SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It’s been 100 days since Spencer J. Cox took office as 18e Governor of Utah.
“I think the Governor and Lieutenant Governor could not be happier,” Governor Cox Director of Communications Jennifer Napier-Pearce told ABC4. “Obviously, COVID-19 is our top priority and it took a lot of time and energy because we talked about testing and mass vaccination, but we have made a lot of progress in this area.
The Fairview native ran for state governor after spending the previous eight years as Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert. He beat former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in the Republican primary before defeating Democratic candidate Chris Peterson in the general election in late 2020.
According to his campaign website, several issues were at the forefront of Cox’s platform. In the wake of the pandemic outbreak, Cox has made rebuilding the economy one of his top priorities. He was also determined to transform Utah’s education system, fairly manage public lands, give rural Utah a voice, in addition to other typical Republican values such as 2nd amendment rights and protection of the right to life.
Shortly after his tenure as governor, Cox released his “One Utah Roadmap”, which would serve as a blueprint for the first 500 days of his term. The Governor’s Office website outlines six key priorities for the administration:
- Economic progress, including the means by which the state can develop talent, incentivize businesses and foster innovation;
- Innovation and investment in education, including how the state can recruit and retain quality teachers and focus on at-risk learners;
- Rural issues, including meeting critical infrastructure and policy needs;
- Health security, including the fight against COVID-19 and the fight against the social determinants of health;
- Equality and Opportunity, including leading by example to improve racial and gender disparities in state government; and
- Effectiveness of state government, including investing in state employees and implementing structural changes to become more responsive to state clients i.e. residents from Utah.
Here’s a look at how Cox and his staff fared in their first 100 days on the job and the process they went through to achieve their priorities:
In March, the governor’s office boasted that Utah had been named the nation’s top economy by US News State Rankings 2021. According to the ranking, Utah saw an employment growth rate of 2.5 %, which was above the national average of 1.4%. The net migration of job seekers to Utah, at 0.8%, was also above the national average of 0.2%.
When announcing his Budget proposal 2022, Cox took note that government spending had declined during the year, meaning there was about $ 1.2 billion for single use available. Cox plans to spend that money on investments to improve state infrastructure and other spending related to quality of life.
INNOVATION AND INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION:
In its 2022 budget recommendation, Cox announced he had allocated $ 112 million for educator bonuses. Other recommendations included investments in building computer skills statewide as well as investments in technical and business education programs. Cox also made funding for the Professional Development Initiative a priority for adults in need of additional education and training, which would facilitate placement. The instability caused by the pandemic triggered this recommendation.
Hailing from a small town in Utah, working on rural issues has been very important to Cox. He opened a rural office in Cedar City and signed 56 invoices there on March 22.
Earlier on March 3, Cox announced the creation of 30 new permanent jobs with the Department of Workforce Services, especially for workers in suburban Utah.
Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic is Cox’s number one priority, as he puts it.
On February 4, Utah surpassed the mark of more vaccines administered than the number of positive tests for COVID-19. Later, on the first day of March, all Utahns over the age of 65 were made eligible for the vaccine. Then, on March 24, all people 16 and older were allowed to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Some of Cox’s COVID-19 response plans have suffered some setback. On April 10, the Utah state mask mandate expired and was not renewed. However, some local politicians, including Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, have announced that they will continue to have a term in their jurisdiction. Private companies can still require masks for employees and customers, while elementary and secondary schools will need masks until the end of the school year.
Cox has also targeted bullying and suicide prevention and improving mental health as part of his public health plan. His wife, Abby Cox, recently announced a new mental wellness campaign at rural middle and high schools in Wasatch County. Cox also signed into force HB81, which adds mental or behavioral health as a valid excuse for being absent from school.
EQUALITY AND OPPORTUNITY:
Delivering on his promise to increase racial and gender diversity at the government level, Cox made some suitable appointments. On February 8, he appointed Cristina Ortega to a vacant post in the second instance of the district court. Ortega received her JD from the University of Utah and also received degrees in Criminal Justice and Latin American Studies / Legal Studies from Weber State.
STATE GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY:
During Utah’s 2021 legislative session, Cox signed a total of 464 bills. A notable bill that falls under this priority for Cox was HB 326, which amends the provisions relating to government performance reporting and efficiency requirements. This was signed by Cox on March 23.
To celebrate his 100th day in office, Cox, his wife, Abby, and Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson spoke with students from the Morgan School District. The opportunity would not have been complete without a photobomb from the governor.