Tuesday, July 29, 2014

House, Senate still struggling over budget

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Fri, March 7 8:18 p.m. MST

 Plans to finalize the state budget once again were scrapped Friday as the Legislature's GOP majority continued to struggle to settle on how much to give House Speaker Becky Lockhart's education technology initiative.

Plans to finalize the state budget once again were scrapped Friday as the Legislature's GOP majority continued to struggle to settle on how much to give House Speaker Becky Lockhart's education technology initiative.

(Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Plans to finalize the state budget once again were scrapped Friday as the Legislature's GOP majority continued to struggle to settle on how much to give House Speaker Becky Lockhart's education technology initiative.

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate met into the evening attempting to resolve the gulf between the $200 million price tag for replacing textbooks with tablet computers and the $26 million the Senate is willing to spend.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who threatened Thursday to veto the initiative if the price tag wasn't slashed to no more than $30 million, took time during a morning news conference to prod lawmakers.

"I'm concerned about the lack of effort going on," the governor said, adding he expected to see a "reasonable and rational" budget before the session ends next Thursday at midnight.

There has been friction all session between Herbert and Lockhart, R-Provo. The speaker, seen as a challenger to the governor in 2016, labeled him an "inaction figure" in her opening day speech.

Lockhart told reporters she knows she will get less than $200 million but declined to say what she's willing to accept. The House GOP caucus has not endorsed her initiative, viewed by some as a legacy project.

"I will reject out of hand a pilot program. This is a transition and a transformation," the speaker said.

But both she and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said they were confident there would be a budget agreement.

"We’re starting to make some headway on the budget. We’re at the start of some negotiations and we’re happy about that, and hopefully we’ll have a budget ready for Monday," the Senate president said midday.

The budget, along with what to do about the Medicaid expansion available to the state under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, are the two big issues remaining to be resolved before the session is over.

The House and Senate are also split over the Medicaid expansion issue. The House GOP caucus apparently has decided to spurn the governor's earlier pronouncement that "doing nothing is not an option."

HB401, a bill reflecting Lockhart's plan to use $35 million in state funds to provide limited coverage to some of the Utahns who don't qualify for subsidies under Obamacare has been amended to send the issue to a task force for further study.

The bill was circled during debate Friday after Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, said the caucus needed to talk further. House leaders had already left the $35 million for the program out of the budget negotiations.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are looking at amending SB251 from Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, to give the governor more flexibility in negotiating the expansion with Washington, D.C.

Shiozawa's plan called for partially expanding Medicaid to those Utahns who fall below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, but Herbert has called for taking all of the federal money available to cover Utahns up to 138 percent of poverty.

Both plans would utilize private insurers. A Democratic proposal to simply accept the full Medicaid expansion was heard in a Senate committee's final meeting of the session Friday, but no action was taken.

Herbert told reporters he intends to try to sell his plan to the Obama administration no matter what the Legislature does.

"Don't tie my hands. Let me go back and see if I can negotiate the best deal for Utah," the governor said.

Herbert also reiterated his concerns about the speaker's education initiative.

"It's a good idea. But every good idea needs a good plan," the governor said. "We haven't seen that. There’s a big idea with a lot of money but not really a plan that goes with it."

Even educators are telling him they're not ready for the scale of the initiative, the governor said.

He also disagreed with Lockhart's proposal that the money needed for her initiative could be taken out of funding for roads because, she said, the state "has been very good" to transportation over the years.

"I don't want to dig a hole here we'll have to fill in next year," Herbert said.

He said even if lawmakers were to approve a tax increase, the initiative should not receive more than $30 million this session because it needs to be started with "a more modest approach."

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, said he's gauging support for his proposal to raise the gasoline tax a total of 6 cents over the next six years after making a pitch to House Republicans in their last caucus Thursday.

"I'm trying to tell people it's not as radioactive as they think it is," Nielson said.

Contributing: Madeleine Brown

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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Utah Legislature 2014

April 18, 1988
Recommended
1. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
March 8, 2014

As long as they are struggling and can't agree on spending it means there is some thought process taking place in spending and the budget. Now all they have to do is balance the budget and spending so they are equal. But that is a near impossible task since most of the legislators don't understand what a balanced budget is or what checks and balances mean. The limits are set by how much cash you have not how much credit allowance they have.

Education is over paid and over funded as it is and they should not need anymore funds. Limits are real and should be enforced and chimerical spending on trivia is not an opposition they should approve.

2. GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA,
March 8, 2014

"The House GOP caucus apparently has decided to spurn the governor's earlier pronouncement that 'doing nothing is not an option.'"

Doing nothing is always an option with the Tea Party, especially if it can somehow demonstrate just how bad government can be. Many modern "Conservatives" share an anti-government sentiment, especially Tea Partiers.

If you vote for people who believe that government is inherently bad, why would you be surprised when they give you terrible governance?

The Tea Party is good at doing nothing.

After all, Reactionary Conservatism is all about perpetuating a status quo or regressing to some previous status quo.

Regressive politicians do what they do best, and doing NOTHING is a huge weapon in their arsenal.

3. brotherJonathan
SLC, UT,
March 8, 2014

If every elected official truly represented its voters:
Decisions made would be in the best interests of the people.
Right now we have a corrupt system that allows bribery from the highest bidder to rule government. Political contributions that fit the legal description of bribery break our laws. Because most all public offices accept money that given for special treatment, none of the elected officials want to open that can of worms.
What they don't understand is "They are the worms."
Corporations under corporate mission laws, violate state/federal Bribery Law.
So far no county, state or federal agency is willing to do their jobs with a legally filed criminal complaint against officials receiving and using funds given with the intent to commit bribery. We the people must raise our voices if we expect our laws to be defended.
Law-enforcement can't make themselves honor their oath of office, neither can Utah Senate and House members, or the Utah Supreme Courts, or SL county D.A., or SLC-FBI/DOJ, or Utah State Bar, or House Ethics Committee, or SLC police Dept., or we the people.
We cannot be sheep and expect to be treated like human beings.

4. brotherJonathan
SLC, UT,
March 8, 2014

If every elected official truly represented its voters:
Decisions made would be in the best interests of the people.
Right now we have a corrupt system that allows bribery from the highest bidder to rule government. Political contributions that fit the legal description of bribery break our laws. Because most all public offices accept money that was given for special treatment, none of the elected officials want to open that can of worms.
What they don't understand is "They are the worms."
Corporations under corporate mission laws, violate state/federal Bribery Law.
So far no county, state or federal agency is willing to do their jobs with a legally filed criminal complaint against officials receiving and using funds given with the intent to commit bribery. We the people must raise our voices if we expect our laws to be defended.
Law-enforcement can't make themselves honor their oath of office, neither can Utah Senate and House members, the Utah Supreme Courts, or SL county D.A., or SLC-FBI/DOJ, or Utah State Bar, or House Ethics Committee, or SLC police Dept., or we the people.
We cannot be sheep and expect to be treated like human beings.

5. perspicacious
Salt lake city, Utah,
March 8, 2014

Usually they play cowboys and indians in the Legislature and worry more about guns and Zions curtains. But now it is all about satisfying the Lockhart quest for ipads for children and ignoring the poor who need health care. At least Herbert has taken up the issue although short sighted and misdirected. Why not take the federal money available and provide health care for the poor and use the amount Herbert would otherwise hand to the insurance companies as a down payment for the ipads for kids. Then Lockhart and Herbert could both claim success and the tax payers would not be looted to benefit insurance companies and Lockhart`s computer friends could make a few bucks by selling fewer tablets. Now, dear Legislators, get t o work and solve problems and stop playing kissy~face with those seeking the gov chair.