ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert, in his State of the State address Wednesday, praised Utahns for being willing to work “side by side, shoulder to shoulder, no credit, no blame” to solve tough issues.
Delivered in front of the Utah Legislature in Salt Lake City, Herbert said people in Utah who collaborate and step up to serve others are helping end some of the biggest human tragedies in Utah, including homelessness and suicide.
“I am grateful every day as Utahns see a concern and step up to address a problem where there is no playbook,” Herbert said. “And it happens all the time.”
Herbert also mentioned his goals for the 2018 legislative session, including reforming taxes, prioritizing transportation and infrastructure, reducing emissions and boosting education in the state.
Near the beginning of his speech, Herbert held up a book of Utah laws in 1917, which included laws to create workmen’s compensation, expand public education and build roads across the state. The laws passed in Utah 100 years ago should serve as an example of how to create laws that benefit the state in the long run, he said.
The laws passed in this year’s legislative session “will lay a foundation for the success and well-being of our children and grandchildren into the future,” Herbert said.
Some of the goals Herbert said lawmakers should prioritize this year are bills to help public schools better educate students for a competitive marketplace, update Utah’s tax code to keep taxes low, create cost-effective solutions to transportation issues and increase air quality.
Herbert also alluded the surge of women’s rights issues by mentioning the need for equal opportunities for women and the necessary intolerance for workplace harassment. He talked about how his granddaughter McKelle, who is currently on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Australia, may face some of these issues when she returns.
“Will she find a workplace that protects her from harassment and gives her equal opportunity for her equal potential? As she pursues the American dream, will our culture reflect the ideal of human dignity found in our Declaration of Independence?”
Herbert called upon lawmakers and everyone in the state to work together to make sure the answer to these questions is always a “yes.”
Teen suicide and homelessness
Reducing teen suicide is a priority for Herbert. Earlier this month, he established a task force of community civic, health, educational and religious leaders to meet with the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition and come up with a plan to increase community engagement on suicide by Feb. 15.
“The fact that suicide has become the leading cause of death among our young people horrifies me,” the governor said.
Operation Rio Grande, which is an effort aimed at ending homelessness in downtown Salt Lake City, is a prime example of Utahns working together to tackle a challenge, Herbert said.
“While we are not ready to declare victory, Operation Rio Grande has already broken up drug trafficking, reduced crime, cleaned up our streets and parks, increased treatment services and provided job opportunities – all without disrupting the important social services for those experiencing homelessness,” Herbert said.
Herbert closed his speech by calling on the legislators to follow the example of Sen. Lyle Hillyard’s son Matt, who was born with Down syndrome and recently died at the age of 42.
“Matt taught me to sing loud, even when you’re off key,” Herbert said. “He taught me to eat every pancake like it’s the first pancake you’ve ever tried and the last pancake you’ll ever eat.”
One hundred years from now, Herbert said, Utahns should recognize what laws were made in 2018 to make Utah a better and more successful place. The “spirit of collaboration” is what makes Utah a wonderful place.
“If we do our job right today, Utah in the future will still be the greatest place to live, to love, to work and to serve,” Herbert said. “And this will continue to be a place where the hardest problems are solved side by side, shoulder to shoulder, no credit, no blame.”
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