Utah’s next ‘Greatest Generation’ the focus of Herbert’s State of the State address

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert gave his annual State of the State address Wednesday in front of members of both the House of Representatives and Senate as well as a television audience. His speech lasted about half an hour and touched on a number of topics, some more at length than others.

The big picture focus of Herbert's address was investing in Utah's next 'Greatest Generation." He said Utah is on strong economic footing to do so.

"Our revenue is up, our job growth is up, and our unemployment rate is down to 3.5 percent," Herbert said.

Herbert also wants to invest $500 million into Utah's education system, part of which will go toward developing a 10-year plan to measure the state's academic achievements. He stressed, however, the importance of local control.

"Next week I will join with Attorney General Sean Reyes and others to deliver a report to the state school board reaffirming that our state is now, and always will be, in control of every aspect of our education system," Herbert said. "Rest assured, we will assert our rights to exercise local control over what we teach and how we teach it."

As expected, health care coverage was a hot topic. Herbert outlined his Healthy Utah plan, which he said would bring millions of Utah taxpayer dollars back home, fix the coverage gap for hundreds of thousands of Utahns, and do so while upholding Utah's core values.

"It's a plan that respects our own taxpayers, promotes individual responsibility and supports private markets," he said.

Response to Herbert's address, particularly regarding health insurance, was mixed.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck is in favor of the Governor's plan.

She said, "There are individuals in our midst that could benefit by money we've already paid to the federal government. They're not going to give us a rain check, so we might as well bring those funds back to Utah, help get people healthy, help get them back on their feet, and back into the work force again."

Rep. James Dunnigan, however, is not on board, fearing the federal government's $18 trillion deficit could impact Utah in a few years.

"The Governor's proposal is a three-year pilot, and that's a good concept we can evaluate in three years, but it also means in three years the federal government can change the rules on us," he said.

During the State of the State address, Governor Herbert also touched on other issues like air quality, transportation, the state prison and his support of both religious freedom and LGBT protection bills this session.

For more on the response from the Democratic Party, click here.

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