In the next four years, Utah is not likely to see any bold new directions or projects from state government. Instead, there will be a continued grappling with familiar issues - taxes, schools, economic growth.
That was the essence of Gov. Norm Bangerter's State of the State message before the Legislature this week, a surprisingly quiet, low-key message in which the governor vowed mainly to finish the job he started in his first term.The governor spoke mainly in general terms, including a strong appeal for support of education. Any specifics about the condition of the state would have to be found in the lean Bangerter budget unveiled last week.
If the brief 20-minute speech lacked fire and drama, it was also evident that the grass roots tax revolt this fall - although failing to pass tax cut initiatives on the ballot - left an indelible impression on Bangerter.
Noting that people are concerned about high taxes and how they are spent, he said that any "blank check" days of the past are clearly over. That may have been more of a political gesture to tax protesters than any real end of an era.
After all, state and local governments and schools have struggled for several years with rising needs, revenue shortfalls, minuscule or no pay raises, and repeated budget cuts - hardly the stuff of fiscal frivolity suggested by the "blank check" phrase.
Although the state's economy has improved this past year from the sluggish performance that hurt earlier years, there clearly will be a tight rein kept on spending. Education and state government are aware that Bangerter's budget will leave most of them short of perceived needs.
Despite polls that show a majority of Utahns would prefer that any extra money be pumped into serious education needs, the governor will press ahead with plans to cut taxes by $19 million next fiscal year as part of an expected surplus based on a continued robust economy.
All of this suggests the "state of the state" is relatively good - at least compared to the recent past - but that things are going to continue to be tight into the foreseeable future.