Herbert: Still no word on extent Trump will shrink monuments
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two weeks after President Donald Trump told Utah leaders he’d grant their request to shrink two of the state’s national monuments, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he still doesn’t know how much smaller the president will make the protected spaces.
Trump and Herbert had a phone call two weeks ago where the president said he’d follow a recommendation from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, but the White House has not offered further details since then, the governor said at his at his monthly televised news conference on KUED-TV.
The Republican governor on Thursday also discussed mounting sexual harassment and assault allegations that have been leveled at powerful people around the country and plans to expand Medicaid in Utah.
Highlights from the governor’s news conference:
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase combined protect more than 3 million acres (12,000 square kilometers) of southern Utah’s red rock country. Utah’s Republican leaders, including Herbert, have said the monuments declared by Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton unnecessarily locked up too much land in the protections and have asked Trump to rescind or shrink them. The president is expected to offer more details about his plans for the monuments when he visits Utah in early December, but Herbert did not have details about specifically when and where the visit would occur. The White House has not offered details. Herbert’s public lands office has proposed making Bears Ears about 90 percent smaller, down to about 125,000 acres (506 square kilometers), but it’s unclear if the president will follow that recommendation.
As waves of sexual harassment and assault allegations have been made against powerful people in entertainment, media, business and politics, Herbert said Thursday that his office has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of sexual harassment. “If you’re found involved with any kind of sexual harassment, it’s immediate grounds for termination and we will fire you,” Herbert said. “We do not tolerate that in state government.”
In the wake of voters in Maine on Tuesday passing a referendum to expand Medicaid in that state, Herbert discussed the situation of the state-federal health care program within Utah, where a ballot initiative will be pushed next year. The governor said Utah’s very limited plan to soon add about 6,000 of the state’s poorest in Medicaid is a step in the right direction but pointed out that he’s long asked for the state to open the prom up to more people. Utah lawmakers wouldn’t agree to the move. The governor said he doesn’t think the President Barack Obama’s health care law and its proposed Medicaid expansion are affordable for the country in the long run without reforms. He said he wants Congress to come up with a new plan, preferably one that will send states federal money that they can use to pay for health care plans as they see fit.
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