Delegate Report 1 Part A: Jim Ferrin, Steve Sandstrom

It’s been a busy day. In my continuing adventures as a county delegate and a Utah Political Blogger, I ran down to the Orem City Council Chambers at 10:30am to attend a “Meet the Candidates” event for our district. I had thought it was just going to be an informal mix-and-mingle kind of event, but the first fifty minutes or so ended up being a formal debate between the candidates for Utah House of Representatives for district 58: incumbent Jim Ferrin and challenger Steve Sandstrom, who is currently serving as an Orem City Councilman.

Here is a rough account of the debate based on my notes. There was a lot said, so I wasn’t able to get it all down and I am mostly paraphrasing instead of providing exact quotes. If I accidentally misrepresent one of the candidates positions I hope they will contact me so I can correct it.

Opening Statements

Sandstrom: Is a lifetime resident of Utah County, a former marine, former commercial pilot, and an architect. Has served on Orem City Council for 10 years.

Ferrin: Served in State Legislature for last 6 years. Moved to Utah County from Arizona in 1978 for school. Graduated from BYU in 1981 and lived here ever since.

Question #1: Why are you the most qualified candidate?

Ferrin: There is a steep learning curve for being able to work effectively in the legislature. Has been Vice-Chair and Chair of the State Judiciary Committee, Public Education Appropriations. Has seniority, respect from other legislators, and advantageous friendships. Most of what goes on in the legislature is about persuasion and it takes a while to get into position.

Sandstrom: Has a fresh look. Everyone in the legislature had to start at some point. Can hit the ground running because of experience in City Council working with legislators. He has to deal with the reality of the bills that are passed by the legislature on a city level, face to face with those who are effected by them. Meets with a lot of local people about the issues that effect them. We have to listen to our constituents.

Question #2: “Legislative emphasis” What are the top three issues for the state? What are your solutions to them?

Sandstrom: 1. Education – people need to have school choice, but keep public schools strong at the same time. 2. Illegal Immigration – major impact on our community; needs to be fixed. 3. Transportation – must be adequate for growth.

Ferrin: 1. Education – Served on public education appropriations committee for all six years. Supported 6% increase in per pupil funding, 9% overall increase in public education. 2. Transportation – Funding issues for building in state highways and transportation infrastructure. 3. Taxes/Competitiveness.

Question #3: What is your vision for Utah County Transportation? What is your plan for roads and water necessary for growth?

Ferrin: Since 2001 centennial highway funding plus forty other transportation projects have been planned. A priority is the I-15 improvement in Utah County. State still doesn’t have the money to do it. At the same time, the cost of doing it increases as they wait. Proposes a bond to fund road building now because it will cost even more in the future.

Sandstrom: Roads and traffic flow are critical to our economic growth. Has spearheaded road bond initiative. Experience as an architect taught him that material prices only go up. Supports a bond to fund roads. We need to do it now before it gets more expensive. Currently the legislature gives roads over to cities without providing a funding mechanism. I would look for a more equitable solution.

Question #4: Do you think that state tax reform will improve the tax system? Should deductions/credits still be available?

Sandstrom: A flatter tax is better, but there should still be deductions for charitable contributions. We can’t cut taxes to the point of overburdening other areas, like pulling taxes away from cities while leaving cities only the power to raise property tax.

Ferrin: We deal with projection of available revenue. Utah is currently doing well…we have a projected surplus. How to reduce taxes? Governor proposes replacing the five or six brackets with a single flat rate. Disagrees with governor. My solution is to reduce the rate on the top bracket. Some deductions could be eliminated.

Question #5: Illegal Immigration issue – A. What is your philosophical stance? B. What legislative measure would you support/propose? C. Could Utah state policies on illegal immigration cause us to lose federal funds?

Ferrin: This is a huge issue. U.S. is “land of immigrant opportunity, but not illegal immigrant opportunity.” Realistically must be a federal solution to a federal problem. Has called upon members of the U.S. Congress to : 1. Seal the border, 2. Implement a illegal registration system over the period of one year, 3. Deport all who do not register during that year, 4. Implement a clear, more efficient way for people to immigrate legally. Should shut out drug dealers and terrorists, but welcome generally law-abiding. Supported state issued “driver privilege cards” for illegals. The cards allow illegals to get auto insurance and allow us to identify them, but cannot be used as a legal identification for anything else. We can’t close Utah’s borders. Prosecuting those who employ illegals is not really effective.

Sandstrom: Three proposals: 1. Remove incentives for illegals to come by removing the incentive of Jobs and free government services. 2. States have the right to enforce the immigration act of 1986 (?) and deport illegals. I would have voted against the driver privilege cards. Illegals should be arrested and deported, not given cards. I would repeal the laws that give “in-state” tuition to illegal immigrants. Jim was in favor of repealing in committee, but changed mind in final vote. 3. Impose stiff penalties for businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Problem can be solved by fining businesses. Last three murders in Orem city involved illegal immigrants. He would use surplus funds to create a unit specifically for detecting and taking care of illegal immigration violations.

Question #6: What is your position on school funding? On School Choice, Vouchers, and Tax Credits? Charter Schools?

Sandstrom: Education is a public good. We need an educated populace. If only the rich have access to education you become a third world nation. We need solid education. In favor of funding all schools, but shouldn’t favor charter schools over public schools. Parents are best equipped to evaluate the needs of their kids. Will not support any bill that wont keep public schools “whole” or would hurt strong public schools. Charter schools are owned by individuals but funded by the state. In favor of choice with adequate funds for public schools.

Ferrin: All state income taxes go to education (public schools AND higher education). 100% of income tax plus local property tax by school district. Doesn’t believe in increasing taxes to fund public education. This year public education got the biggest budget EVER. Formula for calculating per pupil funding is same for charter and public schools. He sponsored a bill that would give parents 1 dollar tax credit for every dollar the parents spent on private education for their children. Voted for defeated voucher bill. Would have been funded strictly from general fund. Would not have effected districts.

Closing Statements/Responses

Ferrin: Has appreciation for real political power in state: the delegates. Thinks about what the people in his district would say about every issue. If we want an effective legislature we have to have effective legislators. If you are going to remove an experienced guy from office you better have ten good reasons why he should be removed.

Sandstrom: Knows how to make tough decisions on tough issues as he has in the city council. He has been close to the people. The legislature loses touch with the people. I am prepared for this job. I have developed relationships with individuals in the legislature and governors office.; I wont be entering the legislature without any connections. The most important thing is to listen to the constituents.

Ferrin: I like Steve Sandstrom. I voted for him for city councilman. I think he should stay a city councilman. I’m one heck of a legislator. I have a reputation as one legislator that understands Education.

Sandstrom: I know the same people that Jim does. I can make a difference. I am approachable. I am not a one issue person. I’m interested in your opinions.

After the debate, two of the candidates for County Attorney, and a candidate for County treasurer, introduced themselves to the group and then we broken into the kind of informal mix-and-mingle I had expected. I had the opportunity to ask questions directly to both Jim Ferrin and Steve Sandstrom, as well as Jeff Buhman, who is a candidate for County Attorney.

I’ll post about our conversations in part B.

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