The annual State of the State address typically follows a familiar formula of references to proud traditions, mentions of recent accomplishments and a rousing promise of future achievement.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Gary Herbert's assessment of this state's health and welfare largely followed the recipe, but there was a distinct emphasis on future initiatives made with enough detail to be at once refreshing and laudable.
It is, of course, an election year, and the governor took advantage of the opportunity of a statewide address to frame an agenda that will serve also as his political platform. Nonetheless, he did not shirk from some rather bold benchmarks to which he can be held accountable.
His promise to work toward creating 100,000 new private sector jobs in the next 1,000 days is a pledge with a real number attached, and one that, while audacious, is not outlandish.
We are also encouraged and intrigued by his announcement of a forthcoming plan to tackle the critical problem of poor air quality. It is gratifying that the governor chose to elevate that issue to a place of high priority, and there will be keen interest in whatever efforts ensue on that important front.
On the pre-eminent issue of education, the governor again reiterated a pledge with a number attached: his goal is to see two-thirds of all Utahns in possession of a college degree or professional certification within eight years. We have previously expressed our skepticism about how the state can reach this goal, though it would indeed go a long way toward enhancing the state's attractiveness to businesses in search of quality labor.
It is important for the governor to focus on public education, but it is also not an issue a chief executive can hugely influence on his or her own. Gov. Herbert's budget request for more than a $100 million in new money for public schools is a good start and a commitment the Legislature should change only by increasing.
For the coming year, the governor has set a full plate on the table, and any measure of success will depend on his ability to manage priorities and maintain focus.
He spoke at some length of various conflicts with Washington and the federal bureaucracy, including those over land management, energy development, health care and other areas where state and federal policies intersect and sometimes collide. While it may be in vogue to disdain the federal government, such policy battles are often impractical, protracted and distracting from more actionable items of local governance.
The governor has set credible and commendable goals for the coming year. They are goals the state can reach largely on its own accord with the kind of leadership that Gov. Herbert promised last night — the kind that recognizes the true state of any state is not where it is at a given moment, but where it is headed.