Obama to speak in Utah about economy on Friday

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Barack Obama is scheduled to make his first visit to Utah as president this week, the White House announced Monday.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the president will travel to Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah on Friday to speak about the economy.

The trip will mark the 49th state Obama has visited since becoming president.

White House officials have said he plans to travel to all 50 states before his term ends in January 2017. South Dakota is the only other state awaiting a visit.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, told reporters Monday afternoon that he hopes to meet with the president and discuss the state’s positions on Medicaid expansion, public lands and energy development.

“I expect that we will greet him on the tarmac, as warrants any visiting president, and hopefully we can expand upon that and have some opportunity to have some quiet time to talk about some of the issues that impact Utah,” Herbert said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, a Democrat, said he has been encouraging the president to visit Utah since they first met, when Obama was still in the transition period following George W. Bush’s presidency.

The mayor said he isn’t sure why Obama waited so long to visit but is grateful for the opportunity “to give him a flavor of Utah.” Obama took office in 2009.

State Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Salt Lake City Democrat, sponsored a resolution passed by the state Senate this year that invited the president and his family to visit Utah’s five national parks.

Dabakis said he is a little disappointed the entire first family isn’t joining the president and hopes that will happen in the future.

“More time is needed to explore the most beautiful scenery on Earth, but apparently the demands of the job are prohibitive of a longer stay now,” Dabakis said in a statement.

First lady Michelle Obama has visited Utah without her husband in recent years. She made a brief stop in Park City in 2011 as part of a fundraising trip.

Barack Obama also stopped in Park City while he was a presidential candidate in 2007.

No plans are in the works for a presidential trip to South Dakota, said Zach Nistler, interim executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

South Dakota Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, said he anticipates the state will be on Obama’s agenda in the future.

Hunhoff said that Obama needs to visit South Dakota to see the “extreme poverty and hopelessness and despair” on reservations in the state. A presidential visit would shine a spotlight for the state and country to see the problems in those communities, Hunhoff said. He said he hopes any visit would be “more than a traditional trip to Mount Rushmore.”

“I’m hoping he would come and tour at least several of the reservation communities and listen and learn and see what could be done yet to make improvements in education, health care and economic development,” Hunhoff said.

Obama stopped in South Dakota in 2008 while campaigning for the party’s nomination, and he spoke last year in North Dakota on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles that state’s border with South Dakota.


Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Washington, Carson Walker in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and James Nord in Pierre, South Dakota, contributed to this report.

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