Is Trump a friend or foe of Western states?


Listening to Gov. Gary Herbert’s annual state of the state speech Wednesday night, I couldn’t help speculating as to how differently it might have sounded if Hillary Clinton had won the White House.

You might have heard more about the need to transfer ownership of public lands from Washington to the state or at least a mention of the Bears Ears National Monument, and you might have heard something about the Affordable Care Act and the need to expand Medicaid coverage in Utah.

Instead, there was only a hopeful nod to the Donald Trump administration:

“I am confident that the new administration and Congress, working with the states, will enact major reforms that will enable us as a state to gain greater control and management over education, transportation, healthcare, natural resources, and our public lands,” he said, well into the speech.

No one knows what the president intends to do about public lands. If you go by what he told Field and Stream awhile back, he doesn’t like the idea of transferring ownership “because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do.”

That sounds positively liberal. But then, Trump has said a lot things that were followed by a lot of completely opposite things. It’s best to proceed cautiously.

Same thing with healthcare — Trump certainly will put an end to Obamacare, but no one knows what he and Congress will replace it with. In the meantime, Medicaid expansion — such a contentious issue in Utah in recent years — would be a waste of time and money. Federal matching dollars for that won’t even will be available. But, of course, a segment of the population continues to be uncovered for medical problems.

Instead, the governor focused on things like ensuring homelessness is a state issue, reassuring educators he loves them without raising the income tax and perhaps doing away with the Zion Curtain (although he called it “dispensing restrictions”).

Republican states seem to be in a condition of cautious optimism right now. As Herbert put it, “There is a renewed appreciation for the Tenth Amendment and a realization that the states are truly the laboratories of democracy …”

We’ll know by next year’s state of the state address whether Trump is the friend Utah’s leaders hope he is.


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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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