Utah’s governor pushes the largest tax cut in state history, air quality investments in annual ‘State of the State’ address

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 08:51:21-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Governor Gary Herbert pushed for a $225 million tax cut and investments in improving air quality as part of his annual "State of the State" address.

"Can I tell you just how grateful I am that the Speaker didn't disinvite me from delivering this year's State of the State?" he joked, referencing dysfunction in Washington between Congressional leaders and President Trump.

Pivoting quickly to Utah's booming economy, the governor warned that without action, quality of life could be negatively impacted. The governor noted the state enjoys a $1.1 billion surplus, but urged the Utah State Legislature to "not assume that this surplus is the new normal."

But the governor threw his weight behind House Speaker Brad Wilson's proposal for a $225 million tax cut, bigger than what he even proposed.

"We should invest directly in the hardworking Utahns who created this surplus by giving them a $225 million tax cut, which will be the largest tax cut in Utah's history," Gov. Herbert said.

The governor then addressed Proposition 3, the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative that voters approved in November. The legislative session opened to protests over lawmakers' efforts to replace it with a bill that includes enrollment caps, federal waivers and work requirements.

"The much needed Medicaid expansion passed by the voters needs to be implemented in a fiscally sustainable way," the governor said. "And with some common-sense adjustments, I know that we can implement this program without delay."

The governor called for more money to be invested in education, including more for counseling and mental health services. He also supported financial literacy education. The governor took a swipe at the new wave of socialist leaning lawmakers by urging students to have "a better understanding of basic free market economics."

"When I meet with students, I am impressed by their intelligence and curiosity," he said. "But frankly, I have been disturbed by some of the rising generation's fascination with socialism."

Addressing air quality, the governor called for a reduction of 25 percent of per capita emissions statewide by 2025. He announced a plan to have more state workers use transit, telecommute and use more energy efficient vehicles and buildings. The governor's budget has proposed spending $100 million more for air quality.

In response to the State of the State address, House and Senate Democrats offered their own take on things.

"Sadly, many in the Utah legislature are not listening to the voices of the people," said House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, referencing Proposition 3.

They offered slightly different policy proposals to what the governor spoke about. House Minority Whip Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said she disagreed with the tax cut proposal.

"Some propose we just cut taxes. That is not good policy during a time of economic prosperity. Certainly, there are many things we can do to improve our state tax system, to make sure the burden doesn’t fall hardest on the middle class," she said.

Watch the State of the State address here:

Watch the Democrats' response to the State of the State here: