Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Senator Orrin G. Hatch

Our nation is at a fork in the road.

On the left is the status quo of the past three years that brought us record high debt and deficits, the highest unemployment in decades and government intrusion into the lives of Americans like we've never seen before.

On the right, we have a path that restores America's prosperity, strengthens our economy to ensure good paying jobs for current and future generations of Utahns and guarantees our country will remain the leader of the free world.

I've always chosen the path to the right, and as Congress comes back into session in the coming weeks, I wanted to share with you my priorities for the new year.

First and foremost is reining in runaway government spending. Our national debt is more than $15 trillion, up 42 percent from three years ago. The spending under this White House, including its ineffective trillion dollar stimulus, have only done one thing — added to our nation's unsustainable debt.

That's why I've long championed a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would put meaningful constitutional restraints on the power of Washington to spend beyond its means. Only by addressing the real causes of our budget crisis can we restore some fiscal sanity to Washington. In 2012, I'm going to continue to push for a balanced budget amendment as I have every year in the Senate. I'll also keep fighting against those in Washington who continue to push the failed borrow-and-spend economic policies.

As the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, trade and tax policy, I will be pursuing comprehensive reforms to restore our nation's fiscal integrity and promote economic growth.

Using President Reagan's criteria of fairness, growth and simplicity, tax reform that lowers rates is absolutely necessary to move America forward and is a critical priority of mine. Utah families should be able to keep more of their hard-earned money, and small businesses should be able to invest more in themselves and create jobs.

Fully repealing the unconstitutional, $2.6 trillion partisan health law is not only critical to job creation and economic growth, but is also step one to achieving real, lasting entitlement reform. And unless we act decisively to fix these massive government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, we will guarantee that our children and grandchildren's future is less bright than our own.

Finally, I'm going to continue to push for a long-term energy strategy that Utahns and this country need. This administration is the most anti-American-energy administration in recent memory, leading to higher energy costs for Utahns and job losses across the country.

Utah is home to some of the most energy-rich land, yet bureaucrats in Washington continue to cave to political pressures and barricade the land. For instance, the Bureau of Land Management is withholding more than $100 million worth of leases in Utah and Wyoming that it had already auctioned off. This is economic investment and job creation efforts that are stalled.

I'm working on ways to push this administration to cede ownership and control of the lands within Utah's borders back to the state, allowing us to develop a long-term energy strategy that works for Utahns, both in more jobs and lower energy costs.

It's a challenging time for our country, but I'm determined make our nation stronger as a result. It will require some tough choices and some bold leadership, but the time is now.

Orrin Hatch is now in his sixth term as a Utah senator. He is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance.