Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) took a victory lap last night as he delivered the annual state of the state address.
The economy, education, health care, and federal overreach were the key talking points in Herbert’s address on the third day of the legislative session.
Herbert began his address by saluting veterans from World War II and reminding lawmakers that it is their responsibility to carry the torch of freedom and prosperity forward to future Utahns. Indeed, the theme of responsible growth and an eye toward the future were peppered throughout Herbert’s speech.
“We will do the hard things, and we will also do the right things, and we will be the probelm solvers,” Herbert said, as he launched into the policy items he hoped to address during the legislative session.
The governor would soon turn his attention to the economy and the state’s increased revenue.
“Our state’s growing economy has left us in a good position to invest… our revenue is up, our job growth is up, and our unemployment rate is down to 3.5 percent,” Herbert noted, as he touted the Governor’s goal of 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. Herbert told the body that the actual numbers clocked in at 112,000 jobs. Meanwhile, this fiscal year the state has over $470 million in the rainy day fund, and a revenue surplus of $166 million.
Herbert pointed to these positive numbers as a sign that it is time to invest in Utah’s future, with a special emphasis on education. The governor noted that the state has much to be proud of, with the state competing nationally and internationally, as well as with the US Chamber of Commerce calling Utah’s education system the best return on investment of any state.
“Education is not all about the money, but it is some about the money,” Herbert was quick to add, as the governor pushed his plan for $500 million in new money for higher education funding and $310 million in ongoing money for the state.
The governor also used the State of the State to promote civics education and the principals of free markets in our schools. Herbert intends to meet these goals through greater local control in both public and charter schools, while bucking federal mandates.
Indeed, the “constant overreach of federal government” was a strong talking point in Herbert’s address. “I don’t believe [Washington D.C. knows best], and I know you don’t believe it either,” Herbert announced, playing to conservatives who have been pushing back on the feds in areas of education, health care, and public lands.
Moving to health care, Herbert reminded the body that “we have to make some kind of lemonade out of the lemons we have been given.” Facing an uphill battle in the legislature, Herbert pitched his Healthy Utah plan, noting that taxpayer dollars are already being spent and that Utahns are currently unable to take advantage of the funds while the legislature debates. Herbert added that Healthy Utah would help over 100,000 Utahns who currently use inefficient health care options that cost citizens and the state more. Finally, Herbert reminded the body that his Healthy Utah plan has a work requirement, an ideological requirement of many in both chambers.
“Doing nothing is not an option… we need to work together for the people of Utah,” Herbert emphasized.
Regarding federal lands, the governor reminded the body that “Utah is, and always will be a public lands state. The question is ‘who will manage the public lands most effectively?” Herbert responded by throwing his support behind federal options being advanced by Congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop. Herbert added that he wanted to work with the federal government on the lands issue but that he will “never be content to be a silent or junior partner” on the issue.
Shifting gears, Herbert would spend the remainder of this time briefly touching on his support of nondiscrimination laws if they were coupled with religious liberty legislation, increases in transportation funding, prison reform, air and water quality, and greater government transparency.
The full speech can be found here: