Q&A with Representative Kay Christofferson and challenger Merrilee Boyack for Utah House District 56.

Skyler Beltran | Lehi Free Press

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As you drive around east Lehi, it’s apparent we are in campaign season, with Christofferson and Boyack signs scattered throughout town. Voters are now locking down their selection as the race for District 56 is coming to an end with ballots landing in mailboxes this week. 

Lehi Free Press: If elected, what would be your top priority for the 2021 Legislative Session?

Christofferson: I want to focus on lowering the tax burden of Utahns by making the federal government keep its word to states. In 1976 the Federal Government adopted a policy to discontinue the practice of turning over public federal lands to the States. To compensate for the loss in property taxes by these western states they created PILT: Payment in Lieu of Taxes. These are meant to be equivalent to fair-market-value property taxes. Currently, these PILT payments are less than 1/10 of the market value. I have been working with a local company, Geomancer, to establish a real-time valuation of all federal lands in Utah and will continue the effort by working with the Federal Government to treat Utah fairly and pay the promised amount. This is important because these funds pay for education, transportation, and the general government.  

Boyack: We’re in the middle of an economic crisis, on the heels of seeing the legislature push tax “reform” which included increasing the taxes on our groceries and gas. 

Now more than ever, our legislature needs to practice fiscal restraint. I will prioritize our budget and eliminate wasteful spending so our taxpayers can keep more of their hard-earned dollars for their family’s budget. I’ll be working with business leaders throughout our district to identify and remove unnecessary regulations and taxes so our businesses can grow, create jobs, and get our economy moving again.

LFP: Would you be in favor of a “school impact fee” for residential development?

Christofferson: I am not in favor of this. The State would have to give authority for local political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, to assess these fees (Utah Code 11-36a-206). Currently, that is not allowed, and I’m worried this would be the beginning of state overreach into our local decisions on education. Property and Income taxes are paying for schools. An impact fee of this nature would raise the cost of construction, making it more difficult for families to afford a home.  

Boyack: What will the development be? How much is the fee? Will it help better educate and prepare our children for their future? I try to stay away from hypothetical votes as various circumstances can affect the decision. 

Right now, Utahns pay a considerable amount to public schools, including for costly buildings. Many families and those on fixed incomes already struggle with their property taxes going up. Adding to that with another fee is concerning. 

During COVID-19, we’ve seen the need for flexible education models. I’m interested in exploring new and innovative changes that better accommodate families in different learning environments and prepare our students for their next step. It’s a meaningful discussion I hope to be a part of in the months ahead.

LFP: What are some ideas you have for the state to alleviate traffic issues?

Christofferson: I am the Chair of the House Transportation Committee and have conducted hearings, and spoken on the idea of planning for future growth in Utah by not just looking out 20-30 years ahead, but looking to the possible scenario of build-out – when building is completed as zoned, and seeing what will be the needs for transportation at that point. We have a program for buying right-of-way for conserving corridors for future expansion, but I am working with state transportation planners to purchase these corridors before they are committed to other development.

Boyack: This issue is more than widening roads and adding money to UTA.COVID-19 has led many employers to allow for flexible working opportunities. I anticipate that this trend will persist and increase, helping families have a better work/life balance while also leading to a decrease in traffic, as fewer people need to commute. Utah should encourage this type of behavior by investing in technologies that make it easier to work from home and start a business. 

We need to get creative by looking to the future for innovative solutions. Too often, the state fights things like Uber and innovative, free-market solutions rather than embracing them. We need to look forward and partner with private industries by fostering creative solutions that prepare our growing state responsibly.

LFP: What do you think is the largest economic challenge facing Utah? 

Christofferson: The largest economic challenge facing the state is the impact of COVID-19. Because of the virus, the revenue to the State is expected to drop by about 10% – this could worsen as time goes on. I’ve already been working at cutting government expenses because we still need to maintain our excellent bond rating. Some of my recommendations for cuts are advancing for a vote later this month. Even though we have a sizeable rainy-day fund, we do not want to tap into it until other options are exhausted; because we must ensure we can weather a return of COVID-19.

Boyack: The government shutdown has closed many small businesses, and unemployment has skyrocketed as we’ve never seen before. We must find a way — even amid future waves of coronavirus, should they come — to ensure our economy can continue to function, even with some adaptation, so that people don’t become dependent on the government and lose hope. Utah has shown some resilience in weathering this storm, but the clouds will persist for some time and we need to work on solutions that will help small businesses that have gone under, or soon will. However, we have great opportunities facing us in supporting new ways to work, technologies that can save the state money, and more efficient ways to run our government. As we focus on these, we can overcome this challenge and help our state and our families thrive moving forward.

LFP: Do you support the Salt Lake Inland Port Project?

Christofferson: Yes! This area is developing on its own as free-market pressures demand better access to products, but it is happening in a piece-meal fashion. The Inland Port Authority only streamlines and coordinates these efforts with those desiring to market their products. It creates a way to pay for the infrastructure so that all modes of transportation engage smoothly. Also, this will provide a location where products that are being transported can be inspected by customs – not just on the coast. This will simplify imports and exports of local producers and manufacturers. 

Boyack: I believe in the free market and want to maintain a competitive advantage for our state in shipping goods to the global community. The market couldn’t function well without the infrastructure to transport those goods, so it’s important that we always be on the lookout for opportunities to allow the market to better thrive. While I do have concerns with some aspects of the rollout of the project, I do not object to its creation on principle.

LFP: If elected, how will you communicate and engage with constituents?

Christofferson: You already know how I communicate and engage with constituents. I record a weekly video during the session that is posted to social media and emailed out. I also conduct town hall meetings and send out a survey to get your opinion. I read every response to the survey and take your opinions into consideration. I’ve run legislation or modified state code because of feedback from the surveys. I can be reached at 801-592-5709, (FB) Representative Kay Christofferson, or kay@christofferson56.com, and my website is www.christofferson56.com.

Boyack: I have been calling and meeting with over 100 voters a day, and it’s clear that voters have not received much communication and welcome it. I am eager to communicate with others; I’ve written many books, and I am a public speaker, community volunteer, and created a Facebook group, Lehi Link (over 13,000+ members), to better help our community connect on important (and sometimes silly!) issues. I will be doing regular newsletters, social media outreach, live videos, and more as I have with the many coalitions I help run. Even when we disagree, it’s important to talk to one another, and I pledge to be a very communicative Representative for our district to make sure everyone is engaged.

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