Touting himself as a “walking billboard for wearing sunscreen,” Utah’s now skin cancer-free Gov. Gary Herbert praised the state’s voter turnout, lambasted the federal government for dragging its feet on medical cannabis and urged patience with the state’s tax reforms in his monthly news conference.
Citing a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report that showed the state’s voter turnout moved from 45th in the country to 13th in 2018, Herbert said “it shows a trend we’d like to see continue.” The study cited Utah’s pro-voting access practices such as vote-by-mail as reasons voter turnout increased from 37% in 2014 to as high as 58% last year.
“I think it’s probably a result of many different things,” the governor said via KUED Channel 7 live stream. “Certainly, vote-by-mail, which allows people to get the information early and allows them to kind of trigger their mind, thinking about the issues in advance of election day in the comfort and leisure of their own home—I think it’s given us actually a better-informed voter.”
No word if the Legislature also agrees with the “better-informed voter” comment following its revamp of Proposition 2, the voter-approved ballot initiative creating a statewide medical cannabis program. But moving on …
Saying he likes “a lot of the things” President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are doing, Herbert criticized the federal government for “putting the states in this position of trying to follow the will of the people, and yet there’s the potential of violation of law in our banking laws and other things out there because of the inaction of our federal government.”
“They ought to be ashamed,” Herbert said of the feds. “We’re doing what we can, and I think we’re on a good road.”
Earlier in May, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined 38 other states to ask Congress to approve measures allowing medical cannabis-related businesses to access the federal banking system, according to KUTV Channel 2. The state, however, has also limited the number of cannabis growers to 10, leaving some to wonder if the goal of limiting overproduction will create shortages.
When asked about the 2020 presidential election, Herbert did not dive into specifics, saying his crystal ball is probably foggy like other persons’. He only said it would “be an interesting election” and that he doesn’t know “any reason” he wouldn't endorse Trump.
“I am Republican and I like a lot of the things that have been done,” Herbert said. “I think we need to focus on what’s being done as opposed to what’s being said.”
The state has also formed a 14-member tax reform task force to revamp Utah’s tax codes. While the task force has yet to meet, there has been plenty of speculation on what could be decided, including going as far as to eliminate the state’s income tax
House Speaker Brad Wilson told KUER 90.1 FM earlier this month that, “There are probably 30 options for us to fix this structural and revenue problem, and at the same time deliver a tax to Utahns. We’re going to look at all those options and find the best path forward.”
At his news conference, Herbert said he wants to “get it right rather than get it quick,” and said there would not be a special session to address tax reform unless there was a consensus among lawmakers and the public’s input.
He noted all matters of tax reform are up for debate, but “with the goal in mind to make sure we extract only what we need to run government services and maintain our ability to have a healthy, growing, expanding economy, which as I’ve said many times before, is really the goose that lays the golden eggs—gives us the money to invest in whatever we think is the most important thing to do as we prioritize our budget.”
This was the first time Herbert participated in his monthly news conference at KUED since February. He was recently treated for cancerous skin below his eye, but he said Thursday he’s missed previous months because of cold- and flu-like symptoms.
“I’m fit as a fiddle,” Herbert concluded. “There’s not anything that’s life-threatening.”