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Utah lawmakers react to State of the Union

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As President Barack Obama set out his plans for the country in Wednesday night's State of the Union address, many Utahns watched with interest about how his agenda will affect their future.

One year ago, Obama made his first speech to a joint session of congress. Technically it wasn't a State of the Union Address, since he had just taken office, but it had the same feel.

"He was an electrifying speaker. It was an historic moment," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

But the honeymoon didn't last long.

"Last year we treated him as a great historic event for our country, not a politician," Jowers said. "Now we're treating him as a politician, and we've watched his approval ratings drop."

To put it mildly, the president certainly had his work cut out for him, and his speech did give some insight into his plan. With unemployment high, the issue of jobs and the economy were at the top of the list.

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"Addressing the economy and jobs and sustainability of the environment are all importing issues," Utahn Bianca Shreeve said. From taxes to freezing government spending, Utahns seem most concerned about the economy -- specifically jobs. Some believe they have benefited from the president's stimulus plan.

"He's done some really good things," George Artsitis said. "He's helped me out with financial aid. I got financial aid this year when I didn't last year, so he's done some good things for me going to college."

As the president outlined his agenda, it was met mostly with criticism by Utah's Republican members of Congress.

The idea that the government can solve all of these problems, and we can do it in the next year, and everything will be wonderful if we just get together - there are deep, deep divides, and they are not just ideological," Sen. Bob Bennett said.

Government spending and jobs is what many focused on following the speech.

"We've got to find some way to stimulate this economy, and I think the better way is to give tax breaks to small businesses that would really help them to hire people and get them back to work and get things going on," said Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Rep. Rob Bishop said, "Private sector jobs have not grown. Only government jobs have grown, and that is not good for our long-term economy."

Others believe the proposed government spending freeze won't be enough.

"A lot of entrenchment, saying we are going to keep on doing what we are doing; and it's not working for the economy," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz. "So we're not only going to have to freeze some spending, but we're going to have to make some cuts. That's the reality."

Rep. Jim Matheson issued this statement about the president's speech. He said: "It is time that we roll up our sleeves and do what it takes to rein in government spending and balance the budget. The system is broken, and neither political party is without blame."

CLICK HERE to read President Obama's State of the Union address in its entirety.


Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and Keith McCord.

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