Utah Gov. Spencer Cox releases 500-day plan for new administration

The list of potential action items was drawn from the new governor’s campaign promises.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Jan. 14, 2021. Cox on Tuesday released a "roadmap" for his administration's priorities for his first 500 days in office.

Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday released a plan for the first 500 days of his administration, focusing on six priorities that mirror the pledges he made during his recent campaign for the state’s top executive office.

The 12-page roadmap will guide the newly inaugurated governor in the areas of economic advancement, education, rural affairs, health, equality and opportunity and government efficiency and modernization, and Cox said he’s grateful for the volunteers and advisers who helped assemble the document.

“Like all well-used road maps, this One Utah Roadmap will be dog-eared and lovingly consulted over the next year and beyond,” Cox said in a prepared statement. “The road ahead will have detours, yield signs, fast and slow speeds, and bridges which we will navigate.”

More than 100 community leaders helped draft policy suggestions, which members of Cox’s transition team drew upon to create the 500-day plan, according to a news release. The transition team members involved in the effort included Lynne Ward, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Olene Walker; Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies; Natalie Gochnour, director of the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; Rich McKeown, co-founder of Leavitt Partners; and Austin Cox, the governor’s former campaign manager.

The economic advancement section of the plan suggests:

  • Adopting an “official Utah economic development policy”;

  • Reforming the state’s economic incentives program;

  • Creating an “Innovation District” at the Point of the Mountain;

  • Conducting a review of state regulations;

  • Eliminating Social Security taxes for some lower-income Utahns; and

  • Growing the state’s rainy day funds to $1 billion.

The education section calls for:

  • Giving children access to optional extended-day kindergarten;

  • Reviewing school construction funding;

  • Closing the learning gaps created by COVID-19 with the help of summer and after-school programs or tutoring;

  • Increasing teacher pay and striving for a more diverse educator workforce; and

  • Advocating for state school board members to be appointed by the governor rather than elected.

The rural issues portion of the plan encourages:

  • Support for projects such as the inland port and Lake Powell pipeline;

  • Creation of a state reserve system for coal, petroleum and minerals;

  • Opposition to the expansion of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments;

  • Advocacy for local management of Utah’s public lands.

The plan’s health component calls for:

  • An “aggressive” effort to get Utahns inoculated against COVID-19;

  • Hiring more community health workers;

  • Conducting a comprehensive review of Utah’s coronavirus response; and

  • Expanding access to telehealth services, particularly in the areas of mental health and substance abuse.

The equality and opportunity section suggests:

  • Designating an “equality and opportunity” adviser;

  • Choosing a diverse group of Utahns for appointed roles in the state;

  • Investing in workforce training for women and people of color;

  • Making sure health insurance is accessible to Utah’s children; and

  • Seeking to narrow the gender pay gap, both within state government and in the private sector.

The streamlining government part of the plan proposes:

  • Choosing a “chief innovation officer” to modernize government and serve as an ambassador between the state and private innovators;

  • Investing more in state employees; and

  • Asking each state agency to make a plan for improving efficiency, productivity and customer service.