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Herbert Pledges To Extend Wasatch Front's Economic Gains To All Utah

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Gov. Gary Herbert delivers his 2017 State of the State, which he described as "truly exceptional."

Governor Gary Herbert delivered his State of the State address to the Utah Legislature Wednesday night, promising to keep up the state’s progress in economic growth and education.

Herbert said Utah has made tremendous progress since the Great Recession -- adding 43,000 jobs in the last year alone -- but he told lawmakers that there’s still much work to do.

The governor announced a new workforce training initiative called Talent Ready Utah, which he says will partner industries with schools to prepare young Utahns for the high-tech jobs of tomorrow. He also pledged to create more jobs in rural parts of the state.

“The fact remains that parts of Utah outside the Wasatch Front are struggling,” he said. “Tonight I would like us to unite behind a goal of creating 25,000 new jobs in the 25 counties off the Wastach Front over the next four years.”

Although mostly an upbeat speech, Herbert told lawmakers the state must continue to address the issues of homelessness and drug addiction.

“And let us  as a state be absolutely clear: That we will no longer tolerate the unconscionable drug trade that vicitmizes the most vulnerable in our community. Let us all agree tonight: That this absolutely must stop” he said.

On education funding, the governor argued that Congress and state lawmakers should help close tax loopholes and exemptions that could boost the state’s coffers and, by extension, its schools.

But Democrats say the governor’s education message fell short Wednesday night. Sen. Gene Davis is the Democratic Minority Leader.

“I’ve been here a few years, and we’ve always had this, ‘Let’s close the loopholes, let’s take away some of these exemptions that are out there.’ Never happened. The reality is: Either you close the loopholes or you raise taxes, and that should be the option,” said Davis.

The governor also spent time discussing air quality and federalism. To the surprise of some, Herbert subtly endorsed a possible repeal of Utah’s much maligned Zion Curtain law that shields bartenders from making drinks in front of customers.

Gov. Herbert closed by saying he’s exhilarated by the challenges ahead in 2017 and optimistic about Utah’s future.

Word cloud of Gov. Herbert's most used terminology.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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