Perhaps attempting to show that he is not an inaction figure, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert gave an enthusiastic State of the State speech to Utah lawmakers Wednesday night.
Herbert asked that legislators “put aside personal agendas” and work with him and others of good faith in moving Utah forward.
That “personal agenda” is a reference to House Speaker Becky Lockhart, and her comments made Monday in her open remarks to the 2014 House that there needs to be new energy in the governor’s office – not an “inaction figure.”
Who knows how many folks sitting in the House Chambers last night will be running for governor in 2016 – two, three, four?
But Herbert was clearly showing Wednesday night that he is the governor, he has new ideas and plans for the state.
And he has the energy – several times he was literally bouncing on his toes – to get the job done.
Twice Herbert got standing ovations from the Republican and Democratic representatives and senators.
First when he said while he supports traditional marriage and Amendment 3 (which outlawed gay marriage in the state Constitution), “There is no place, no place, for hatred and bigotry.”
The next standing O came when the governor said Utah will fight for control of federal lands, and achieve multiple uses like energy development, ranching, farming and protecting wonderful vistas.
“Again, we will find Utah solutions to Utah challenges.”
Herbert said he wants to concentrate on three major challenges – and dealing with those problems that must be faced now, but worked on for years to come:
-- A growing population, that may stretch resources, but ultimately will provide for a young, educated and hard-working work force.
With population growth come the challenges of clean air and water development must come. And he has plans for those solutions.
-- Taking control of Utah’s sovereignty, which includes taking back control of much of the federal lands in the state.
Developing Utah solutions to Medicaid expansion is part of that challenge.
In providing health care to the estimated 60,000 poorer Utahns that fall into an Obamacare hole, Herbert said he will require four things of in providing for these folks:
Those who can work, do. Support private markets. Maximize state flexibility in dealing with federal programs. And serve the best interest of the Utah taxpayer.
Medicaid expansion is not a fight between federal dollars and state dollars, he said. “They are all taxpayer dollars.”
-- Growing Utah’s economy.
There’s already much to be proud of – with 4.1 percent unemployment Utah’s is the fourth lowest in the 50 states.
His administration is well on its way to providing 100,000 new jobs in 1,000 days – with 70,000 new jobs already created.
Likewise, his goal of having 66 percent of Utah’s with some post-high school degree or certificate by 2020 in on track.
Utah has the fourth most diverse economy in the nation.
“The growth in our economy is remarkable. And this did not happen by chance,” said Herbert, perhaps with his own retort to Lockhart’s criticism of his administration.
A few other interesting points that Herbert made:
-- He thanked a few legislators by name for either the bills they’ve introduced that he supports or their efforts over the last year.
One of those was House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace. Herbert said Dee was a great help in getting the federal government to let Utah open the national parks last fall.
Dee wants to succeed the retiring Lockhart – and maybe Herbert was giving a shout out to a possible new speaker who may be more kind to him in 2015 and 2016.
-- He thanked Jon Huntsman Sr., the father of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who picked Herbert as his lieutenant governor running mate back in 2004 – paving the way for Herbert to become governor.
It is a Herbert budget goal this session to provide some state funds to Huntsman Sr.’s expanding cancer research center at the University of Utah.
“Expanding this facility is a top priority,” said Herbert.
The governor ended encouraging lawmakers to:
“Set aside personal agendas and work for all Utahns; good government; fiscal prudence; individual responsibility; making Utah the best place to live; to raise a family; and best place to do business.
“The state of our state is strong, and we are committed to making it stronger.”