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Huntsman, lawmakers’ ratings soar

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Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Utah legislators did a good job in the just-finished 2009 general session, a new public opinion poll shows.

Huntsman comes out of the 45-day Legislature with an 84 percent job approval rating, found pollster Dan Jones & Associates in a new survey for the Deseret News and KSL-TV.

The Legislature gets a 64 percent approval rating, Jones found. (Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake, is the wife of Dan Jones and a principal in Dan Jones & Associates.)

Both Huntsman's 84 percent approval rating and the Legislature's 64 percent approval rating are very good numbers. Historically, Huntsman has been loved by Utahns, with approval ratings above 80 percent.

Legislative bodies, being amorphous and less well known than individual government chief executives, don't do as well as governor or mayors.

But the Legislature has been down in the 50 percentile in approvals over the last two decades, so a 64 percent rating is a fine showing.

"Hopefully, this (64 percent rating) reflects the hard work and effort we put in," said House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara. "We had to make some very tough decisions in tough times. We tried to be smart and compassionate."

Huntsman told the Deseret News "I'll take" an 84 percent approval rating "any day."

Faced with $1.5 billion in tax revenue shortfalls over two fiscal years, legislators cut most state budgets by 9 percent and public education 5 percent for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

With "backfills" in one-time money — $500 million of it coming to Utah in the federal stimulus package — legislators "were wise to allow public education a respite" in new programs and new demands, while still funding student growth, Clark said.

"If you do what you think is right, even if some people disagree with you, they will give you credit," said Huntsman in explaining perhaps why his job approval ratings are so high.

E-MAIL: bbjr@desnews.com