Herbert Confident He Will Convince Lawmakers to Approve ‘Healthy Utah’

Always the optimist, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert told a KUED Channel 7 press conference Thursday morning that after he gets what he wants in waivers and flexibility from the Obama administration on his “Healthy Utah” Medicaid expansion program, state legislators will go along with a special session to adopt his ideas.


This comes after announcements Wednesday by House GOP leaders that they are “very hesitant” to take up Medicaid expansion – and any plan put forward associated with it – this year.

They prefer to wait until the January 2015 general session, which could delay by months efforts to provide health care/insurance for more than 100,000 lower-income Utahns.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, told reporters Wednesday after an open House GOP caucus that she has significant concerns about taking up such a complicated and far reaching solution to Medicaid expansion in what could be an afternoon special session.

“We are not ready to make any decision” on any plans, she said.

Lockhart is retiring this year, and is looking to run for governor in 2016 – challenging Herbert within the Republican Party should he seek a third term.

Asked if he is tired of Medicaid and other issues being politicized when the next gubernatorial election is still two years away, Herbert said he can’t speak to the personal political agendas of others, but for him his “Healthy Utah” plan has nothing to do with any 2016 election.

He said that if he can get the Obama administration to provide waivers and accept conditions in “Healthy Utah” – which includes a work requirement to be on the Medicaid expansion program – then he believes he can get enough votes to pass the plan in a special session, which he would call later this year.

“In the end of the day common sense will prevail,” said Herbert. “The majority of the Legislature likes the (Healthy Utah) alternative in concept, but the devil is in the details. And if I am happy with it (the final product), I think a majority of the Legislature will agree.”

However, Healthy Utah would take around $250 million a year from the federal government.

And in her opening remarks to the 2014 Legislature, Lockhart criticized Herbert directly, saying if he took any federal money for Medicaid expansion it would be a sham and a fraud on the people of Utah.

On other issues:

— Herbert said it is unimportant what he thinks about same sex marriage. But he swore an oath to uphold the Utah and U.S. Constitutions, and the Utah Constitution was changed by citizens several years ago in Amendment 3 to only allow marriage between a man and woman.

And it is his duty, and the attorney general’s duty, to see the current federal court case to conclusion – which he believes will be in the U.S Supreme Court.

He criticized Utah federal Judge Robert Shelby for not staying his own order back in December which struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban.

Over a two week period – until the U.S. Supreme Court intervened — thousands of Utah gay couples got married, and a number started formal proceedings where a child or children of one partner could be adopted by the other.

That issue is also in court, with a judge recently saying adoptions can proceed, but staying his decision for 21 days for a state response.

Herbert said he will decide within several weeks if to appeal on that issue, and if so how.

Taking the same basic approach as leaders of the LDS Church, Herbert said it doesn’t matter if he believes gays are born homosexual or not. It is their choice in acting on their homosexual tendencies in seeking a sexual arrangement that makes them different that bi-racial Americans, who under court action have been allowed to marry.

He must go forward – as the Utah AG must go forward – in defending Amendment 3, Herbert said, even though AGs and governors in other states where a federal judge has struck down their anti-gay marriage laws.

For any governor or attorney general to pick and chose which laws – legally adopted by representatives of the people or by the people themselves – they enforce is a “tragedy, the next step to anarchy,” Herbert said.

— Herbert said while he hopes a good buyer for The Salt Lake Tribune can be found – and that Utah would continue to have two strong daily statewide newspapers — it would be inappropriate for the state to in any way get involved in the major Utah newspaper’s struggle to stay financially sound.

“It would be inappropriate for me to intervene in a private sector issue,” Herbert said.

— President Barack Obama recently designated 500,000 acres in New Mexico as a national monument.

Herbert said if Obama were to create another national monument in Utah as former President Bill Clinton did – with no notice and not even coming into Utah to do it – then he would be greatly concerned.

But he doesn’t see Obama acting that way. Local New Mexicans actually asked for the new monument in their area.

And Herbert said he is unaware of any Utahns asking that Obama create a new national monument in their area. Herbert said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s bill seeking to exchange large areas of federal land for scattered state land inholdings is the best way to transfer federal land titles now.