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Debate Over State Legislature Seat Highlights Different Views On Funding Education

Incumbent Curt Webb, and challenger Jeff Turley sit next to each other at the debate for Utah House of Representatives District 5.
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Candidates contesting the Utah House of Representatives District 5 seat squared off Wednesday night in the Logan Library’s Jim Bridger Room.

Incumbent Curt Webb and challenger Jeff Turley sparred over the funding of education, taxes and public lands, among other things.

 

Turley challenged Webb on the Utah State Legislature’s failure to adequately fund education. This was a central theme of the debate, and the launching point for debate on other issues such as the appropriate level of taxation, public lands, and how Utahns can best benefit from the state’s mineral and energy resources.
Webb’s defense of himself and his fellow legislators appealed his efforts to balance competing interests for funding.

While the candidates agreed that funding education must be a priority, they disagreed on how the state might best go about it.

Webb said prosperity through low taxes is the best path to greater education funding and the size of Utah’s families precludes a simple solution to the issue of education.

For Turley, the issue of education funding was not optional or excusable. He said making property taxes a percentage of property value, finding a way to increase tax contributions from large families as well as raising severance taxes are all options.

“The resources which those companies are getting out of the ground are the state of Utah’s resources. When they’re making huge profits on those resources at the citizen’s expense, I don’t agree with that,” Turley said. “I do know royalties are a big thing, and what they are right now they are in favor of the oil companies rather than the citizens of this state, especially for education,”

As the debate swirled into taxing, Webb made a stand of his own, declaring he would not raise taxes, as the elderly and Utah’s large families could not support any higher taxes.

He also responded to Turley’s proposal to increase taxes on mineral and oil extraction.

“The severance tax is really a matter of supply and demand. There are other places they can drill. If we raise the fees, will they drill elsewhere? Then we will have no fees at all,” Webb said. “They aren’t a captive market. There are other oil fields where they can go and explore and spend their money.”

The candidates also debated the proper role of the federal government in providing healthcare and in managing public lands in Utah.