A look inside Gov. Cox's plan for his first 500 days in office

Gov. Spencer Cox leaves the room after speaking at a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Most Americans are probably familiar with the phrase "first hundred days," often used by politicians listing policies they intend to implement early in their administration.

On Tuesday, Gov. Spencer Cox released a document listing some of those policies and priorities, but his "road map" extends past his first 100 days in office and looks at goals through the middle of next year.

The One Utah Roadmap lists six policy priorities for Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, as articulated in a news release from the governor's office:

Policies of the One Utah Roadmap

  • Economic advancement, including ways the state can develop talent, incentivize businesses and foster innovation;
  • Education innovation and investment, including how the state can recruit and retain quality teachers and focus on at-risk learners;
  • Rural matters, including meeting critical infrastructure and policy needs;
  • Health security, including fighting COVID-19 and addressing social determinants of health;
  • Equality and opportunity, including leading by example to improve racial and gender disparities in state government; and
  • State government efficiency, including investing in state employees and implementing changes in structure to become more responsive to the state's customers, i.e. the residents of Utah.

The plan was developed by Cox's transition team's executive committee, including co-chairs Lynne Ward, who is the former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Olene Walker; and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks.

"This report is the result of an unprecedented community effort," Ward said in the release. "I'm proud to have been part of this analysis and I look forward to seeing these ideas evaluated by the Cox-Henderson administration in the coming weeks and months."

"We're overwhelmed by the generous time and commitment offered by such accomplished experts and community-minded volunteers," Cox said. "Like all well-used road maps, this One Utah Roadmap will be dog-eared and lovingly consulted over the next year and beyond. The road ahead will have detours, yield signs, fast and slow speeds, and bridges which we will navigate. We can't thank all those involved in the transition enough for offering their best ideas to improve the lives of all Utahns."

Here's a closer look at what the road map has to say about the six priorities:

Economic advancement

Aiming to "achieve economic success that lifts all of Utah," this section of the roadmap covers everything from vocational training to fighting climate change. Its six main points include talent development, strategic industry advancement, innovation and entrepreneurship, infrastructure investment, sustainable growth promotion, and fiscal responsibility.

The page says Utah should aim to "become known globally as the Start-Up State" and "develop an Innovation District at the Point of the Mountain," where many tech companies are already located. It also calls for "meaningful, long-range action to combat poor air quality and climate change," like converting state fleets to low- or zero-emission vehicles and investing in electric charging stations.

The document lists six "target industries" the state will focus on for recruitment, incentives and growth: aerospace and defense, energy, financial services, life sciences, outdoor products and recreation, and software and information technology.

Education innovation and investment

The administration's education plans include increased funding, improved teacher recruitment, equitable opportunities. With a goal to "prioritize at-risk learners," the roadmap calls for Utah to "identify and overcome learning or equity gaps caused by COVID-19" and to "allocate funding to address disparities."

The document also lists bridging the "digital divide" so all Utah students have access to computers and broadband internet at home. The Salt Lake City School District has been conducting classes almost entirely online since the coronavirus pandemic reached Utah, while other schools throughout the state have engaged in virtual learning as the necessity arose.

Cox wants to improve teacher salaries and "make post-secondary education the norm," as well.

Rural matters

Paying attention to rural Utah was a major theme of the Cox campaign, a message he has reinforced with his southern Utah inauguration and the creation of a rural office based out of Southern Utah University. In the One Utah Roadmap, Cox's team calls for economic diversification and improved rural infrastructure.

The infrastructure projects the administration intends to support include the Lake Powell pipeline, the inland port and potential satellite ports, the Bear River water project and the Uintah Railway.

The document also says Cox will oppose the enlargement of national monuments in Utah and supports "local management" of public lands, an explicit reference to concerns that President Joe Biden will restore the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments to their original sizes. President Donald Trump shrunk the monuments in 2017.

Health security

This section of the roadmap deals with health care and Utah's COVID-19 response. In addition to measures designed to improve the state's vaccination process and protect residents from the coronavirus, the document calls on Utah to "conduct a full review" of its pandemic response "with a focus on lessons learned and other changes to better prepare Utah for future pandemics and emergencies."

The plan emphasizes transparent pricing for health care procedures. It also calls for Utah to "develop reports and action plans on racial and ethnic health inequities/disparities" and to "develop a statewide health equity plan to evaluate systemic changes that address health disparities."

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minorities in Utah and throughout the country. Utah hospital officials also called systemic racism a public health crisis in a statement last week.

Equality and opportunity

Henderson's inaugural address was substantially focused on promoting equality and giving all Utahns a voice. In the fifth section of the One Utah Roadmap, these ideas are elaborated on.

The section includes policies designed to promote Utah's women, people of color and LGBT community, calling to "improve life outcomes for people with historically and systemically less access to opportunity."

It mentions narrowing the gender pay gap, enhancing resources for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and providing more child care support for working women and families.

"We recognize the unique inequities and varied experiences found within Black, Indigenous, Latino/x, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, and multiracial communities," it says. "We commit to creating initiatives that acknowledge the history of our state and nation, the disproportionate outcomes across systems, and the intersectional identities of our community members."

Streamline and modernize state government

Finally, the road map puts forth ideas for how to "upgrade" the government "to be more efficient, innovative and responsive to residents." This calls, largely, for every state agency to be reexamined for inefficiencies and streamlining.

As Cox has mentioned in the past, it also says state agencies should "embrace remote work" when possible and survey their employees regularly to monitor satisfaction and take suggestions.

The One Utah Roadmap will be "reviewed and refreshed as needed" after 250 days and then "reconstituted" at the conclusion of Cox's first 500 days in May 2022, it says. Cox assumed office on Jan. 4, and will deliver his first State of the State address Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for KSL.com. A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.


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