Values for Freedom and the Common Good
Utah Democrats reaffirm the simple and timeless values that make Utah and our nation great: protecting freedom, promoting responsibility, planning for the future, and supporting commonsense solutions to community problems. Democrats cherish the individual freedoms set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, and have an abiding faith in the judgment of hardworking Utah families. Utah Democrats believe government is constituted by the people to serve the noble purpose of creating an orderly, safe society that promotes the common good.
1. Economic Development
1.1 Wealth Creation
Utah Democrats believe economic development generated in the private sector creates the wealth that sustains a high living standard in Utah. Utah Democrats are resolute in our commitment to strengthen industries which provide a diverse economic base with abundant, higher-paying, quality jobs.
Utah Democrats know that economic growth is driven by long-run investment in three basic categories of economic assets: human capital (labor), physical capital (public infrastructure, plant and equipment), and intellectual capital (technology). A one or two percent growth rate above the national average and compounded over generations can make a huge difference to increase our standard of living and quality of life.
Utah must be committed to a healthy and educated population. We must be committed to good infrastructure in transportation, education and science facilities. And, we must understand the strong correlation that exists between public and private investment.
Public investment leverages private investment and makes it more efficient, thereby increasing the economy’s growth rates of productivity. Technology based economic growth relies on our knowledge of the sciences and engineering. Publicly funded science and technology research provides the foundation for private sector achievements that drive economic growth by building the scientific base for advances in industry and by generating commercial success in the form of higher productivity, spinoff companies and technologies.
Utah Democrats applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners and support creation of incentives to ensure their success.
Democrats are concerned about the practice of giving subsidies to attract out-of -state companies when it damages the economic vitality of existing Utah businesses.
Government can play an important role in fostering healthy competition, supporting innovation, promoting job creation, ensuring worker safety, protecting consumers from unfair practices and fraud, and maintaining a well-educated workforce.
1.2 Fair Trade
The free exchange of goods, services and capital worldwide creates job opportunities for Utahns in export markets and allows us to import products that hold down the prices of goods purchased by Utah businesses and consumers. All such fair trade agreements must, however, protect the rights of workers and prevent degradation of the environment.
1.3 Rewarding Work
Utah Democrats believe that all Utahns should labor to the best of their abilities to provide for themselves and their families. In return, employers should pay a decent, life-sustaining wage and appropriate benefits or taxpayers unfairly end up subsidizing those employers who fail to meet these standards. We believe gender should play no role in determining salary levels. Utah Democrats support the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.
Utah Democrats support programs for low-income working families that break the cycle of poverty, reward industry, promote self-sufficiency, support parenting, and encourage families to stay together. We also believe that government must continue to provide assistance to the low-income disabled and elderly members of our society who cannot provide for themselves.
1.4 The False Choice of Jobs vs. Environmental Quality
Democrats reject the false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We know that farming, fishing, tourism, and other industries require a healthy environment. New technologies that reduce carbon emissions and ensure clean air and water, coupled with government-supported incentives and job training programs, can create new high-paying jobs, especially in rural and transitional economies.
2. Good Government
2.1 State Taxes: Better Priorities to Help Working Families
Utah Democrats have a firm and enduring belief in low taxes and balanced budgets. Utah Democrats demand efficiency in state government and support strict priorities for spending that place public safety, health, and education above all else. The tax policy overhaul of the past decade has occurred in a manner that has reduced Utah’s investment in education in excess of $1 billion per year out of a total state budget of $11 billion. This shows the poor priorities of the governing party for the past 26 years. Utah is still last in the nation for per-pupil spending where we have been since 1988, but our funding effort, once among the highest in the nation, is no longer remarkable having fallen to just below the national average, and our educational attainment is falling behind national trends.
Utah Democrats vow that this cannot continue or our standards of living will fall dramatically in the coming decades.
Utah Democrats believe that the systematic and conscious shifting of the tax burden to middle-class and poor working families is especially unfair and damaging to our economy because it hurts rather than helps the people who are building the state and fighting to support themselves. Utah Democrats support fairness in the state tax code and countercyclical policies that improve our economy through good times and bad. We support the restoration of progressive taxation in Utah, through income tax re-bracketing and indexing new brackets for inflation. We support the elimination of outdated commercial and industrial sales tax exemptions to reduce the overall rate. We support increasing the flexibility and local control for city and county taxation. We support retention of the corporate franchise tax. We support shifting the tax burden from sales tax on food to other sources of revenue because of its unfair burden on the poorest Utahns.
2.2 Federal Taxes: Reduce Deficit, End Private Business Ownership, and Protect American People
Some critics charge that the new policies pursued by President Obama and the 111th Congress caused the huge federal budget deficits that the nation now faces and have moved private sector companies into the public sector. In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities shows that tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the economic downturn together explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.
Utah Democrats believe that while President Obama inherited a dismal fiscal legacy requiring a short-term countercyclical fiscal policy to keep our banking system from collapse and prevent higher job losses by the American people, that does not diminish the responsibility to propose policies to address our long-term fiscal imbalance and reduction of federal budget deficits – although policymakers should not tighten fiscal policy in the near term while the economy remains fragile. Congress has taken positive steps by restoring the pay-as-you-go law. Obama has proposed a freeze in discretionary spending and created a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to hammer out further concrete deficit reduction proposals.
Utah Democrats also believe that the President and Congress have the further responsibility to divest the government of the private sector acquisitions at the earliest possible time consistent with a strengthening economy and in a manner that recovers as much of the public investment as possible. We are pleased to see that this policy is well on its way. As of March 2010, Congress had authorized $700 billion for troubled assets in the private sector, the administration has only used $491 billion, and 37% or $181 billion has already been repaid.
Utah Democrats believe that these temporary, emergency countercyclical fiscal policy measures prevented another Great Depression and will speed recovery from the current economic recession. We also believe this should be a temporary response to an emergency situation. Utah Democrats believe financial regulatory reform is greatly needed to prevent such abuses from occurring again. In future, we must have a regulatory system that ensures when private enterprises fail they will not get taxpayer bailouts or be in position to take down the American financial system. We expect government regulators to do their jobs and protect the American people.
2.3 Open and Accountable Government
The foundation of our representative democracy resides in the people. Utah Democrats affirm our support of an open, accountable government where the people of Utah have a full opportunity to participate in shaping public policy. The people must have recourse through constitutionally established means of the courts, initiatives and referendums, and freedom of expression. In return, public officials must serve with integrity, dignity, responsiveness, and fiscal responsibility. Utah Democrats support public officials receiving an appropriate salary and benefits, but public service should not be used for personal financial enrichment.
Part of open and accountable government is making sure that Utahns have the modern tools of democracy available to them. The State of Utah recognizes electronic signatures are valid for the vast majority of voter activities including registration, signing polling books, and filing campaign/lobbying finance reports. It is also used for renewal of professional and driver’s licenses; application for hunting and fishing licenses; filing tax returns for individual income taxes, sales and use taxes, unemployment insurance; many court documents; registration of products, brands, corporation names, motor vehicles; applications for unemployment, health and insurance benefits, and many, many more services and transactions amounting to millions of dollars. Utah Democrats believe it should be allowed
for citizens initiatives. The circulation and collection of petition signatures is not the function of government, but a private function given to the sponsors of these accountability measures. The government’s function is limited to verification and counting to determine if the number collected is sufficient. Electronic signatures serves the public in that they are widely available to those with disabilities; students, church missionaries, and military personnel working outside the state; and for our rural residents. Additionally, it serves the government with tremendous cost savings for storage and matching of documents and improves the accuracy with typewritten records over handwritten ones. The laws should also be changed to allow adequate time for petitions to be circulated. The current schedule, amount of signatures required, and requirements for distribution of those signatures is far too burdensome for a useful system of checks and balances intended by our state’s constitution.
2.4 Election and Ethics Reform
Utah Democrats believe that a level playing field in the electoral process is an essential element of successful democracy. Utah Democrats believe that an effective, independent State Elections Commission should administer elections and campaign finance regulations. Utah Democrats believe in the principles of full, timely disclosure of campaign contributions, and limits on the amount of contributions from single sources. Utah Democrats believe public officials should not be able to convert campaign funds to personal use and applaud the 2010 legislature for taking significant steps to prevent personal use of campaign funds.
Utah Democrats also support the establishment of a similar commission for redistricting that would respect traditional redistricting standards that bring communities together instead of tearing them apart for partisan gain. Minimally, the legislature should adopt anti-gerrymandering standards before the 2011 round of redistricting that create a uniform scoring matrix to compare proposed plans.
Utah Democrats recognize that it is vital to restore trust in state government and to ensure state elected officials are held accountable to the highest ethical standards. We agree with the overwhelming majority of Utahns on the need to create an independent commission that would be empowered to investigate allegations by the public of ethics violations of elected officials.
Utahns have a right to the speedy resolution of civil and criminal court cases. We believe that victims deserve to participate in criminal justice processes that are equitable and effective. Utah Democrats believe that a fundamental premise of our federal and state constitutions is that all citizens should have equal access to the basic privileges of citizenship. Utahns believe in fairness. Fairness requires that all citizens enjoy the full benefits of citizenship regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or economic status. Because constitutions are created to grant freedoms, preserve liberties, and limit government, Utah Democrats oppose any effort to amend either the state or federal constitution to restrict civil liberties. Utah Democrats encourage our government to protect against discrimination and victimization based on status.
3. National security
3.1 Resolved to Remain Strong and Free
Utah Democrats are steadfast in our resolve that the best way to remain strong and free is to protect and preserve the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our overriding goals are the same as ever: to protect the American people, our country, and our economic way of life; and to help build a safer, more peaceful, more prosperous, more democratic world. Today, we face three great challenges above all others – first, to win the global war against terror; second, to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and third, to promote democracy and freedom around the world.
Utah Democrats also recognize that our increasingly interconnected world is threatened by the effects of climate change, dangerous energy dependence, mass population migration, shrinking natural resources, and pandemic disease. The effects of globalization also lead to increased violence based on identity politics that are manifested by ideological, religious, or nationalist movements. Utah Democrats acknowledge that national security now and in the future requires much more than a strong military. Key components of our national security must include ensuring protection of our critical infrastructure, using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, diplomatic efforts to increase international cooperation and, above all, our leaders telling the truth.
3.2 War in Iraq, Afghanistan
Utah Democrats are grateful for the honorable sacrifice that our soldiers and sailors are making in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. We are realists. The world is a dangerous place.
Democrats expect our political leadership to base war and peace decisions on an understanding of what comprises justifiable war: necessity (force used only in self-defense and as a last resort); discrimination (damage to civilians incidental to force directed at military targets); proportionality (force not greater than needed to achieve military results or the provoking cause); and humanity (force must not be directed against enemy personnel who are subject to capture).
Utah Democrats strongly affirm that no American should deploy for combat without a clear and obtainable mission, without adequate equipment and resources required to successfully achieve that mission, and without an exit strategy. Anything less approaches criminal
Utah Democrats support efforts to gradually remove our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, to press their leaders to take responsibility for their countries’ future, to launch aggressive diplomatic efforts with the goal of promoting the stability of the Middle East, and to expand services to refugees.
3.3 Prisoners of War
Utah Democrats believe that we should never stop seeking the fullest possible accounting of all American POW / MIAs from all wars.
Utah Democrats believe principles of justice and adherence to the rule of law – through Geneva Conventions, existing federal law, and treaty obligations – best ensures humane treatment of our soldiers and sailors if they become prisoners of war. We believe torture is an
affront to values long-cherished by all Americans, erodes our civil liberties, and compromises our security. Even in wartime, we must safeguard our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and liberties. Americans have a civic obligation to hold all government officials, members of the American military, and civilian contractors accountable for their actions.
Utah Democrats support improving military pay and benefits, including upgrading military housing and improving health insurance and other benefits to be equal in quality to that available to persons in the private sector.
Utah Democrats recognize that veterans are owed a special debt of gratitude for preserving and promoting American security at home
and abroad. We realize the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is more physically dangerous and emotionally stressful to a wider range of military personnel than other wars because of close combat, constant vulnerability to surprise attacks and hidden explosives, and suicidal adversaries.
Utah Democrats support continuous and effective efforts to assist the former members of the armed forces in rejoining civilian society.
We must build state-operated veterans homes where they are needed most, thereby providing assistance to eligible homeless veterans. We must expand and fund support services, as well as medical and psychological services for all eligible veterans, particularly family counseling, drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs that cater to veterans.
When veterans become disabled as a result of service-connected injuries, they have the right to adequate financial compensation and
medical care within a time frame comparable to the private sector. Utah Democrats are committed to improving the system in which requests for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits are processed. We must work to make the V.A. benefits system up-to-date, user-responsive, timely, and comprehensive.
4. Public Safety and Health
4.1 Law Enforcement
Utah Democrats believe that every person has a right to be safe in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Utah Democrats appreciate the delicate balance required of law enforcement – to be tough on crime while recognizing that the vast majority of Utahns respect and honor our laws.
Law enforcement officers must have the necessary tools to reduce crime, to develop prevention programs, to aid victims, and to ensure their own safety – whether facing violent criminals or exposure to hazardous situations such as illegal drug production.
It is also vital that we improve our first-responder communication infrastructure and increase cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement, fire, and EMS agencies.
We call for adequate funding to support those who have put their life at risk and have been injured in the line of duty.
Meaningful punishment that includes incarceration is a necessary component of public safety. Utah Democrats recognize the need to fund effective intervention and treatment programs because most offenders who are incarcerated will one day return to our communities.
Utah Democrats support the constitutional right of citizens to possess firearms for lawfully defending their families and property and for sporting purposes. We support common-sense measures to reduce gun violence and enhance public safety, enforcement of gun laws, and education on the safe use and storage of firearms.
Utah Democrats strongly affirm that people who are in the United States should be here legally. We strongly encourage Congress to adopt humane and compassionate policies that control our borders while providing for a viable worker immigration policy that respects the contributions of these workers to our economy and their families and children, many of whom are United States citizens.
This policy must not lead to programs of exploitation with employers engaging in a pattern and practice of recruiting undocumented workers, and must include whistleblower protections. We abhor the demonization and politicization – with undercurrents of racism – that has inhibited rational, fair-minded debate of the issue.
This year’s passage of comprehensive, market based health insurance reforms is long overdue. It is a national disgrace that the United
States lags behind every other developed country in caring for the medical needs of its citizens. It is unconscionable that thousands of Utahns suffer or even die only because they lack access to adequate medical care and that those numbers continue to rise. But these reforms in insurance are only a beginning to seeking solutions to our ongoing healthcare crisis.
Utah Democrats support finding ways eliminate waste in our fragmented system, reduce administrative costs dramatically, and improved quality healthcare outcomes in the most cost efficient manner thereby decreasing insurance costs. Utah is well-prepared to help provide leadership for these objectives. Utah is a national leader in health care informatics that deal with analyzing, designing, implementing, and evaluating information systems that can identify wasteful costs, enhance health outcomes, improve patient care, and strengthen the clinician-patient relationship. Such a comprehensive healthcare reform will make Utah businesses more competitive and attract new businesses to Utah, stimulating our state’s economy in the process while guaranteeing every Utahn insurance and choice of medical provider. Individual states’ should have rights to innovate in finding ways to achieve these objectives.
Utah Democrats will work to make public health policy more supportive of women during their childbearing years and their families and help people to have and raise children under the best possible circumstances. Utah Democrats believe in a comprehensive approach that protects reproductive freedom while fostering personal responsibility and education for thoughtful and moral decisions about sexuality, childbearing, adoption, and parenting.
5. Our Environmental Legacy
5.1 Rural Heritage
Utah has vast rural areas, numerous rural communities, and a rich pioneer heritage. We are concerned about the dwindling lands critical to wildlife, agriculture, watersheds and open space, and about adequate rural economic development to support the people of rural Utah. Utah Democrats support efforts, both public and private, to meet the needs of the residents of rural areas, while preserving our rural heritage for future generations.
5.2 Natural Resources
Utah Democrats recognize that both rural and urban Utah economies rely upon a healthy environment. Irresponsible over-allocation of our water resources in the West Desert threaten the environmental habitat, agricultural production, and tourism in rural Utah that are important segments of a vibrant Utah economy and the air quality and health of the residents of the urban Wasatch Front . A taking of Utah’s rural assets and transferring them out of state is unacceptable to the Democratic Party of Utah. It would be harmful to all Utahns for the Governor to sign an agreement with Nevada that could result in the over-allocation of the water resources in the Snake
Utah Democrats seek to ensure the protection of public health and create a legacy of clean, safe air, soil and water, and a sustainable and balanced plant and animal wildlife population with adequate winter and summer range. We place great value on conserving our diverse natural resources and public lands that belong to all the citizens and future generations. Utah Democrats encourage open and democratic debate on land management decisions.
Polluting businesses should be held responsible for cleanup and restoration. Utah Democrats support the protection of wilderness with the right of access to use it responsibly as well as acting to help preserve critical wildlife habitat. Multiple uses of the public lands in sustainable ways are encouraged. Ancient Native American, archeological and other sites and artifacts should be preserved and respected.
Utah Democrats believe that the state should lead efforts to increase energy and water conservation. New state-owned buildings should be built to reflect the latest and highest environmental standards consistent with budgetary constraints. We encourage the state to use fuel-efficient vehicles.
5.3 Air Quality
Utah Democrats find that the Wasatch Front’s designation as having the worst air quality in the country for the winter of 2010 is unacceptable. We believe that all sectors of Utah’s economy including the government need to share the task of reducing pollutants.
Degraded air quality negatively impacts health and the economy upon which our citizens rely. Failure to realistically address our “worst air” designations keep new business from locating in Utah, hurt tourism, and may cause needed talent to leave Utah’s communities for a healthier environment in which to live.
5.4 Climate Change
Utah Democrats agree with conclusions reached by virtually all climate scientists worldwide over the past decade and half regarding the certainty of human-caused catastrophic climate change and its projected tragic impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. We believe a moral imperative exists to implement policies that result in substantial reductions of carbon emissions.
5.5 Transportation and Infrastructure
Utah Democrats understand the enormous effect of growth on our environment, transportation systems, and other community facilities. We believe in addressing state infrastructure needs and community facilities through careful planning and development, in order to avoid crisis responses that result inevitably in unsatisfactory results.
Community facilities should be maintained as a high priority to avoid unnecessary, costly replacement. Utah Democrats believe that it is important that the state seek a balanced, efficient transportation system that does the following: maximizes the use of taxpayer dollars; enhances public safety taking into account the effect of the transportation system on neighborhoods; allows us to achieve high air quality standards; promotes pedestrian friendly access; and meets critical highway demand while also building convenient, accessible public transportation.
Utah Democrats believe that strong families strengthen society and are the foundation of our communities. The primary responsibility of raising children belongs to parents and legal guardians, not government. We challenge every parent to be involved in their children’s education, to read to them, to know their friends and their teachers, and, above all, to teach their children right from wrong and set a good example.
Utah Democrats will support programs that lend families a helping hand in times of need.
Utah Democrats believe all children have the right to a quality public education and that providing that education is one of the primary responsibilities of state government. It is not a commodity to be bought and sold.
Utah Democrats find it unacceptable that Utah has the lowest per pupil spending in the nation and we hold 26 years of one-party Republican rule responsible. We believe it is past time to remedy this situation with meaningful long-range planning, including exploring funding mechanisms, increasing efficiencies where possible, supporting site-based decision making where parents, teachers, administrators and students working together can solve local problems, and allowing those groups to use all interest and dividends from the permanent school trust fund to improve student performance.
We support rational education reform based on quality research, which must be developed and implemented by educators in concert with parents, along with business, community, and higher education leaders.
Utah Democrats further recognize that education does not end at the 12th grade and that many of today’s workers will have to be retrained for tomorrow’s jobs. Adequate resources for higher education are required if our colleges and universities are to fulfill their roles in preparing young people to take their place in society and to act as catalysts and incubators for economic development and assisting in the retraining of the current workforce.
Utah Democrats believe providing financial resources for education is an investment in our future and not an economic liability. Utah Democrats believe that our tax dollars are better spent in the classroom rather than in the courtroom. Recent ideological policies have wasted precious resources in an endless string of court battles over school vouchers, eminent domain over federal lands, and splitting
Utah Democrats support the right of all Americans to express faith. We affirm the protection the Constitution gives to religious expression and recognize the unique historic role faith has played in our community development and heritage. We recognize the importance that faith continues to play in the lives of Utah Democrats and all Utahns.
Utah Democrats believe that the constitutional principle of separating church and state maintains the rights of all Americans to worship how, where, and what they may.
6.4 The Arts and Humanities
Utah Democrats continue a long Utah tradition of celebrating and supporting the arts and humanities. Creative industries are essential to a high quality of life in Utah, attract tourists, and strengthen our economy. The arts and humanities are a critical component of K-12 and higher education. Students fluent in the arts and humanities have higher test scores and improved academic performance, which is essential to the development of a skilled and creative workforce. Utah Democrats encourage elected officials to fully fund arts and humanities programs in public schools.
Utah Democrats recognize that senior citizens, the fastest-growing portion of Utah’s population, deserve assistance in preserving their quality of life and achieving the highest possible level of health and well-being. Utah Democrats will ensure that seniors have access to information and services to enhance their physical and mental health and increase their access to affordable long-term care.
Utah Democrats will work to maximize independence for senior citizens and their families through support for programs that build safe neighborhoods, create affordable housing and healthcare, enhance financial security by preserving, protecting and improving a social security system, reduce barriers to employment, increase access to public transportation, and encourage participation in public events, educational forums, and include options for making additional contributions to society through voluntary services.
The ideas expressed in this platform are collective and do not likely reflect the positions of any single individual. The Utah Democratic Party is a party of inclusion and diversity, encouraging the participation of people with differing opinions and backgrounds. We embrace diversity as a source of strength in our community rather than a reason for division. As such, we respect the individual conscience of each Utahn on the issues presented in this platform and welcome the participation of all Utahns within the Democratic Party.