Utah governor defiant of feds in election-year State of The State
Gov. Gary Herbert delivered a bullish outlook for the state's future and shot barbs at a federal government that he says has trampled Utah's rights and stymied economic growth.
"In Utah, we do not expect others to solve our problems," Herbert said. "We will not capitulate to a federal government that refuses to be constrained by its proper and constitutionally-limited role."
Herbert was a mixture of economic cheerleader and states' rights warrior during the speech, his third as governor. It was custom-made fodder for an election year that finds Herbert facing three challengers, all of whom are taking aim at the incumbent's conservative credentials.
The governor blasted "the regulatory colossus created by an overreaching, out-of-control, and out-of-touch federal government," which he said has stifled growth and harmed Utah businesses.
He vowed to wrest control of Utah's oil and gas resources from federal hands, whether through negotiation or litigation, in order to ensure low-cost energy for the state.
"We cannot and we will not let the federal government halt responsible energy development in Utah," Herbert said.
As an example of Utah's self-sufficiency, Herbert boasted of the state's response to a major windstorm that downed thousands of trees and knocked out power across much of Davis and Weber County.
Citizens responded by uniting to help their neighbors and assist in clean-up efforts. Herbert cited it as a symbol of the state's self-sufficiency, rather than relying on the federal government although Utah has since asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more than $4 million in disaster aid because of the storm.
That follows the announcement earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was awarding $60 million to Utah in agricultural disaster aid the most of any state for emergency watershed repair projects from flooding last year and in 2010.
But Herbert focused on conflict with not help from Washington, D.C.
"Whether fighting the federal government on ownership and control of our â¦ roads, restoring mule deer population, defending multiple use of our public lands, ending the budget-busting drain of Medicaid, or challenging the constitutionality of mandatory nationalized health care in the Supreme Court," Herbert said, "be assured that this governor is firmly resolved to fortify our state as a bulwark against federal overreach."
That line drew one of two standing ovations from the Republicans in the audience during his 30 minute speech. The other was also in response to a shot at the federal government.
"I think you could see the House Republicans really liked the comments about state sovereignty, pushing back against the federal government," said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. "Having a partner in the governor who is willing to go down that road with us is very positive."
Herbert opened his speech discussing a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan he took last year, and honoring six Utah soldiers and Marines who were killed in a little over a month, as well as Ogden Agent Jared Francom, who was killed while executing a warrant earlier this month.
Francom's family members and relatives of those killed in combat were in the House gallery for the speech.
There was little in the way of new policy proposals. Instead, the governor used the platform to restate an often-recited list of accolades for the state, including once again being honored by Forbes Magazine as the best state for business.
Herbert boasted of Utah's economy, which emerges from the economic turmoil in recent years with an unemployment rate below the national average and a job growth rate ahead of other states.
"Our state is growing now, and as we look to the horizon, Utah's growth prospects are truly bright," Herbert said.
He also teased a new air quality program that he said he would explain more fully in the coming weeks.
Democrats praised Herbert for his emphasis on education funding and air quality, but said other parts of his remarks sounded like a campaign speech.
"That was fifty-fifty, policy speech and campaign speech," said House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City. Portions were aimed at the broader state, but "there were parts that were speaking to a conservative constituent base."
Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero said Democrats were proud to stand with the governor when it comes to the state's economic record. But the governor failed to lay out specifics on how to improve education, protect the environment or meet health and human service needs. And the anti-federal tone seemed excessive, he said.
"We are in a relationship with our federal government and having a good working relationship is critical," Romero said.
The governor vowed not to raise taxes and challenged the Legislature to pass a corporate tax cut he proposed in his budget in December. The governor is seeking to cut the unemployment insurance tax by $26.4 million.
The unemployment trust fund plummeted from more than $800 million to less than $300 million during the recession, but is growing again.
Read the speech
O To read the governor's State of the State address, visit âº http://bit.ly/zKAGpL