SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Gov. Spencer Cox outlines his intention to prioritize legislation regarding teachers’ pay raise, affordable housing and water conservation during the State of the State address on Thursday, Jan. 19.

In his speech at the State Capitol, Cox said he is working with legislators to make 2023 the “Year of the Teacher.” The Utah House Education Committee had just voted Thursday to advance H.B. 215, which establishes the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program and increases salaries for teachers.

“The largest variable in student outcomes is the quality of the teacher,” Cox said. “If we want to guarantee that we have the best teachers, we must invest in our teachers.”

When it comes to housing, Cox said he is working with Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R-South Jordan), Rep. Stephen L. Whyte (R-Mapleton), the League of Cities and Town and other stakeholders to introduce legislation that will increase housing supply but reduce the cost.

“If we want less expensive housing, we simply need more of it,” the governor said. “And not just deeply affordable or low-income housing — although we certainly need that, too — but more of everything.”

In Cox’s 2024 fiscal year budget recommendations, he pushes for a $100 million one-time spending into deeply affordable housing, which would add another 2,000 affordable houses across Utah.

The water levels for the Great Salt Lake reached a historic low last November, prompting Cox to issue a proclamation that would suspend new water appropriations within the Lake basins.

In his State of the State speech, Cox proposed to invest another $500 million in water conservation efforts and push for new policy changes, noting the 12 water conservation bills and $500 million in funding passed in the Legislature last year.

“We find ourselves in the greatest drought in the western United States in over 1,200 years,” Cox said. “Earlier this month, a report predicted that in just five short years the Great Salt Lake will completely disappear. Let me be absolutely clear. We are not going to let that happen.”

Earlier last month, the governor proposed an investment of $561 million in water conservation as part of his budget recommendations, in which $132.9 million will be used to save the Great Salt Lake from drying up and $217.9 million is intended for other statewide conservation efforts.

Perhaps one of the most debated proposals from Cox during his budget recommendations announcement is the historic $1 billion tax cut for Utah families. The governor accentuated his intention to do so in his State of the State address, adding that Utah has more money than ever before as the state government had managed to cut a record $300 million in taxes over the last two years.

“While almost all of the levers of inflation are outside our state’s control, we can and must enable Utahns to keep more of their hard-earned dollars to combat the rising cost of living,” he said.

Senate President J. Stuart Adams responded to Cox’s State of the State address with the following statement:

“Tonight, Gov. Cox empathized important areas of improvement in our state, including affordable housing, water use and infrastructure, social media regulations and tax cuts for working families. Though at times the task may seem daunting, we have the privilege and opportunity to tackle the biggest problems of our lifetime this session. I echo the governor’s words that there has never been a better time to be alive and that there has never been a better place to live than in Utah. This truly is the place, and we will work to ensure it stays that way for generations to come.”