Herbert Critical of Several Legislative Proposals

House Speaker Becky Lockhart takes questions from the press on February 19, 2014.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart takes questions from the press on February 19, 2014.

(KCPW News) In a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Gary Herbert expressed some difference in opinion with Utah legislators on several key issues.

Taking questions from members of the media, Herbert spent much of his time addressing the topic of Medicaid expansion.  In particular, Herbert was asked what he thought of a $35 million House proposal to cover some of the Utahns not covered by their own insurance or Medicaid. Herbert called that plan “illogical,” saying the state should take at least some of the more than $500 million made available by the federal government for Medicaid expansion, rationalizing that Utahns are going to be paying that money in federal taxes either way.

This is in stark contrast to House Speaker Becky Lockhart’s position on the issue. Lockhart has made it clear that she would prefer not to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion. In a press conference just hours after Herbert’s, Lockhart explained her stance.

“There is value in being in control of your own destiny,” she said. “And when we partner with an unsustainable funding source out of the federal government, we are not in control of our own destiny as a state.”

Herbert, who may be fighting Lockhart for the governorship in 2016, also expressed skepticism over the $300 million price tag of Lockhart’s technology in education initiative, saying it may need to be scaled back.

Another target of Herbert’s critiques was SB 54, a bill more popularly known as the Count My Vote bill because of its relation to the petition of that name. The Count My Vote organization has been working to get a voter initiative on the ballot that would ask voters whether Utah should switch to a direct primary system.

However, some critics say SB 54, while offering some reforms, would undermine the efforts of Count My Vote, effectively nullifying the voter initiative. The governor, while defending the current caucus system, said passing SB 54 might create backlash among supporters of Count My Vote.

Republican Sen. Curt Bramble, the bill’s sponsor, didn’t seem to think much of that assessment.

“Senate Bill 54 was put forward based on the representations of Count My Vote and what they were trying to accomplish,” Bramble said.

Senate floor debate of SB 54 is expected on Thursday around 11 a.m.

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