Kennecott Copper, layoffs at Geneva Steel, the bottoming out of the energy boom and other business shutdowns. He said the state has weathered the worst of the economic ills and is poised to make a strong recovery in the coming months and years.
He said forecasts paint a bright picture for the state, and he believes those improvements are a result of his administration's efforts.
By comparison, Bangerter said Wilson left a legacy of stagnation in Salt Lake City, citing the number of shops closed in the downtown area, failure to get the Block 57 redevelopment project under way and the financial failings of the Triad Center.
"If they want to compare records, I'm ready," Bangerter said.
Bangerter accused Democrats of dodging efforts to arrange face-to-face meetings between the gubernatorial candidates. He said two opportunities are readily available, an appearance on a Sunday night television program and the Deseret News-sponsored Home and Building Show set this month at the Salt Palace.
Many of the numbers used to show Utah's alleged failings are not being used in context, Bangerter said. It is necessary to understand Utah's demographics and the differences between Utah's culture and the rest of the nation before valid comparisons can be drawn, he said.
Bangerter said Utahns tend to paint a harsher view of the state than is perceived outside the state.
"Companies are coming into Utah with enthusiasm - we should be embarrassed because we do not share that enthusiasm," he said. "The companies coming here think this is the best place in the world to locate their company."