Gov. talks legislative priorities

N-Herbert3 Colby Patterson
Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum. Daily Utah Chronicle file photo.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum. Daily Utah Chronicle file photo.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced yesterday that funding education will be his top priority during the upcoming legislative session.

Herbert pinpointed his top five priorities in front of legislators, policymakers and lobbyists at the Zions Bank Building downtown as part of the 2014 Legislative Policy Summit, hosted by the Exoro Group and Utah Policy Daily. The annual event, held just before the session begins, introduces the topics the legislature expects to address each year.

The governor’s announcement builds on his previously announced goal to help 66 percent of Utahns receive some kind of secondary education by 2020. He said if this goal is not met, Utah’s economy will underperform.

“We, at our own misfortune, do not take care of the educational needs that we have in the state,” Herbert said.

Herbert is determined to allocate adequate funding for higher education in the legislative session beginning this coming Monday, but he said funding education will be an “ongoing debate.”

The other top items on his agenda are supporting growth in the economy, managing the water supply, supporting laws to regulate air quality and finding a “win-win” solution for the usage of public lands.

Herbert pointed to projections estimating Utah’s current population of 2.9 million will double in the next 25 years and urged policymakers to help Utah prepare for that growth.

“People want to come to Utah,” he said. “We have a quality of life that people appreciate and desire.”

According to reports he has received, Utah is among the top transfer locations requested in companies with multiple branches. Herbert suggested this type of growth is one more reason for the state to prepare to support a larger population in future years.

One problem in the way of that goal, he said, was also faced by pioneers who first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

“The only limiting factorwe have to growth in Utah is water,” Herbert said. “I understand that when pioneers came here and said ‘this is the place,’ a lot of people weren’t too excited to live in a desert.”

The summit focused on water management, energy development and air quality.

Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan and co-founder of the United States Energy Security Council, flew in from Washington D.C. to be the keynote speaker at the event yesterday.

He said supporting alternative fuel is crucial to save American lives and keep billions of dollars each year in the U.S. economy.

“The price of that commodity, oil, which is the exclusive means we use to run everything, is set by a cartel,” McFarlane said.

He called oil a “strategic commodity” the U.S. cannot function without. McFarlane noted that legislation is currently underway in Washington to require automobile manufacturers to produce cars to run on alternative sources of fuels so America can gain control of its own economy.

“It’s important to stop and realize that this strategic commodity really does drive the health of our economy,” he said.

The Utah Legislature will go to work on these and other issues Monday.

a.drysdale@chronicle.utah.edu