Editor's note: Following are edited remarks given by Gov. Gary Herbert to the Utah Legislature after it adjourned its 2018 legislative session.
Congratulations on a truly remarkable legislative session.
You might remember that in my State of the State address in January, I offered up two major objectives for this session.
The first was to focus and unite around issues that really mattered — transformative issues that would bless the lives of our children, our grandchildren and even our great-grandchildren. And the second was to do our work with kindness and civility. To be our best selves and to find the best in those we worked with. I think we accomplished those objectives.
We probably weren’t perfect, but I think overall we conducted ourselves with civility and kindness. There was a good tone and a strong work ethic. And because of that you were able to accomplish some very heavy lifting that will positively impact the state of Utah for generations to come.
You worked collaboratively with our business leaders and found a way to significantly increase the funding for our schools by asking users to consider paying more of their fair share for transportation.
The dollars that will flow into public education represent the equivalent of a nearly 7 percent increase in the WPU. And by unburdening the general fund, you have found a way to significantly support post-secondary education.
For the students whose educational horizons have been broadened because of your smart and carefully crafted investment into education, you have made a positive impact that will last for generations.
You transformed transportation funding so that our investments go toward the most effective mode of transportation rather than just roads. You made important improvements in how we govern our transit authority.
In so doing, you not only made a major investment in transportation, you may have just made one of the most important direct investments the state has ever made to reducing tailpipe emissions.
This paves the way for investments in infrastructure that will help Utah continue to grow but with less congestion and cleaner air. That will have a positive impact for generations.
While work still remains to be done to modernize our tax system, you made great strides this session through:
- Inflationary adjustments to school property taxes, including a property tax credit for low-income senior citizens.
- Allowing a public vote on a 10-cent gas tax increase, which, if approved, would free up earmarked general funds to be used for education and local roads.
- Maintaining economic competitiveness for corporations by adjusting corporate income allocation methodology
- And, very importantly, cutting income tax rates from 5 percent to 4.95 percent
You have lowered tax rates while keeping state revenue streams reliable through a broader base that asks users to pay their fair share. There is more to be done, but by doing this much to modernize our taxes you have made a positive impact for generations.
In my State of the State, I emphasized the need to address the issues of teen suicide and find solutions this session.
You acted on the recommendations of our Teen Suicide Task Force and set aside nearly $6 million in new state funding to support suicide prevention efforts. This is the most significant expansion of mental health resources to our vulnerable teenagers that we have ever seen.
And I know that for the lives saved, and the pain avoided, your work on suicide prevention will have a positive impact for generations.
Five years ago, our administration asked the Obama administration to work with Utah on a more flexible approach to expanding Medicaid so that we could help those in poverty without taking on obligations that we could not afford. But we were turned down. Twice.
As we now see greater responsiveness from this current administration for state-based innovation, you stepped up to the plate and brought forward a Medicaid expansion bill based on the principles we outlined five years ago.
This will require seeking waivers — which we will pursue immediately. And I am optimistic that we will get them.
In a fiscally responsible manner, you have patched up a major hole in our social safety net and made it possible for all Utahns under the federal poverty line to get quality health care while we work to help them to get back on their feet.
For the these least among us, this fiscally responsible expansion of Medicaid will have an impact for generations to come.1 comment on this story
I am amazed how you come together each year for a mere 45 days and bring forward many thoughtful ways to improve our great state and pass a sensible balanced budget — one that makes us — according to U.S. News and World Report — the most financially stable state in the nation and keeps us as one of nine states in the nation with a Triple A bond rating.
Instead of skirting the big issues, instead of pointing fingers and instead of refusing to talk about them, you faced them head on in Utah’s characteristic spirit of personal and shared responsibility — shoulder-to-shoulder, no credit, no blame.
God bless you. Enjoy your recess!