Tom Smart, Deseret News
Gary Herbert speaks about top Utah issues Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As Election Day nears, Utahns can be confident with the positive direction of our State.

The conservative nature of our people, which is mirrored in the policies of our state government, has enabled us to weather the 'Great Recession' better than most every other state. Our unemployment, though still too high, is a full two points below the national average and among the lowest in the region.

Indeed, we when we consider Utah's basic economic factors such as jobs expansion, our credit rating, and our disciplined approach to fiscal management — Utah is accomplishing what other states are simply striving to overcome. Our people, regardless of political stripe, have a great heritage of working together for the betterment of Utah and all its residents.

Many major national publications have recently declared that our business climate, education climate and quality of life are among the best in the Union. In fact, earlier this month, Forbes magazine said that Utah is the No. 1 state in the nation for business and careers. Such accolades do not come by accident; they are the result of Utahns' work ethic, our dedication to education and the great respect we all have for the beauty and majesty of our State.

Utah's businesses are enjoying success and business leaders outside our borders are recognizing all we have to offer. Both are expanding their companies in, or moving them to, Utah in ever-increasing numbers. This business growth is increasing our tax base and making more funding available for education and other vital government services without the need to raise taxes.

Education funding must continue to be our top priority. More than two-thirds of the state's budget funds public and higher education, and we must maintain that commitment. The size of our families, and the overwhelming amount of federally owned land across the state, are factors that make education funding an ongoing challenge. I believe the answer lies in expanding our economy. So while education funding is my administration's top priority, expanding the economy is the primary focus.

The responsible development of Utah's vast traditional energy resources will help us keep our energy costs among the lowest in the nation, even while we work to responsibly develop alternative energy resources. Energy development and protection of the land are not mutually exclusive.

Under my leadership, we are proving that it is possible to develop our energy resources while caring for the environment. My Balanced Resource Council recently brought together industry, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other interested parties to help reach an agreement that allows for the development of massive natural gas reserves in an environmentally sensitive area of Southern Utah.

Looking forward, many substantial policy matters will be considered over the next two years. One of those areas is immigration reform.

I join many Utahns who are frustrated with the failure of the federal government to secure the nation's borders and pass meaningful immigration reform legislation. States must — and we will — take action.

I have developed six guiding principles for immigration reform in Utah, the first of which is respect for the rule of law. I believe any legislation we consider must adhere to the rule of law, first and foremost. It must also be compassionate, race-neutral, hold businesses accountable, and it absolutely must protect Utah taxpayers. Utahns should not be expected to bear the financial burden of the societal costs associated with illegal immigration in our State.

As Governor, my promise to all Utahns is that I will continue to lead this State as I have over the past year. I will bring people together, I will build consensus, and I will find workable solutions to the challenges we face. By working together, as Utahns have historically done, we will ensure Utah continues to be a model for the rest of the nation.