Elections Have Consequences – What’s Next for Utah?

Democrats take back the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans hold onto the U.S. Senate. But what happened here in Utah other than sending Mitt Romney to Washington and that Ben McAdams may have beat Mia Love?

Utahns openly embraced the concept of medical cannabis

No longer is the discussion about if—or even when—Utah should have medical cannabis. Now the debate is about how. A medical cannabis program is coming to Utah and this election and the polls have shown that its a popular concept with Utahns.

The real work will be in implementing a program that works for patients. Utah is now on a path to decriminalize these patients who seek to improve their well being via medical cannabis.

Utahns reject increasing taxes to fund public education

Education has been the number one issue on the minds of Utah voters for sometime. Many people believe teachers should be paid more. Utah has been at the bottom of per-pupil spending for quite some time. Given all this, Utahns still reject the notion that tax increases are necessary to increase funding for public education.

Legislators should take notice that voters want to see a reprioritization of the existing $17 billion budget, not initiatives to take more money out of their pockets. Importantly, the rejection of Question 1 also shows that the education establishment no longer wields nearly as much power as it did a decade ago.

Utahns may have blown a hole in the state budget

Despite voting down one tax increase, Utah voters seem to have approved a much more massive tax increase via Prop 3 and Medicaid expansion. This expansion has the potential to eat up a massive portion of the state budget in future years.

How legislators deal with this predicament will be important to Utah’s future fiscal health. Funding for other government services like transportation and education may be in jeopardy. Only time will tell.

Utahns put additional trust in the Legislature

Mixed in with the ballot initiatives were several proposed constitutional amendments. One of these seemed very contentious, but in the end voters gave the Legislature the power to call themselves into special session in certain cases without having to ask permission of the governor.

This development, along with the likelihood that Prop 4 (which establishes an independent redistricting commission) will ultimately fail, may show that Utahns have a certain level of confidence that the Legislature won’t abuse their new special session authority or their continued redistricting responsibilities.