Utah’s governor says the state of the state is ‘just the best’ in final address

SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert proclaimed "our state of the state is... it's just the best" in his final address to the people of Utah.

Gov. Herbert, who is ending his third term in office and not seeking re-election, delivered his annual State of the State address looking forward and laying down some new policy initiatives.

Speaking directly to the people of Utah, the governor praised them as "kind-hearted people" who work hard and care about their neighbors.

"It is your hopeful spirit and work ethic that make Utah the best place in the nation to live, to work, and to raise a family. You are the main reason for our success. Thank you for all that you do to make Utah great," he said.

As his honored guests, the governor invited a group of refugees to attend the address. It was a not-so-subtle commentary on President Trump's refusal to allow them into the country. Gov. Herbert and the Utah State Legislature have been outspoken in their support of refugees and allowing them in the state. The governor called them "modern-day pioneers" who are "still coming here in search of a better life and new opportunities."

Addressing growth, the governor said projections show Utah will have a 5.8 million population by 2065. He said Utah will need more affordable housing, and will need to do more to address air quality. The governor laid down environmental initiatives including double-tracking Frontrunner so trains could run every 15 minutes and $34 million toward mass transit.

"We need to boldly reimagine our roads to safely accommodate cars, mass transit, bikes, pedestrians and even those scooters," he said. "We should make commuting by transit as easy as commuting by car."

The governor called for $100 million to be spent by the legislature on air quality.

Addressing the tax referendum, Gov. Herbert said they are listening to the voice of the people -- which is why the tax reform bill the legislature pushed through in a special session last month was repealed.

But the governor warned that tax policy changes need to happen for the future of the state. He called for lawmakers to keep talking to their constituents to build consensus on future policy.

"Tax modernization is still needed in order to have sustainable funding for public education, Medicaid and other critical, core government services," he said.

The governor said Utah is on track to create 25,000 new jobs in the rural parts of the state by the end of this year. He also called for more to be done on homelessness, boosting education funding, respecting teachers and praised efforts to provide mental health support for children in schools.

"It has been an amazing decade. We've had a great run together," the governor said, reflecting on his final term in office and sounding a little emotional. "We've seen major challenges, but we've also created solutions and seen unparalleled success."

Watch Gov. Herbert's full State of the State address here:

In a recorded response to the State of the State, House and Senate Democrats appeared to share many of the governor's goals. However, they noted the recent referendum effort and the initiatives that lawmakers overrode.

"In the past year, Democrats have continued to fight on the side of the people of this state, defending their right to their constitutionally guaranteed political power," House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said on the video.

Democrats vowed to work for better air quality, fix problems with homelessness and affordable housing, clean energy and infrastructure. They called for action to fund education and address the gender pay gap.

"Utah is at its best when the people of this state speak up and share their views with their elected officials. Our message to you tonight is a start, not the end of a conversation," said Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City.

Watch the House and Senate Democrats' response here:

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