CEDAR CITY – After meeting with President Donald Trump last week, Gov. Gary Herbert said he’s coming home from Washington, D.C., optimistic the new president will work to give states more power, cut back regulations that burden businesses and find a way to fix Obamacare.
“I’m going home very optimistic about what we’ve been able to accomplish and hopeful about the future of the country,” Herbert said Tuesday in a conference call with the press.
Herbert spoke to reporters Tuesday by phone from the District of Columbia, where he and 46 other state executives in the National Governors Association met with the president and congressional leaders late last week.
Healthcare dominated the meeting between the governors and Trump as they discussed how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But no one seems to be able to agree on how to do that in a “fair” way, Herbert said. Even congressional Republicans are divided on the best path to take.
Republicans in Washington want to repeal and place the Affordable Care Act, while their colleagues on the other side want to reform, modify and improve it. Herbert said he doesn’t care what Congress calls it – he just wants it fixed.
“I don’t want to get caught up in the nomenclature of what we call it,” Herbert said. “Repeal and replace, reform, modify and improve, again you can get to basically the same place. It certainly needs to be reformed, it certainly needs to be modified, it certainly needs to be improved. We’ve got to bring sustainability to the program and we’ve got to be able to afford this now and generations to come.”
Herbert said he would like to see the states have more autonomy in developing health care programs for their respective constituencies.
“I think we need to incorporate more autonomy and more flexibility to the states if we’re going to find innovation and find ways to do more with less,” Herbert said. “Trust them (states) to in fact have the ability to address their own unique needs, their own unique demographics, culture, politics, and find a solution that suits them for their respective needs which are different. One-size-fits-all mentality, everybody agrees on, is not the way to go.”
Herbert said he did not have an opportunity to discuss federal land issues with the Trump administration while in the District. He said he felt confident, however, that the president will be open to working with Utah’s congressional delegation on these matters.
“I’m optimistic that we can find a place to resolve this issue,” Herbert said.
Ryan Zinke has been invited to visit Utah following his confirmation as Secretary of Interior at the “earliest opportunity,” Herbert said. State officials have expressed enthusiasm over Zinke’s pending appointment believing they may be able to draw sympathy from the Montana congressman who they think will understand Utah’s challenges regarding public lands. The Senate continued debate on Zinke’s nomination Tuesday and is scheduled to resume debate Wednesday.
Trump’s immigration deportation policy was also an issue during the meeting with state executives. Herbert said he felt the president clarified his position and goals, easing many concerns from governors who were unsure of what was happening.
“The president made it very clear yesterday in our (governors) meeting with him that although he is working to fulfill his promise during the campaign that his focus has been on what he calls ‘the real bad guys,’ those who are here that are actually breaking the law,” Herbert said. “These are the kind of people that are gang bangers, people who are robbing banks, knocking over liquor stores just really bad guys. He said, ‘That’s who we’re going to round up and that’s who we’re going to send home.’ And he made that very, very clear that, that’s his focus.”
Most of the governors agree that it’s time to solve the illegal immigration issue, Herbert added.
Herbert also discussed Trump’s plans to bring in more jobs. The governor said he felt the new administration will eliminate unnecessary regulations and cut taxes that hinder companies and prevent them from growing. Herbert used the moment to boast about Utah’s model to bring in jobs saying he believes Trump should follow the state’s lead.
Overall, Herbert said he felt good about the time spent in Washington, adding that he was “optimistic” by the “new beginning and opportunities” under the new administration.
“Clearly, the administration has set the tone by saying we value governors, we value the states, we want to have your input on how we go forward these next four years in developing policy.”
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