Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert went to Washington, D.C., last week and met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, he told his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference Thursday morning.
Addressing a UtahPolicy.com question, Herbert said he specifically brought up the issue of tariffs and the possibility of a trade war with both top federal bosses.
“We talked tariffs and the impact on our economy,” said Herbert – meaning Utah’s economy.
“And how they will hurt consumers in Utah.”
Utah’s subsidiary of Prismview is an international electronics firm that uses steel and aluminum, both of which could have tariffs imposed on it by Trump’s new get-tough foreign trade orders.
Herbert said he told Trump about how such actions could lead to a trade war, which Herbert said he strongly opposes as counterproductive.
Yet, said Herbert, he sees Trump’s arguments that America is getting an unfair deal in many trade areas.
Trump “is taking the 30,000-foot view, the long view” of trying to get our trading partners to play fair with the U.S.
In the long term, that may be OK.
But Herbert noted that Utah has one of the best economies in the country, one widely diverse that has a lot of international ties, especially for such a small state.
Herbert worries that the new inland port facility now trying to get off the ground in northwestern Salt Lake City could be harmed by a trade war.
Herbert said he also wants to treat allies, like Canada, well and not get in tariff wars with them – something that Trump seems in favor with, considering how the president has been badmouthing Canada and its leaders recently.
Herbert said Trump’s approach is a bit like a “bull in a china shop” – but that his blunt talk and actions do get other countries attention, with warnings to their leaders that Trump is not kidding around with unfair trade practices.
On other issues:
— Herbert seemed to open the door a bit for a special session this year on reworking the inland port law passed in the final days of the 2018 Legislature.
Herbert and House Speaker Greg Hughes got into a bit of a tiff over the two weeks over the new law – mainly because officials didn’t realize that a five-mile “conflict of interest” section of the bill applying to the new port board required Hughes to resign from the board (he appointed himself) because his apartment firm does own property within that wide-ranging provision.
Herbert said the law has unintentional consequences, especially that the Salt Lake City Councilmember for the city’s northwest section can’t sit on the board with the five-mile restriction, he too owns property in that area.
But Hughes has resigned, and appointed House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, the bill’s sponsor, to the board.
So, with Hughes out, maybe Herbert may be more inclined to call a special session so the conflict of interest section could be changed.
— Herbert said should Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, be named to the U.S. Supreme Court (he is on Trump’s short list of appointees), then he, Herbert, would not appoint himself to the open U.S. Senate seat.
By law, a vacancy in the Senate from Utah requires the governor to appoint until the next election. And there have been governors in the past in other states that have selected themselves.
“I probably would not appoint” himself, said Herbert. He likes being an executive, where you’re driving 100 miles an hour every day. Congress is more like a long slog where it is difficult to get anything done, and it takes time.
“To me, I don’t want to do that, I see it as a step backward from my mentality” of being an action governor.
— With the U.S. Supreme Court decision that states can collect sales taxes from firms selling online, it opens the possibility that Utahns may not need to raise their own gasoline tax to help education.
The 2018 Legislature passed a bill that – with voter approval – would raise the state per gallon gasoline tax by 10 cents. By bumping through various state revenue funds, that money would find it’s way into the school budgets.
But if Utah can collect much more sales tax in online retail purchases, maybe that other tax hike will not be needed, or not be as much, said Herbert.
— Herbert recently attended a meeting of Utah State Republican Party leaders, where he tried to bring together warring factions over SB54 – the dual pathway candidate law.
UtahPolicy.com reported that the meeting didn’t go that well – the lawsuit continues and the party is still struggling to raise money.
Herbert said he personally likes SB54, and Tuesday’s primary election results show, again, that voters want to have a choice of candidates (both those who gather signatures to make the primary and those who get there via delegate conventions).
Herbert said he agrees with former President Ronald Reagan, who advocated for a “big tent” GOP – not kicking people out for not agreeing with you — and not criticizing fellow Republicans.
“You should not be badmouthing” other Utah Republicans “just because you disagree with them” on some issue, like SB54.
“The public seems to be embracing the dual pathway; it’s something that seems to be working,” he said.