Scoreboard! It’s clear Gov. Gary Herbert thinks he is coming out ahead of Speaker Becky Lockhart in the 2014 Legislative Session.
Herbert took a huge shot at Lockhart, who is likely going to challenge him in 2016, when discussing Medicaid expansion with the media on Tuesday afternoon.
Herbert said he has a team going to Washington next week to start negotiations on his plan to use federal money for “block grants” to expand healthcare coverage to poor Utahns.
“Being the ‘action figure’ that I am, we have a team going back on Monday,” said Herbert. The “action figure” crack was a clear swipe at Lockhart who said Utah did not need an “inaction figure” in the governor’s mansion.
There’s a reason Herbert is feeling his political oats right now. He shut down Lockhart’s proposed education technology plan. Lockhart wanted between $200 and $300 million for the proposal, which many saw as a way to bolster her education bonafides before leaving office at the end of the year. Herbert and the Senate refused to give her that much, offering instead just shy of $30 million for the program. Instead of accepting a lower amount, Lockhart walked away from the negotiating table over the weekend with nothing.
Herbert had threatened to veto any amount for Lockhart’s proposal that came in above the $30 million price tag, but he demured when asked if that threat led to Lockhart backing down.
“The idea of having tech in the classroom is not new,” said the Governor. “We’ve been talking about it for a good while. I don’t know if I had any influence on the Speaker’s decision at all, but I think we came to a good resolution.”
Herbert seemed even more optimistic when talking about Medicaid expansion. Earlier this week, the Senate advanced a bill that gives him some leeway to negotiate a deal with Washington, even though the House said they have no appetitie to do something on Medicaid before the end of the session
“Everybody is concerned about doing something that has unintended consequences. It’s hard to predict the future. That’s why my plan is a 3-year pilot program.”
Herbert also said he was pleased with the progress the Legislature is making before their deadline of midnight, Thursday.