Governor pitches plan to tax more services, cut overall rate

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, right, speaks as Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, looks on during the Utah Taxpayers Association 2019 legislative outlook conference Monday, Jan., 7, 2019, in Salt Lake City. 

Provo-based entrepreneur and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham announced on Wednesday evening that Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, will be running alongside him.

The announcement came in a campaign video where Burningham said he chose McCay for his legislative experience and commitment to conservative values.

“Sen. Dan McCay has consistently been ranked as one of the most conservative legislators in the entire state of Utah during his tenure in the House and the Senate,” Burningham said in the video. “Burningham-McCay is the conservative team for the state of Utah.”

During this year’s legislative session, which ended March 12, McCay sponsored a bill to ban elective abortions in Utah at any stage of gestation except in rare circumstances. McCay included a “trigger clause” in the bill so that it wouldn’t go into effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing women the right to an abortion.

“There are plenty of legal scholars who believe the time is right for this decision to be reviewed,” McCay told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 26.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill, Senate Bill 174, on Saturday.

McCay said in the campaign video that he has been “impressed by Jeff’s leadership and his ideas to take Utah to the next level.”

“Utah needs a CEO. And Jeff Burningham is that CEO,” said McCay. “He has the business experience to keep Utah’s economy growing without sacrificing our way of life.”

In an interview on Thursday, Burningham said McCay’s experience in the Utah State Legislature made the Riverton Republican his ideal choice for lieutenant governor.

“It’s always important to me to get someone who understands the legislative process,” said Burningham, who has never held or ran for political office.

Burningham said he and McCay shared an appreciation for “limited government” and maximizing economic, social and political “freedom to the people.”

“And so because I believe in limited government, and because I believe that the government is not the answer to most things, Dan was an appealing choice for me,” Burningham said.

When asked what set himself apart from other Republicans running for governor, including former Governor and United States Ambassador Jon Huntsman and current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Burningham cited his experience in the private sector.

“Everyone in this race has had some success in the private sector. But here’s a fact: There is no one (running for governor) that understands Utah’s economy the way I do,” he said. “Economic development is not theoretical to me, it is what I have devoted my life and career to. I’ve helped create thousands of jobs in several sectors here in the Utah economy.”

Burningham said that Utah needs a governor with a business background while the state navigates the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, unemployment claims in the state reached historic levels in March.

A business background “is going to be a key characteristic, in my opinion, of our next governor,” Burningham said, “especially as we face a recovery from COVID-19 and the economic crisis that we are currently facing.”

To help residents and businesses recover, Burningham said the state should cut taxes for the year, including completely eliminating the food sales tax, and dip into the state’s “massive surplus.”

“There are several things that we can do to get our economy back on track,” Burningham said.

His other focuses as governor, Burningham said, would be innovating public education by putting greater emphasis on trade skills and computer programming and “push(ing) back on the federal government” to get “better access to our public lands” in rural Utah.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at and 801-344-2599.

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