Herbert touts Utah's economy, blasts feds in State of the State speech

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25 2012 7:00 p.m. MST

Utah State Capitol before Governor Gary R. Herbert delivers his 2012 State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is on the road to economic recovery and the federal government needs to get out of its way, Gov. Gary Herbert said.

"Our state is growing now, and as we look to the horizon, Utah's growth prospects are truly bright," he said, noting that is something not many governors can say.

Herbert sounded many of the same themes in his State of the State speech Wednesday as he did last year, though this time backed with national recognition of the state's economy.

And the Republican governor is likely to hit those same highlights as he campaigns this year for re-election.

Herbert's campaign urged potential supporters in an email to watch or listen to his speech Wednesday and touted what he's calling "The Utah Advantage." The email contained a link to a website with several canned messages people could post on Twitter during the speech such as "I agree with Governor Herbert, keep Washington out of Utah's way! RT if you agree!"

The governor took several shots at the federal government, drawing loud cheers and a standing ovation from fellow Republicans for saying, "be assured that this governor is firmly resolved to fortify our state as bulwark against federal overreach."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said GOP lawmakers have for years pushed state sovereignty.

"It's encouraging to hear the governor is going to be a partner with us in that fight," she said.

Herbert was appointed in May 2009 to replace Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. who resigned to become ambassador to China. Herbert won a special election in 2010 to fill the last two years of Huntsman's term. He is now running for a full four-year term.

"I heard certain components of a re-election speech, said Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, mentioning the times Herbert "called out" the federal government.

But Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he didn't hear that at all.

"To be honest, it never crossed my mind that he's running for re-election," he said. "He hit the issues that I think Utahns are concerned about."

While the national economic future remains tenuous, Herbert said, the Utah economy surges ahead. The unemployment rate continues to steadily fall and the state currently has the second-fastest rate of job creation in the nation. Also, Forbes magazine again named it the best place in the nation for business, he said.

"Every sector in our economy is growing again, except one," Herbert said. "And I'm proud to say the sector that is not growing is state government."

The governor said he will continue to focus on growing the economy because a strong economy fosters healthy communities and prosperous families. He said his goal is to help the private sector add 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days.

"Government must create an environment where free enterprise can succeed and then get out of the way," he said, adding that he won't support any tax increases.

Herbert blamed "overreaching, out-of-control and out-of-touch" federal government regulation for causing the most harm to Utah businesses. He said he would work with the state's congressional delegation to "tell the Washington bureaucrats to get out of the way of Utah's economic recovery, and stop the senseless flow of onerous and misguided regulation from our nation's capitol."

The comment drew a standing ovation from GOP lawmakers, while Democrats remained seated.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake, said she found references to keep the federal government of Utah's business "ironic" because the state received more money for flood mitigation than any other state. Also, she said job programs often are done in partnership with the federal government.

"It's a little disingenuous to say we don't want their help," she said.

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