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SL County mayor proposes $15 minimum wage, affordable housing boost and new trails

Mayor Jenny Wilson
Posted at 2:35 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 16:35:03-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has proposed a $1.5 billion budget that includes affordable housing plans, a $15 minimum wage for all county employees and new trails in the Oquirrh mountains.

The mayor presented her annual budget to the Salt Lake County Council on Thursday, planning to spend $64 million in federal stimulus money for a number of projects. The mayor said under rules related to the American Rescue Plan Act, she could not offer a tax cut.

"It’s kind of tricky because it’s very clear the federal government did not want tax cuts through the ARPA investment. And we know there’s great community need coming out of this sluggish, challenging, COVID era and we know there’s no end date to COVID right now. So without that we couldn’t consider a tax cut," she told reporters.

During her budget presentation, the mayor announced funding for developing new trails along the Oquirrh mountain range on the county's west side and more spending for open space. She asked for $20 million for affordable housing.

"We all know that safe and affordable housing is desperately needed, yet Salt Lake County is 22,800 units short," Mayor Wilson told the council. "Additionally, half of Utah's households cannot afford the median-priced home. Affordable housing, at all levels of household income, is not attainable in this market without partnerships between builders, nonprofit housing providers, government agencies and the philanthropic community."

The mayor also announced plans for new land use standards aimed at water conservation, including budgeting for xeriscaping and water efficient irrigation systems at county parks. She asked for funding to upgrade county computer systems and wage increases for county employees.

"I am most proud that the 2022 budget includes a minimum living wage of $15 per hour for all permanent, full-time employees and a $2 million down payment on a phase-in plan to increase all temporary employee pay to $15 per hour by 2024," she said.

The budget still requires approval from the Salt Lake County Council. After her presentation, council chair Steve DeBry said there were parts of it he liked.

"I really like that we’re taking care of our employees the way they should be taken care of with market adjustments and so on," he told FOX 13. "I love the open space acquisition and that type of deal."

The rest, he said, remains to be seen as the county goes through the budget process.