In less than a week, Utahns will be asked to vote in an election that will determine if the country will go forward or stand still, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Wednesday.

Speaking to a large group of students and faculty at Utah Valley Community College, Hatch said, "This is a very important election not only nationally, but locally as well. We face issues that will determine which direction we will go with regard to our national and international aspirations."The governor's race is in a dead heat among those most likely to vote, he said. Together with the tax limitation initiatives, local issues have become important and it looks as if Utah will have its largest percentage of voters come to the polls this year.

As far as the tax initiatives, Hatch said, "I have studied them and have come to the conclusion that they go too far. I am going to vote against them because I am concerned about higher education. We now attract some of the greatest minds to the state. If the initiatives pass, I'm afraid we will be sending the wrong message."

Hatch, on campus to speak on the relationship of business and politics, spent most of the hour answering questions from the audience ranging from abortion to Utah's growth to the trade deficit.

The senator, running for his third term this year, said he would like to attract clean-air industry to Utah, not to overcrowd the state, but to provide a balance between the environment and the development of jobs.

"Many of you get an education here and then go out of state to find good jobs. Utah is a good place to live. We would like to make jobs available so you can stay."

Hatch said government is a large employer in the state, and "that is bad. The state is so controlled by federal government that it is a government state rather than a free enterprising state."

Some people are irritated that Hatch helped save Geneva, a company that puts smoke in the air, but the senator said the reopening means a lot to the state's economy and wouldn't have happened "if some of us didn't go to bat for it."

Addressing national issues, Hatch said the country needs to beef up its ability to fight international trade through fair trade policy.

"There should be no grain embargoes," he said. "The U.S. should sell grain to keep other countries dependent on our foodstuff, not sell them high technology."

Answering a question about the nation's abortion law, Hatch said abortion on demand has caused a tremendous furor in society, but one victory has come in denial of federal funding for abortion.

As far as nominations to the Supreme Court, he said, "It is likely that the next president will nominate three members of the Supreme Court. There will be an attempt to politicize the nominations, but we will have a better chance if (presidential candidate George) Bush appoints them. He will appoint those who will interpret laws, not make laws."

When asked about the nation's covert actions, Hatch said they are crucial to the country's foreign policy interests. "They should be well thought out and literally ought to abide by the law, but I think covert action is absolutely essential."

And regarding arms sales, Hatch said, "If we don't sell arms to the Arabs others will. Let's sell them the means to protect and defend themselves and control their weapons of war rather than to have no control."

Another question regarded a higher minimum wage. Hatch said raising the minimum wage pushes inflation up and will cost those who need jobs the most. It will end in 200,000 jobs lost to those who can't get into the workplace, he said.