Praising Utahns and thanking former governor, now ambassador, Jon Huntsman Jr. for laying the groundwork for Utah's rebounding from economic recession, new Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that good things lie ahead for the Beehive State if Utahns will just join fresh partnerships and work together.
In a ceremony filled with prayer, singing, cannon fire and a few emotions, Herbert took the oath of office as Utah's 17th governor around noon in a crowded State Capitol.
Moments earlier, Huntsman signed his letter of resignation and was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to China, where he and some of his immediate family will fly off to within days.
Herbert said all Utahns need to work together, all religions and political persuasions. And while he welcomes and has great affection for all, conservative elements flowed throughout his inaugural speech.
Herbert noted these are times "when storm clouds seem to be gathering, at home and abroad. We face a struggling economy" with a "dizzying national deficit" piled upon "our already astronomical national debt."
"Those who tuck young children in bed at night perhaps wonder and worry the most," he said.
Herbert quoted from a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council showing Utah is likely to recover first among all the states from the recession. ALEC is a renowned conservative group, made up mostly of Republicans.
He said he will be a fiscal conservative, and Utahns should look first to themselves and their neighbors for self-reliance, not the state. And the last option for any placement of power or program should not be Washington, D.C., but rather state and local governments.
"My first priority will be the economy," Herbert said.
Indeed, Utah state government could be facing a $700 million gap when legislators convene their 2010 session in January, a gap between the current year's budget and ongoing state tax revenue.
"Jobs pay the bills — for individuals and for families," Herbert said. And tax revenues from those jobs will provide the funds for education, health care, transportation, public safety and other vital programs.
Herbert said Utah must have competitive tax rates. He didn't mention any possible tax hikes.
Herbert will seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010, hoping to win the remaining two years on Huntsman's second term.
House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, after Herbert's address said, "There's no question he's a conservative. He wanted that to come across loud and clear, and it did. It was a great address. He hit all the points he needed to and he's going to lead us into renewed economic prosperity."
House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said after the ceremony that he was encouraged by the call for bipartisan effort in Herbert's speech.
"I think Gov. Herbert sets a very positive tone when he talks about unprecedented partnerships," Litvack said. "While I may have philosophical and ideological differences with Gov. Herbert and other members in the House and the Senate … now is the time to find common ground and consensus in facing the challenges and difficult problems we face."
GOP legislative leaders have already talked about raising some targeted taxes, like alcohol and tobacco, to help make up that $700 million gap next year.
"Let me be clear. I believe in free enterprise, the risk and reward system that some call capitalism," Herbert said. The private sector must be empowered. "Utah will continue to be the leader in promoting free enterprise."
But the key to a good work force and market system is a great education — Herbert's second priority. A great education creates "great economic opportunity."
And Utah's competition in education, he said, is not just Colorado, but India, Canada and China.
Utah students need more than a diploma; education is a "passport to the world." He praised teachers, coaches and other education professionals, but said they can't do it alone. "They need help from each of us" — parents, business leaders and the whole community.
"I will take a hands-on, proactive approach" in working with all education stakeholders, Herbert said.
"We can and must develop our natural resources," he said. "But we must do it responsibly and with an eye to our children's future."
That will be done while providing clean air and water and being good stewards of the land and environment, he said.
Coal is, and will remain, a big part of Utah's energy future. But so will geothermal, solar and wind. In providing America's energy independence, "Utah will be second to none," he said.
Per tradition, Utah National Guard Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet hosted the inauguration ceremony. Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham administered the oath of office to Herbert, which was followed by a cannon salute on the Capitol grounds. Former "American Idol" finalist Carmen Rasmusen, Herbert's daughter-in-law, sang the national anthem and the American Festival Chorus provided music. Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City offered the invocation, while President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered the benediction.
In serving, Herbert said he will be guided by principles many Americans and Utahns hold dear. First is "freedom's divine spark that ultimately flickered into the bright blaze that we now know as the American Revolution."
He said he believes in the appropriate — but limited — role of government. Quoting the late President Ronald Reagan, much beloved by Utah Republicans, Herbert said, "As government expands, liberty contracts."
He will be a fiscal conservative: "Simply put, don't spend more than you earn, and live within your means. This is good counsel for individuals as well as governments."
Utahns should be self-reliant. "Government entitlement can never substitute for individual responsibility or the inherent roles of family, neighborhood and community."
Herbert said he will stand up for states' rights against the constant creep of Washington, D.C.
Finally, Herbert promised to lead a state government that is "open, honest, that is accessible and that is accountable."
Over the past four years, as lieutenant governor he has traveled the state, meeting with all kinds of Utahns in their homes and places of work and worship. He will continue doing so, he promised.
How did the original Utah pioneers make it so far, endure such hardships? "They worked together in unprecedented ways," he said. "Through the will of the people, Utah has always blossomed as a state. Our light shines when others grow dim."
In conclusion Herbert said, "I will work tirelessly, I will sacrifice willingly, and together we'll ensure that Utah's light shines like never before."
Gary Richard Herbert
Born: May 7, 1947, American Fork
Family: Wife Jeanette, six children, nine grandchildren
Education: Attended Brigham Young University
Professional: Herbert & Associates Realtors
Politics: Utah County commissioner, 1990-2004; lieutenant governor, 2005-2009
Hobbies: Golf, tennis
Quote: "I will work tirelessly, I will sacrifice willingly, and together we'll ensure that Utah's light shines like never before."