Civic Dialogue; Governor Olene Walker
She has been in office now for only a few weeks but already Utah's first woman governor has unveiled a detailed and far reaching walk her work plan. She has named a committee to comprehensive lay analyze the state's tax system. She has firmly opposed high level radioactive waste coming to Utah and she wants more state money to support education. We'll talk with the governor old Ian Walker tonight on civic dialogue. Good evening I'm Ted Kagan or thank you for joining us Governor Olin Walker is a woman of seemingly boundless energy. She is no newcomer to the world of
hardball politics or to the world of business or education or to the family and home. She and her master's and Ph.D. degrees while raising seven children was vice president of a major food company and served for eight years in the state legislature Governor thank you for being here. It's my pleasure. I'm delighted you're off to a fast start. How's your energy level. Well I am enjoying it. I feel great. And work long hours that it's exciting every day is different. Yeah it's so exciting that you're going to want to run for your own election come next fall. You know I've got a deadline on that just like I have on all my work planned. Yeah. And the deadline is between March 7th and 17th because if you haven't filed by the seventh day it won't happen and you have to raise a lot of money in this Asian run for life. That's right. And you could do that if you want. I don't know.
I've raised a lot of money for good causes. Yeah every year I've raised a great deal of money. But it's more difficult for me to raise money for political races because I don't quite have the same enthusiasm about putting up political signs as I do helping kids or helping in housing projects or helping in literacy projects so I don't think raising money political politically is ever easy. No no. Now you are as everyone knows the first woman governor in the state's history. Are you being treated differently because you're a woman do you think. I don't know. I've been pleasantly surprised at the media because I think they've been very fair and even in many respects very kind to me. Often I've heard people say that women are discriminated against in the legislature.
I don't feel that way. I was treated very fairly. I was an appropriations chairman of the Committee of the second term I was there I was in leadership the third fourth and I feel like I've been treated very fairly. Are you tough. I can be tough. Very tough. You never seem tough to me I was not here. Ask out and sell if I can't be tough issues when I think I'm right. Yeah yeah I can be very tough when I. There are issues that I care about. I think when I think I'm right I can be very tough. I'm still I hope civil to people even when the arguments get going and I think that's very important. Civility but I think if there are principles that you feel strongly about you stand tough. There are areas where you can work with others and compromise.
I'm equally willing to do that in my budget. Well politics and you've watched it for many years and participated like that if it's true. Both my house and I was the lieutenant governor. But politics has gotten kind of nasty in recent years and certain people's opinion including mine do you think so. Well I think generally across the nation it's not as civil as we are even today in Utah. But I will agree with you that even in Utah the trend has been in that direction. I'm sorry to see it. Why is that happened. I don't know. People ought to realize that you can disagree. You can have discussions and disagreement because everybody has different opinions on how to solve certain things and you still respect that difference of opinion. And you could still stand for what you believe in. I don't know why it has happened I think that there are some individuals that by nature tend to be a
little more cantankerous and that sort of escalated and sometimes those individuals are attracted to politics. And others and others I want to talk with you obviously specifically about some of the things you have done are doing and plan to do right. But before we do that I've got to ask you some personal questions. Great and one that my wife wanted me to ask you and calling Castro and others in our production team here at KQED. How could you do all you've done raise seven children get a master's and Ph.D. degrees have doctors degrees and still be so successful as a mother. Now a grandmother and a great grandmother. How have you done it. Well quite frankly I have met Ted. I got my master's basically before I was married I. We were married between winter and spring quarter I was going to Stanford. So I can't take any remarkable credit for the master
ph which is harder than the master to the HD came much later. I was in my 40s and even late 40s when I made that decision. I was working and still had most many of the seven children at home and quite frankly I see the side 11 3 every night. To study and write dissertation 11 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. right. And I were sort of a night person you know so I could accommodate that you know it's wrecked my sleep pattern so. However just kind of consistently did that really. And and how many hours a night do you sleep now. Well you know I'm doing a little better for a while there I was getting along with three or four. I'm trying to get at least five now or six. OK. Now your husband has been a big support to you.
Yes yours and totally How's he feeling about being the state's first first man. I think he's amazed. There is I'm amazed frankly. Martin and I are now very successful career visa. Yes we had a company that was started with 17 employees ended up with almost a thousand or over a thousand. In his own right he was president of an international business organization. He's was on the U.S. Tennis executive committee for years so he's very secure and he's positioned he's accomplished a lot. There are years where I supported him and now he's a great support. He encourages me and quite often he puts dinner in the oven and is just very supportive a good cook. Well he does a mean Mulligan and
omelet is entrees are great but very limited. It's like me solid. I do a mean chef. Just let us. And you've been a good mother and your family is all doing well. Well I suspect if you ask each of the children individually these they can tell you some interesting stories. I remember one time I had this staple of dance costume together because it was needed in an hour and I had time to go home and sew. So I just got the materials stapled together and I'm not sure how many knew that she was in a staple because the others were in oh well tailored one but they've all turned out great. They're good kids. They're responsible citizens and I marvel at my grandchildren. You know I'm amazed at some of their talents and you know how well I'm doing 25 you
know all their names. I certainly do you personally buy each one of them a Christmas present. I do. Now you and I do have a birthday present so yeah. Yeah. What's the key and then we'll get on to the hard issues but other people do that we want to do some of these other issues can you. What is the key to being a good mother. I think you have to have realize that often love is equated with time. You have to give them. Be aware of their needs and and give them some individual time. I think each one of the children of learns independent skills because I've been busy and doing other things but we've joined in some great projects together even running for office. They were great help putting up signs handing out brochures and now we laugh about some of the events. I think trying
to include them in what you're doing and making certain that their needs are met. Be there when they come on my right to talk to them right. For years I've negotiated time instead of salary Ted. So I could be there when they were home and so I could go to tennis matches and swim meets and football games and basketball games and not feel guilty. I really should have negotiated both as I get older. That's right. Right. But time was more than right that time was more important than money. OK speaking of money you have just veiled your budget proposal for this coming legislative session and the coming fiscal year. And it calls for almost 7 percent increase in the existing budget for public education six point nine percent as that's right and that includes a 2 percent salary increase and two point for five for the weighted pupil unit. And but
the important thing in my perspective is that the fact that it includes 30 million. Look at competency based education. And instead of as originally planned look at the high school graduates and start competency based education as a result of going to five summit educational summit meetings across the state. I kept hearing. You should start at the elementary level. You should focus in on one area. I think the original plan close called for close to $400 393 million million everybody realized that wasn't possible. So I tried to put in the budget something was doable 25 million on going 5 million to get started and ready to go by next fall. And we focused in on reading saying that focusing on K through third grade and saying that every child should read
by the end of the third grade. Now I realize that there are some special ed kids that won't meet that but I didn't want to single out and say ignore 10 percent of them because they can't read. I want to just say every child should be given the opportunity to learn to read by the end of third grade. So the big focus is on that 30 million going to competency Bates cation for reading reading reading right now. You have indicated that you think the SB 154 legislation and the performance plus of the Board of Education. It was too broad to try and buy it all in one year especially in election you're exactly right well I think the funding as I looked at the funding wasn't there and I worked closely with as they board of education and they have agreed that this is a good focus. They went to those meetings too and you know heard the public input on it and I think that they're happy that we're looking at
something very concrete focused and that's a good place to start Sure. Because reading is the basic skill and yet the place you want to start with with your budget for education you also have 25 additional millions of dollars for higher education on your budget. And we talk about that in a minute but where you want to start for public education is similar to what Governor Leavitt proposed last year. Is that not the case. I don't think that they had there wasn't the 30 million full force for incompetent OK there was a plan that we would look in the future at competency and that's where the performance plus. The developed Indigo wanted 54. I'm just thinking looking at. 1:54. Yeah after it's been up to the public in terms of the performance plus that was developed by the state board got the feed that took the information that was there adjusted that performance
plus what I think can be accomplished as well as the state board. They feel can be accomplished and within the means we could possibly raise to implement it. And that's what's in the budget. But but you've met an hour recently. We're taping this a day or two ahead. You have you met even today the detail we're taping this with the leaders of the legislature right. Republican leaders quite conservative. Who don't totally agree with your budget say it's too much. Well most of them look at it and say we're interested in education. It's a priority so they agree in that aspect. Additional money went to fund the 2 percent salary for education and state employees. Most of them agree to that. They do and most of them agree we've got to be very
aware of our triple-A rating and so bond rating bond rating and in terms of that I decrease the amount of bonding in Centennial highway fund from one hundred forty four down to one hundred two just because I was so concerned about the triple-A bond rating. And in addition I put additional money into the rainy day fund because I read the reports on what the bonding ratings were saying and so. In that aspect aspect this is a very conservative budget a fiscally conservative budget and most of them agree with that. Sure they agree with where my goals and my priorities. They just don't agree where I got the revenues from. Well where did you get the red and. Well I tell them I've searched every pot of money I can find now it's your turn and if they come up with something better I'm very willing to
listen. Quite frankly I'd look seriously at what we know is vertical revenue sharing in good times and rightly so. We've been quite generous with local governments and I think with the. Growth in the numbers of pupils coming into our education systems and the state needs in highways and road construction with an aging population. We've just got to look at that structure. So I took money from the B and C roads. I took money from water one sixteenth. People say well we've had a drought. How can you do that. Quite frankly Ted we have 700 million in our water resources loan program. It was there to help small rural municipalities to help small water districts. And it's not all general fund money. Some federal some CAIB money but two hundred and fifty million of it we put in
from general fund. And I'm saying let's not put any more money on it every year. Loans are paid off so there is money available to fund what was it was set up to do. But quite frankly some of the loans they've given to larger municipalities and Shaw Sagarin runs out. That's right. Yeah. And larger water conservancy in districts that should take care of themselves. Yeah. But the Governor Leavitt your predecessor. You're the governor and he's your Governor Leavitt had had proposed some of these things. Now why do you think the legislature is going to treat you differently when they begin meeting here in the next few days than they did Mike Leavitt. It's a little different here. There are not pots of money to go to. They were able to go to the tobacco trust money has been allocated in fact over allocated there's no more money in buildings that they can
pull out. They've pulled most of the money out of road. They've taken most of the money out of a rainy day and I left money on rainy day and I added to it to protect our bonding rating. I think they know that. And I don't think that they're going to touch what's left in the rainy day. So where do they go. One thing we your goal we tried to get money out of that 700 million water resource fund as well as curtailing the 116 going into it. Yeah. I left the loan monies alone I didn't take any money out of that 700 million Revolving Loan Fund. I just said we've got enough in there to take care of the needs it was set up for so let's look at it again and it's tough times now it isn't the good time it's when we put it in. Let's look at it and put it to state needs. Well this is a very detailed budget and I write take a lot of
wrangling over you had a 45 day session the legislature meets what are the other major issues that you will propose or that will be proposed during this session. You never know the direction of the I'm just like yeah or all of a sudden an issue comes up that you hadn't even expected to emerge two years ago. Banks and credit unions stayed with us for two years. You're never really know which issue is going to surface. Expect Workers Comp is still going to be an issue in the legislature. You know tuition tax credit tax credit are you going to be the pause. Dad I've been to a lot of cities where the top layer social economic players students go to private schools. I've yet to see a city that I think that's benefited the public education system and even more important if I knew of the
private school system that was going to develop across the state in mediately I might look at it. That's not going to happen. I've talked to some in the Catholic school system which is the basis for many states. They don't plan on expanding their system much beyond where it is. So most of the private schools that are thriving Waterford a great school in a good example. But there are two issues are so high that the average person can't afford it. I don't know where we're going to have statewide private school system. Suddenly emerge most that have cried I've struggled. I think charter schools are working far better to meet that the need of the average person. Average income and under that scenario no matter how you cut it the media lost to the public school system. As a parent if you're looking at the bottom line because if you pass it the ones that will emerge are
the benefactors or those already in public schools and we lose fund. There's been several efforts to fund the low income that to me low income the out years don't make sense if you don't provide transportation and once you provide transportation they become quite costly. Another strong stand by are not other strong your tech addicts. Go ahead I'm willing to look at anything I pass. Yeah I'm willing to look at it. Tad Yeah but if you can tell that some pretty strong. Yeah I know you're there now and you had a very strong stand on the idea of the possibility of additional very high level radioactive waste coming to the state. Will the legislature try and deal with it with that whole issue legislatively. They may they may yeah but like I said there are some issues that I can be very
strong. Yeah you just hit why I did that was a big one for who I was and why frankly I care a great deal about the state. I care a great deal about the image the Fernald or the Niagara Falls or is but the beginning of the hundreds of such similar sites and I think if we don't stand up now the game is over. You can't take two or three and say that's all. Where you stand before the first load arrives and that's where I am. And I don't think I'm going to change that. No no I don't think so. You are not going to hesitate to wield your veto pen if that comes to a certain thing. Oh. If I need to I can easily find it. Yeah Governor we just have a couple of minutes left and and I'm so impressed with your walk or work plan there are so many things in it I wish we had more time to talk about it will have to ask you to come back and I get asked again. But
one of the issues that you've hit and you've mentioned earlier in our discussion regarding reading you have said begun a read with a child initiative what does that mean. It's the most important 20 minutes of your day go eating with the child. Ted you're going to hear that so much the next year you will be sick of it. But if we could do that one thing every child had the opportunity to be read not to. But with that means taking turns talking about comprehension as we would do more for the education system than anything else I could do. So for the next year. That's what I'm working on. It's a companion with the what we put into public education. Read with the child. Does that mean two year old three year old phi that means an infant. Yeah. If they would start the minute they can't. They arrive home from the hospital and
start the practice of reading 20 minutes a day. It is the most important thing they could do because there's a bonding there that would i can guarantee if they start as an infant they won't have any trouble having a five year old sit with them and read the book. If they wait till they're five years old or six years old they're already and the TV games and other things that they may not want to sit quiet. But the bonding that takes place is a plus also as well as learning how you read the alphabet comprehension. It's just going to be my main message. Good for you. Our time's up already we wish you well but I'm sure you'll do a great job we wish you well in this coming year. Well thank you so much because it's been a privilege. Nice and thank you. If you'd like to make a comment about our discussion please send an email to civic at KQED dot org or call the civic view or comment line at
- Civic Dialogue
- Governor Olene Walker
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- PBS Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah)
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- Utah's 15th, and to date, first and only female Governor. A member of the Republican party. She served from November 3, 2003 - January 3, 2005.
- Civic Dialogue is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations with experts on public affairs issues.
- Talk Show
- Public Affairs
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- Chicago: “Civic Dialogue; Governor Olene Walker,” 2003-12-16, PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 26, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-83-31cjt7v2.
- MLA: “Civic Dialogue; Governor Olene Walker.” 2003-12-16. PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 26, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-83-31cjt7v2>.
- APA: Civic Dialogue; Governor Olene Walker. Boston, MA: PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-83-31cjt7v2