Utah State of the State Address 2009

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Jan. 27 - Following is the prepared text of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s (R) 2009 state of the state address:

Lt. Governor; Mr. President; Mr. Speaker; Members of the Legislature; My parents and in-laws - who are with me tonight as they always have been; My wife and best friend, Mary Kaye; Distinguished guests and fellow Utahns; I am grateful to be standing here joined in purpose with the generous people of Utah who have given me the distinct honor of a second, and final, term. As the elected officials of the greatest state in America, this roomful of leaders holds an awesome responsibility - to guide our state to success in a time of uncertainty.

We are beginning a new chapter for our nation and for our state. There is a sense of anxiety, pain, heartache and, yes, hope, on display almost everywhere.

Let me state from the top that today's economic conditions make it imperative that we ensure a level of trust between the people who call Utah home and their elected officials. In a time of financial distress, inadequate healthcare, a shaky housing market and apprehensiveness, we must reach beyond traditional political boundaries in seeking solutions that are uniquely our own.

Our first and most urgent priority must be to prudently and wisely balance our budget, as we always have. Let's not forget, unlike many other states, we have tools we can utilize, and with these options we have added flexibility in minimizing impacts to our most critical priorities.

Every person in this chamber is motivated by our state's success. Our discussions should be conducted with civility, respect and a recognition of the challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves.

We are changing. That's inevitable. Utah has gone from fly-over-country to fly-into-country. But, one thing that should never change is our ability to unite behind our state's primary objectives. Because when we are united, we are one. And when we are one, anything is achievable!

I have seen this state when we have been one, of common purpose and mind. I've seen it during the Olympics, floods, fires, festivals and war. It is an awesome thing when unity happens, enough to humble any governor.

Today's circumstances require us, once again, to come together with common purpose and mind. We have a choice: we can cower in the face of strong economic headwinds or we can stand resolute knowing that getting through this financial crisis will require something of all of us.

Politically, we should unite like never before in addressing our state's most basic needs; remembering that government is the last safety net for our most vulnerable. Individually, I ask all of our citizens to use these challenging times to draw closer, one with another, by dropping barriers that serve to divide and disenfranchise by showing just a bit more care and concern, love and respect for those in our pathway of life.

Above all, may it be said, when this economic storm dissipates - as it will - that our actions were never driven by fear, but rather always with an eye toward our future strength and the generations that will follow us.

This year will require the fighting spirit in all of us, our families, our businesses and as individuals. As Utahns we don't have to look too far for examples of that spirit. On and off the field, the young men of the University of Utah football team have demonstrated service, teamwork and perseverance.

They were told they couldn't compete, they couldn't win. They represented Utah well and, guess what? They did win.

I welcome with us here tonight Quarterback and Sugar Bowl MVP Brian Johnson and Place-kicker King Louie Sakoda. I told Louie it is cool to be Governor, but it is truly awesome to be king.

Though we have not been immune to the world-wide economic downturn, it is this very fighting spirit that sets us apart as a state. We are here in the west, where our future is always more important than our past. And when these challenges are over we will be even better poised to move forward.

Utah has been repeatedly recognized by respected organizations for our business acumen, quality of life and management abilities. In what is perhaps the most tremendous distinction in these tumultuous times, Utah was named the Best Managed State in America! I thank the members of the Legislature and our great state employees for their part in this honor!

We are facing difficult decisions that have real impacts on the lives of Utah families. We are sensitive to this and must be ever vigilant in our realignment of state programs and resources. Let us be mindful of the children we are impacting, the jobs we are eliminating and the critical road and building projects we are delaying. We are in this together, and together we will find creative solutions to critical problems. After working with legislative leaders on nearing a solution for the current budget, tonight I am directing the Utah Department of Transportation to reinstate major road projects that were delayed in November.

We are one. We must acknowledge it is all of us, our kids, our communities and our businesses that are being impacted by our decisions. And none of these decisions is more important than education.

The amazing gains we have made in education have enhanced opportunities for everyone, improving our state's ability to provide companies with a skilled workforce. In turn, businesses are providing more and better-paying jobs to our children. This keeps our kids and our grandkids, our brain power, here at home.

Early childhood learning is critical for their long-term success, quality of life and our state's competitive edge in attracting world-class jobs. Early results indicate kindergarten students are six times better prepared for a successful first grade experience if they attended full-day kindergarten. On behalf of my daughter Gracie and so many others: Legislators, thank you for making this available to our kids.

We are leading the nation in educating our kids in 21st century languages like Chinese and Arabic. So, to the thousands of students studying Mandarin Chinese I say: Gongx gongx. "Congratulations!"

Yet, our kids' literacy in these critical foreign languages must be matched by their mastery of numbers, an area that is in need of strengthening. We must keep pace. Through additional emphasis and reprioritizing, I have asked both public and higher ed to make this year the "Year of Math."

Workforce demands in quantitative skills continue to increase; yet, our workforce preparation is inadequate. We can and must do better in embracing our knowledge-based economy. Every child ought to have the opportunity to prepare for post-secondary training. This will be our economic development engine and our strongest tool in attracting companies to Utah.

The Utah College of Applied Technology was created to be responsive to industry and meet the demands of a growing technical workforce. As employment demands change, we must assure that this system is dynamic in fulfilling the needs of the 21st Century. I want to thank the legislative task force that worked to put together HB 15. While there are still issues to be ironed out, I think it is safe to say we all agree on the goal: a UCAT system that is more responsive to real-time business needs and is more accessible to Utah's students.

Of course, the biggest influence in the classroom is the person leading, molding and mentoring the students. My grandfather called them educators. We have embarked upon a journey to offer our teachers a more competitive wage. While in these times we may not be able to further that investment, we must not lose ground.

If you want a glimpse into the future our teachers are cultivating, in the Capitol tonight stands a display from schools across the state, showing "Utah as One." These projects have pictures, poems, collages and drawings depicting the wonderful scenes of our state and the unity sought after by our diverse youth. This week I invite all to come visit this colorful gallery. Be inspired by it as I was, and be reminded of the power of youth.

By the way, our youth would like me to point out that Utah is rapidly becoming one of the hottest movie-making destinations between New York and Los Angeles. And if SB 14, sponsored by Senator Lyle Hillyard, is successful the entire cast of High School Musical may need to become permanent residents of our state. Please welcome one of HSM's biggest stars Lucas Grabeel.

It is easy in difficult economic times like these to forget that we must plan and prepare for the economy of tomorrow. As we reduce spending to hit short-term targets, we must not lose sight of our long-term goals. We must be judicious. Medical procedures today use lasers for a reason; let's remember the less invasive the procedure, the stronger the recovery.

Speaking of medical procedures, nowhere is major surgery needed more than in accessing affordable healthcare. I'm sorry to have to say it again this year, but skyrocketing healthcare costs are bankrupting businesses and leaving too many Utahns with no options at all. In a state as compassionate as ours, certainly we can find a better way to cover the uninsured.

I recently visited a public health clinic in St. George. Due to the goodness of volunteer doctors and staff, 10,000 people were seen last year, this in a city of 70,000. Why? One out of every seven people in Dixie must go to a volunteer clinic to receive adequate health care? These people have been completely left out of the healthcare equation; they don't qualify for existing programs, and they can't afford a basic healthcare plan.

So, to Dr. Doxey - who started this volunteer clinic - and the staff there, I say thank you for your humanitarianism. I assure you and those you serve, we will fix this problem. We are going to find policies that are affordable, the political will to enact them and, through perseverance, provide a pathway to coverage for everyone.

Therefore, I am asking all involved: doctors, insurance companies, consumers and we in this chamber to close the gap on the uninsured by 2012.

Let's begin this session by passing the task force legislation shepherded by Speaker David Clark and Senator Sheldon Killpack to develop a truly affordable insurance policy. But this is not enough. We must connect all people to the healthcare they need. A truly affordable policy and the means by which to connect all people will be done in this state, this year!

Though we are one in community, we are many in number. Utah is now the fastest-growing state in America. People are flocking here for the unmatched quality of life, high-paying jobs and the essence of everything we love about America. We also continue our trend of being the youngest state in the union. These are tremendous attributes, but if unplanned for, they can carry a significant burden.

We hold dear the things that give us a sense of humanity - our land, our air and our water - and recognize the role they play in our peace of mind and spirit, as well as our economy.

If we are going to take air quality seriously, which we must for the sake of the next generation, we must be bold; we must be visionary. Our aspirations should be nothing short of extraordinary. And there are two goals that we should immediately set our sights on.

First, just as Wall Street is known for finance and Silicone Valley for technology, by 2012, I believe Utah can become the premier destination in America for renewable energy!

And don't tell me it can't be done! In just this past year alone, we have witnessed in Utah the opening of a solar farm, a hydroelectric plant, a wind farm and a geothermal plant. To support this energy development, innovation at our higher education campuses is running at an all-time high, like technologies that will ensure the long-term viability of our abundant natural resources. The University of Utah is now second only to MIT in commercialization of cutting-edge research.

But this is just the beginning!

We will be the epicenter for energy development - but we must have the land, transmission, and regulatory framework to make it a reality. We must look beyond 20th century mentalities and bet on 21st century realities. We must pass legislation this year to incentivize, rather than penalize, innovative technologies where the risk is real, but the reward is great.

Our second goal will be to designate Interstate 15 from Idaho to Arizona as a natural gas corridor! It makes sense - working with Questar, a great local company - to encourage the use of natural gas which emits almost no pollution, is more affordable and most importantly, is a domestic fuel found right here in our own backyard; getting Utah, and the nation, one step closer to breaking our addiction to foreign oil.

This will require adding infrastructure, looking differently at our regulatory approach and demanding that we look beyond the here and now.

As a state, we are leading with innovative solutions to ensure better access and services to our citizens, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some Utahns may be surprised to know that more than 850 government services now can be found online - which is why we have been recognized as the Number 1 state in the country for Digital Government!

But as we have moved into the digital age, I am concerned that some of our time-tested values have been left behind. In the past year, we've seen our nation's financial pillars crumble, and not because we have a deficit of talented people.

I would suggest there is one common thread: a deficit of ethics.

There is a complete disconnect with our nation's best and brightest. They have been taught to be brilliant on Wall Street without concern for their impact on Main Street. Whether in business, politics or community affairs, correcting this deficit of ethics is just as important as overcoming our economic struggles.

Closer to home, there is a deficit of another kind, and no less disturbing. Unfortunately, in Utah we are seeing a weakening in our own pillars of democracy. We've long been recognized as a community known for its patriotism and public spiritedness, yet as the nation has seen an upswing in voter turnout, we are seeing just the opposite.

This apathy is corrosive to a stable and functioning democracy. We must restore trust. We must restore confidence. We must reach out, particularly to our youth, to reinvigorate the democracy they will inherit.

This is the purpose of the newly-announced Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy, because without public support and participation we have no democracy.

One of our most passionate and respected community leaders has taken our call to action. And you know this guy - I want to thank Larry H. Miller for his willingness to lead this effort! Our prayers are with him tonight as he recovers from recent surgery.

When times are good economically, as we have seen in recent years, we sometimes become preoccupied with our own selfish interests. But when times get tough, we are reminded of the power of our community, of people reaching across boundaries to help others, reawakening the need to improve the human condition.

Though it is warmer tonight in this chamber than it was three weeks ago on the front steps of the Capitol when I was sworn in, outside there are single moms without homes, children without dinner, and many without work.

I reiterate my call to all who can hear me: find someone in need and help them - whether it be a neighbor, a friend or a perfect stranger. We all have something to give, even if it is just a hand to hold, and there are so many in need right now.

It is through the spirit of service that a community is born. It is this same sense of service that is displayed by so many, like our men and women in uniform serving overseas; pastors and preachers, many of whom I've worshipped with; those looking out for our most vulnerable - people like Pamela Atkinson, a true community advocate, Jim Pugh at the Utah Food Bank, and Matt Minkevitch at the Road Home.

It is because of community leaders like these that I know we will prevail! And we will continue to occupy our rightful and well-earned position as the greatest state in America. The journey is up to us and the decisions made by this very body will lead us there. This is the time to unite with one purpose and one mind.

Because together we can succeed. Together we will thrive. Together we will overcome. Together we are one.

May God bless you and the great State of Utah!
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