Rural Broadband– Chris Peterson will bring broadband internet to rural Utah. Internet access has become an essential part of Utahns’ daily lives. Yet thousands of rural Utahns are left without broadband service because of the exorbitant cost or the lack of providers in their area. In Daggett, Millard, San Juan, and Rich counties, less than 65% of the population has access to basic internet services and, according to BroadbandNow, “only 26.3% of Utah’s population has access to a standalone wired broadband internet plan for under $60 per month.” The coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the rural Utahns without broadband access have been facing for years: A lack of educational opportunities, limited healthcare options, and shrinking business connections. As governor, Chris will make broadband internet access a central infrastructure development priority in his administration, creating opportunities for Utahns to thrive in every corner of the state. Chris will work with Utah’s internet service providers to provide broadband services in every Utah home.
Rural Health Care Initiative- Chris Peterson will expand access to affordable health care in rural Utah. Too many Utahns throughout the state struggle to find affordable access to healthcare and prescription medication. Chris will make a difference in the daily lives of rural Utahns by protecting the Medicaid expansion ballot proposition adopted by voters in 2018. He will lead efforts to support rural hospitals and clinics by leveraging existing programs, clearing out red tape, and providing financial support. Chris will also expand access to health care by supporting telehealth programs. During the coronavirus pandemic, Utahns have used telehealth services like never before, with more visits online in April of this year than the past decade combined. Chris will work do away with restrictive licensure policies that have slowed telehealth development and have kept Utahns from receiving the primary care they deserve. Finally, Chris believes mental health care is just as important as other medical conditions. He will fight to create mental health care parity in the insurance industry as well as in federal and state health care programs.
Future Farmers Success Act- Chris Peterson will work to create a student loan debt forgiveness program for young farmers and ranchers. Under federal law, recent college graduates who engage in public service have the opportunity to have their student loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments. Chris believes that working on a family farm or ranch is a critical form of public service. Too many rural Utah children go off to college but cannot find career options at home to repay their student loans. Chris will work to create a Utah cooperative association that will allow graduates that work on family farms or ranchers to receive the same public service student loan forgiveness as our teachers, firefighters, government workers, and other public servants.
Support Member-Owned Meatpacking Cooperatives- During the Covid-19 pandemic, meatpacking plant workers have seen huge spikes in case counts due to unsafe working conditions. This crisis has highlighted the need for more worker autonomy in one of Utah’s linchpin industries. Chris Peterson will support the creation of meatpacking cooperatives owned and operated by farmers, ranchers, and meatpacking workers. This business structure would provide greater negotiating power for workers and more profit and flexibility for Utah’s ranchers. Chris will protect the economic independence of hard-working rural Utahns in every corner of the state.
Expand and Nurture Utah’s Outdoor Industries- Utah is a state of unmatched natural beauty and wonder. Chris Peterson will work with outdoor retailers, the tourism industry, and federal and state land managers to get the most out of Utah’s greatest natural resource while preserving and protecting public lands for future generations.
Apprenticeship Tax Credit- Chris Peterson will propose legislation to create a Utah Apprenticeship Tax Credit program to increase the number of apprentices. Apprenticeship is a time-honored training model which can provide businesses with a talented and energetic work force. To offset the costs of training new workers, Chris will work to support mentorship by giving one-time tax credits to businesses that establish bona fide apprentice opportunities. Utah should leverage our community and technical colleges to increase awareness of and support for the program.
Create Rural Jobs through Green Energy- Utah has some of the largest untapped solar and geothermal power reserves of any state in the country. Rural Utahns have the technological know-how, entrepreneurial spirit, and stewardship ethic to lead a green energy transition that will create thousands of good-paying jobs. Chris will propose legislation to create renewable energy worker training grants and public financial support for green energy development. By working together with Utahns along the Wasatch Front, rural Utah can see increased jobs and economic growth while helping urban Utah combat toxic air pollution.
Right to Repair Legislation- Currently, farming equipment manufacturers prevent farmers and ranchers from fixing their own machinery. This forces small agricultural business owners to haul heavy machinery to authorized dealers and pay unfair maintenance costs. This anti-competitive practice inhibits free enterprise. It is time that Utahns were allowed to tend to their own property. Chris Peterson fully supports farmers and ranchers and will fight for their right to repair their own equipment.
Protecting Public Lands and Fighting for Fair Federal Revenue Sharing- Nearly two-thirds of Utah’s land is owned by the federal government. This makes it difficult for many local governments in rural areas to collect sufficient property taxes to fund basic services. The federal government has not lived up to its land-ownership responsibilities by shorting Utahns on fair energy royalties and federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT Payments). Chris will fight to increase Utah’s share of energy royalties and bring PILT payments up to market value. Utahns should not have to sell their own backyards to keep their communities afloat. Chris will also work to settle never-ending, wasteful lawsuits over public lands that are not making a difference in the daily lives of rural Utahns.
Leverage Utah’s Research Universities to Create Economic Opportunity- Utah is positioned to lead innovation in the information technology, biotech, banking, and aerospace industries. Our universities are already sparking economic growth by converting their discoveries and inventions into job-creating businesses. State government can foster economic development and job-growth by strategically investing in Utah’s intellectual property development. Chris Peterson will protect Utah’s favorable regulatory environment, nurture our talent pipelines, and work to fund technology transfer. This economic development will produce positive results for rural and urban Utahns alike.
Payday Loan Reform- Too many rural Utahns who are struggling to make ends meet are at risk from predatory lenders. A super majority of Utahns support reform of the payday lending industry. Debt traps restrict our liberty and make it harder for families to pay for their homes and keep food on the table. Payday lenders have also become the most prolific litigants in state courts, suing thousands of Utahns each year and in many cases even having struggling mothers, veterans, and workers arrested. Payday loan reform is a critical issue for rural and urban Utahns alike. Chris Peterson will propose legislation to cap interest rates on payday loans and will lead the Department of Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Division to better enforce existing laws prohibiting unconscionable lending, deceptive advertising, and abusive loan terms.