Herbert rails against federal government in State of the State address

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert vowed to continue defending the state against an “overreaching, out-of-control and out-of-touch” federal government during his annual State of the State speech Wednesday.The state is battling federal authorities on issues ranging from public lands access to the costly Medicaid program, and Herbert said he will remain a bulwark in defense of state sovereignty.”We will not capitulate to a federal government that refuses to be constrained by its proper and constitutionally-limited role,” Herbert said.One of the most pressing issues for the state is energy development, and Herbert pointed to restrictions on federal lands as one of the primary obstacles for companies wanting to extract oil, gas and other natural resources.”We cannot, and we will not, let the federal government halt responsible energy development in Utah,” he said.At the same time, Herbert said the state cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels alone. Clean energy has to become a larger part of the energy portfolio, but its development needs to come from the private sector and university researchers.For the most part, Herbert’s speech was very optimistic and focused on the strength of the state’s economy, a familiar theme for the governor. But he said he wouldn’t stop talking about those successes.”We have a great state, a great message and we are making great progress,” he said.The speech mostly lacked new initiatives, with the exception of a promised plan to improve the state’s air quality.Details of the plan will be announced in the next few weeks, and it will seek to build partnerships with private businesses and citizens to address the issue.During the winter months in particular, areas of northern Utah has some of the worst air quality in the country because of inversions that lock smog into the mountain valleys.”Developing our energy resources and being good stewards of the environment are not mutually exclusive propositions,” Herbert said.Education funding is also a priority for Herbert, who urged lawmakers to support his proposed $111 increase in money for schools. That includes a “modest, but well-deserved” one percent salary raise for teachers.While he is proposing increased funding for education, as well as a cut to the tax rate businesses pay for unemployment insurance, Herbert said he would not support any new taxes or additional borrowing.Democratic leaders, who have proposed their own education initiative that aims to reduce class sizes and reward quality teachers, said the additional funding is welcome.”In many ways, we’re doing very well as a state. So why is it that our schools continue to rank 42nd in the nation? This must change. Our schools should be the very best in the nation,” said Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City.

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