Governor Jon Huntsman remained optimistic in his State of the State speech last night at the Utah Capitol, but tackled some of the biggest challenges the state faces, like the budget crisis and the hundreds of thousands of residents who don't have health insurance. KCPW's Faroe Robinson reports.
The Governor first spoke about the economy and his concerns about balancing the budget without harming residents.
"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."
He said he was working with lawmakers to find a solution to balancing this year's budget, and would have the Department of Transportation reinstate major road projects that were put on hold late last year.
Governor Huntsman also addressed a common thread in government over the past year: a lack 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."
The Governor recently launched a commission to look at ethics and investigate why Utah's voter turnout rate remains low compared to the rest of the nation. He said voter apathy is harming democracy in the state.
Huntsman also addressed the need for an affordable health insurance policy, and encouraged legislators to vote for health care reform bills this session. He asked that doctors, insurance companies, consumers and legislators set a goal of insuring all Utahns by 2012.
The Governor also focused on education and workforce training, pointing out where Utah falls short.
"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."
Huntsman has asked institutes of public and higher education to make this year the "Year of Math."
He spotlighted innovations and technologies that Universities are developing to further energy development and encouraged legislators to pass bills to create incentives for new technology.
Catherine Sundwall, who was in the audience, said she was specifically interested in Huntsman's plan to encourage the use of natural gas.
"I thought it was interesting his point about making I-15 a natural gas corridor so, I'm interested in hearing what that specifically means. But I think he is inspiring, he's a very capable man and we're just very fortunate to have him leading the state."
On a lighter note, Huntsman said this year will require a fighting spirit in all Utahns, referencing the undefeated University of Utah football team. Place-kicker Louie Sakoda attended the speech, as did Quarterback Brian Johnson.
"It was awesome. I am a huge fan of Governor Huntsman, you know, he is just an unbelievable man, unbelievable family man and I was just happy that he invited me to come and this is my first time to get to experience anything like this, so I really enjoyed it, and I just can't really say how much it meant."
Huntsman says the Utes were told they couldn't compete and couldn't win, but demonstrated a great example of teamwork and perseverance.