Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that he "has never been more optimistic" about the future of the Beehive State.
We wouldn't like to call Utah's chief executive a Pollyanna, but that might be a kinder description than the one he deserves. The governor has blinders on when it comes to some of the state's biggest problems: air pollution, downward-spiraling public education, threats to Utah's reputation as a beautiful, welcoming, health-conscious state the reputation that is a primary driver of our economy.
Herbert talks well about improving education, but, although the numbers he cites in his budget proposal for schools are large, they come nowhere near adequate. Indeed, the infusion of revenue increases he wants to direct to public education does little except to maintain the status quo.
He would fund this year's growth in enrollment but would do nothing to replace the loss in funding during the recession when the 10,000-plus annual enrollment increases were not funded. It would provide a little boost for STEM education science, technology, engineering and math but would not boost Utah's tumbling graduation rate or help the growing numbers of minority and low-income children who are not served by Utah's education system.
These are Utah children, too.
Herbert's State of the State address included the handy Republican catch phrases on energy development: We need to encourage all forms of energy, including the production of our abundant renewables.
But the governor and Legislature give short shrift to the development of wind, solar and geothermal energy, while largely kowtowing to the fossil-fuel industries.
The governor has promised outdoor recreation groups which consistently bring many millions to Utah's economy that he is committed to protecting scenic public lands. But he also supports the Legislature's unwarranted and generally unpopular move to take over the many millions of acres of federal land in the state, much of which is now protected for the Americans who own it, including hikers, bikers, campers, hunters and anglers.
His administration has opposed protecting more land, vowing instead to put ever more public land on the auction block for oil and gas drilling.
Herbert takes credit for Utah's economic recovery and vows to make jobs, business and industry his main priorities. He can't seem to grasp that public health, education and the environment are no less a part of Utah's future, and that giving them short shrift today will most assuredly prove economically devastating tomorrow. Take the blinders off, Governor.
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