Gov. Spencer Cox celebrated 500 days in office with a public event on May 18 discussing accomplishments throughout his governorship and how he plans to tackle Utah’s inflation, drought and education concerns.
Jason Perry, host of “The Hinckley Report with Jason Perry” and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, led the conversation with Cox, who has been serving as the 18th governor of Utah since 2021.
The governor addressed the developments made to implement his Utah Roadmap, which outlined goals for his first 500 days in office.
Perry questioned Cox about the six key areas outlined in the roadmap including economic advancement, education innovation and investment, rural matters, health security, equality and opportunity and state government efficiency.
The governor said Utah has transformed from a developing economy into a developed economy, citing low unemployment rates and economic success.
“Being the number one economy over the past ten years is really remarkable,” Cox said. “And being the number one state for jobs created post pandemic.”
Although Utah’s unemployment rates are low, inflation in the state was 10% above the national average in April, an issue Cox said is the largest headwind the state is facing.
“Most of us in this room are just fine, if we have to pay four dollars and fifty cents for a gallon of gas, we don’t like it but we’re going to get through,” Cox said. “There are a lot people who are making life changing choices, ‘Do I buy that gallon of gas?’ ‘Do I buy that bag of groceries?’”
The governor suggested making mass public transit free while inflation remains an issue for Utahns.
Cox also addressed what he has done to improve teacher and education quality in Utah during his first 500 days in office, including how the state can now recruit and retain quality teachers and focus on at-risk students.
In his roadmap released on January 2021, the governor committed to prioritizing disadvantaged students in Utah.
“I’m very proud of legislation that we were able to help push through to give more funding for at risk students,” he said. “This will help our schools that are struggling, it will help rural schools and get more funding where it’s needed.
Building up rural communities in Utah was another focus of Cox’s campaign back in 2020. During his time in office, Cox has moved 200 jobs into rural Utah including state government jobs. The governor said these jobs provide a huge benefit to rural citizens giving them more opportunities for employment.
Utah’s ongoing drought was also discussed as summer approaches, causing concerns for water conservation.
“We need people to conserve again this year like they did last year,” Cox said. “If we do what we did last year again, we’ll be just fine. So the good news is we know we can do it.”
Cox concluded his appearance by answering questions from the audience. The questions ranged from concerns about affordable housing and relationships with Utah tribes to combating political divisiveness after a CNN poll released on May 18 said 53% of Americans are burned out on politics.
“I’m surprised its only 53%,” he said. “It’s important to listen to people who are different than us. If you’re Republican, you should have some friends who are Democrats and you should listen to them. Not listen to debate, but listen to understand.”
In response to an audience question, Cox told youth to “stop being so cynical.”
“Look for the good that exists out there and you will find it in amiable form,” he said. “Instead of being upset or angry at politicians or politics, get involved.”