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April 23, 2017

"We want to be the best-performing education system in America and we're well on our way towards achieving that goal..." Governor Herbert

ANNOUNCER: KUED presents the Governor's Monthly News Conference, an exchange between Utah reporters and Governor Gary Herbert.

GOVERNOR HERBERT:  Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here today. Before we take questions, let me just make mention of two or three good news things. As you know, our focus has been on growing the economy here in Utah and it continues to expand and grow.

We have a lot of accolades, we had this past week our 11th Annual Economic Development Summit, record participation, had great turnout, and everybody I think left very optimistic about the future of Utah.

Good news has happened, for example we've had Consumer Technology Association name Utah this past week as the most innovative state in America today when it comes to technology, and we see our technology sector really growing quite rapidly.

We had the U.S. News and World Report talk about our education system, which has certainly been a topic of discussion for a number of years and said that Utah is now in the top 10 when it comes to educational achievement and our higher education, number two.

We had the Bloomberg Report that came out here about three weeks ago that talks about upward mobility and said that in Utah, upward mobility is the best of any place in the nation, and if you start at the lowest end of the economic rung on the ladder, your chances are better to go to the top rung on the ladder in Utah than any place else in America, which helps to explain why we have such a broad growing middle class.

So, a lot of good news, Art Laffer, Reagan's economic adviser said that Utah has the best economic outlook, we're in good places today but even our future economic outlook is really good and number one in America, so a lot to like.

That being said, I want to just again caution us all to not be too complacent and not too content. I do recognize there are concerns in parts of Utah, particularly in rural Utah, and I was just in Garfield County and I was in Kane County and I was in Iron County just yesterday and looking at some of the challenges they face in rural Utah, with economic expansion, and we're working closely and we will be working closely with our rural counties to develop plans so that they too can enjoy economic opportunity in their states similar to what we see in some of the urbanized areas, and certainly along the Wasatch Front here in Utah. So that's going to be a major thrust.

Last but not least, again, we had a major announcement which I hope was not lost, I'm sure not on you, but on our viewers out there in Utah-land. Air quality issue has been a topic of concern. We've had some significant reduction of pollution over these last 10 to 12 years, about 35% here in the Wasatch Front and that's in the face about 350 to 400,000 more people calling the Wasatch Front their home. But the effort to have tier three fuels come in and particularly in light of the fact we've had reductions but 50% now of our pollution that we see out there in those gunky days are coming from tailpipes, and we've been working the refineries for the last couple of years and it was nice to have an announcement here just two days ago of Chevron saying that even though they don't have to under the Clean Air Act to bring in tier three fuels in Utah, they're going to do so. That goes along with Tesoro and Sinclair and others I think will follow suit. If we in fact bring in tier three fuels, complementing that with tier three automobiles, we have the ability to reduce 80% of the tailpipe emissions that we have out there today and we see on our gunky days and that means that's like taking four out of every five automobiles and trucks off the road. So, this is a major step in the right direction. So, this is a major step in the right direction. So again, reasons for us to join with Art Laffer and say our future is very bright, we have reasons to be optimistic about what we're doing and the trend lines that we see appearing, so good news on all fronts, and now we'll take your questions.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Governor, there is reports this morning that Congressman Jason Chaffetz may not finish his term in office, he said that the thought of 200 more days can be a little more to bear. What happens then? I understand you have to call a special election, can you explain the process?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I'm reluctant to answer on speculation because I think it is speculation, I don't know how Congressman Chaffetz is feeling, again the announcement I think caught everybody a little bit by surprise yesterday that he was not going to run for re-election. And I take him at his word that he's tired, that he's time to take a look in his own life and 1500 days on that cot is taking its toll. I know the travel back and forth can be somewhat daunting. He's served us very well and we appreciate the service he's rendered and will continue to render until such time as either he doesn't run for re-election, if it's true that he might resign early, then the onus will be upon the state to conduct a special election, and if that happens, and again I say if that happens, then we will conduct a special election.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: But don't you think that you might need to call a special session of the legislature? There is a bill this time I think by Senator Bramble, it did not pass, got close to passing, don't you think you need some more guidance? Do we have a primary election, how do we pick the nominees, when do you call the timing of the election? I'm not accusing you of this but there have been some governors in other states that have played some games when they've had a congressional opening and when they called their election, do you want some guidance on this?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I think there is probably a little bit of uncertainty as far as what the process is, because we've never done it before but to me at least, unless the Attorney General tells me differently, it says we will conduct a special election. That means we'll conduct an election and we'll go through the same process you would do for a regular election, it'll just be held at a different time of that year, that's why it's extraordinary, that's why it's special, so that means delegates will have to get together and I'll gather the convention process for anybody who wants to run. That may require a primary. And then we'll have a general, as it were, in a constricted, I guess, timeframe. So, we'll let the Attorney General's office and the legal experts kind of guide us on this and it's our first time, but that's if it happens. I'm hopeful that Congressman Chaffetz will stay there until the rest of his term and we'll just go on a new cycle.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: You don't think you need a special session of the legislature then?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I don't. I don't as of yet, if we get new information I'm certainly open to new information to help make judgment, but as of right now I don't see that as a necessity.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: At this rate, are you still planning to call a special session to address issues with .05 DUI law that you assigned?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Yes, absolutely, again I think August or September we'll be working with legislative leadership and other stakeholders on this issue, I think the concept is a solid one as far as making sure we keep impaired drivers off the road but there's a lot that goes with this and I think there needs to be some tweaking and fine-tuning. We have over 18 months to do it so a special session, then we'll have a general session in 2018, it doesn't go into impact until December 30th of 2018, so we have a long time to get this right.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: What tweaks do you want to that law?

GOVERNOR HERBERT:  Well I'm not going to pre-suppose, I think there's issues on penalties and implementation and how law enforcement will react. I also think there's other issues that need to be addressed, it's not just the alcohol, it's substance abuse, drugs, which is a big part of the issue, it's distracted driving in all of its forms, whether that's on using your iPhone or putting on makeup or eating a hamburger, distracted driving ought to be a concern for us, we need to probably amp up the penalties on that and so we'll work with law enforcement and stakeholders to decide, what should we do and a more comprehensive approach, it's not the .05.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Our Schools Now says they'll start gathering signatures in the fall when school starts to put a proposition on the ballot that you've talked about before. They say they may change the proposition so it's not income tax but sales tax that would go up. You have spoken against income tax. Are you any happier with the proposition if it's sales tax?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I have my own personal point of view thinking that raising the income tax may have a dampening effect on the economy, and I think we don't want to kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs. Our economy is the healthiest and most diverse economy in America today, let's make sure we keep that in place. That being said, we certainly would like to have additional revenues putting into education, we're doing very well as it is but we can do better and that's not all about the money but it is some about the money. And I welcome any and all approaches, we're going to have tax reform, we've already started on that road, we're going to study it during the summer months and interim study and we will come prepared, I believe, in the next legislative session to have tax reform. It could be modifications of all tax sources, property tax, sales tax, the proposal for income tax, so all of these issues, there are probably six or eight different combinations of ideas of what we could do to increase revenue stream and yet to help additional funding of education, but making sure we don't in fact put a damper on our economic expansion.

ROD DECKER, KUTV2: Our Schools Now says we really need more money for education, you've said we need more money for education. The legislature doesn't say much of anything, they just sit there, you say they could raise this, they could raise that, but no one but Our Schools Now is saying, "Here is a plan of what we should do." Maybe we should stay the same, but it seems to me we're not getting any leadership on the issue of education, either stay where we are or move or whatever it is, from the Republican Capitol Hill, is that fair?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Probably not, because we are doing something and we saw a significant increase in funding this past legislative session with a 4% weighted pupil unit among others with over $230 million of new money being put into public education so people can say it's not enough, it may not be enough, but by golly, $230 million a year, which is what we're averaging, is a pretty good start.

We put a goal in place two years ago to put over a billion dollars into public education, and we're on track to do that. 60% of our budget goes to education, so it's not like we don't have it prioritized correctly and again, we're a fast-growing state, our student population is the fastest and so additional revenue sources for teacher pay, classroom size reduction, additional structures to take and accommodate the increasing student population, technology, all those things are important aspects of where's the cost, what is the cost going to be?

We just are putting, we had our education excellence meeting this past Tuesday, all the stakeholders were there, we're coming together on what we've called the 10-year plan to help us unite and focus and say, "Here's where we are "today, but here's where we want to be tomorrow," we want to be the best-performing education system in America and we're well on our way towards achieving that goal, that's doing something.

Going to take a little bit more money and more resources and there's a variety of ways to get that additional resource, growing the economy is the best, but we've modified taxes on gasoline for example, so we don't rob our general fund, money can be put into higher education, we're talking about making sure that the federal government in fact adjusts and fixes the remote sales tax, where we have people buying things remotely and again, that's a $200 million loss to the coffers of government here because it's all but not collected, so there's a number of ways, in fact, we can enhance revenue even over what we're doing now, and if you take out some of the exemptions, the loopholes of taxes and sales tax, the Remote Transaction Parity Act, if it passes the federal government, that's another $200 million, growing the economy, that's another 200 million, right there you've got $600 million of additional money that can be put into education, so we can do it, we want to do it in the right way so it does not have a dampening effect on the economy.

GLEN MILLS, ABC4: Governor, members of Utah's congressional delegation are meeting with the Trump administration on Bear's Ear. They're reporting that the president is considering all options on the table still. What is the latest that you are hearing and where would you like it to go and in what timeline?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I've had the opportunity to talk to Secretary Zinke on two or three occasions, we've extended to him an invitation to come here and see up close and personal our public lands and see the monuments and the other issues that are out there of concern. We understand the BLM charter to be multiple use.

The biggest lament I hear in rural Utah is the fact that they feel like the BLM has gotten away from a multiple use approach to the public lands and that's not just tourism and travel, it's not just agriculture, it's extraction, it's energy development, it's an all-of-the-above kind of a thing and I think developing and managing it in very environmental, responsible ways and frankly, energy development and tourism don't have to be mutually exclusive ideas.

So again, I think that's important and imperative that Secretary Zinke comes out, I've also invited Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, to come out and take a look at our energy capabilities. And so again, I think all those working in concert, we've talked with the EPA as some of our concerns out in the basin with ozone, so those three secretaries I think are going to come and view Utah and see if we can't develop a practical, common sense, environmentally sensitive pathway forward that's kind of an all-of-the-above.

So again, what they do with the monuments remains to be seen but I think one we've had an opportunity to see them and they'll probably make some decisions as far as what they think is the appropriate approach to take.

GLEN MILLS, ABC4: Repeal has never been done before, though, do you have confidence that potentially it could happen for the first time?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well again, I don't want to speculate on what can happen, and the potential of what happens, repeal certainly is on the table and that's been addressed by our congressional delegation and the Trump administration, shrinkage, shrinking it, again the Antiquities Act does say very clearly it should be the smallest area compatible with the preservation of the objects that need protection. And clearly if you look at the Grand Staircase, I mean 1.9 million acres and there's maybe 20,000 acres of protection necessary, that's a little bit of an overreach, that's probably the most egregious example of overreach on the Antiquities Act, an abuse of the Antiquities Act that has ever happened in history. And I don't know if people understand the magnitude, we'd say 1.9 million acres, we say 1.35 million acres, it just kind of rolls off the tongue and how much is that, how much is that acreage? Well I'll tell you, for a comparison, those two monuments are the same size as Utah County, Salt Lake County, Davis County, and Weber County combined, so you think of where 80% of our population lived, that's the size of these two monuments. 

So, you can understand why the locals there and our congressional delegation are concerned about maybe this is just a little bit too big. That being said, we understand the need for protection, certainly the Bear's Ears deserves it, we would like to work with our Native Americans and make sure that they are treated, that land is treated as they've requested, as their sacred lands, and that they have the ability to have some management input to into it that's really listened to, not just considered, but they actually have something to say, that can only happen legislatively, by the way. So, I can see things happening, if you look at Arches, it started out as a monument of 4000 acres, 4000 acres, Arches, later became, by legislation, a national park, of which it's now 77,000 acres. So again, in the comparison to 1.35 million acres on Bear's Ears or 1.9 for the Grand Staircase-Escalante, you can see a significant difference there that causes people at least pause. So, I'm anxious to see the administration come out here and take a look at it, and let's work together with everybody and see if we can't come up with the right solution.

MICHAEL ORTON, UTAHPOLITICALCAPITOL.COM: Also in rural Utah, governor, the economic development takes on a lot of agricultural aspects. The legislative junket yesterday heard from some of those players, especially farmers, ranchers, that are going to need to, they said, rely upon imported labor. You've addressed the idea of Utah's position on immigration. Where are we postured with the new administration, which is signaling otherwise about that?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I think the Utah Compact, which we put together here a few years ago, is still a good guideline. We are a compassionate people, we are welcoming people here in Utah, whether it be immigration or whether it be refugees. Again, there's a right way to do it and a wrong way. We want to emphasize the legal way, we want to make sure that our business community also is not putting a carrot out there and incentivize people to break the law. They ought to be careful about making sure that they are hiring documented aliens and legal immigrants.

So, everybody has a role to play, but I think the concern I have, and I've mentioned this to the past administration and to the same administration, I would say the same, it's one thing to talk about securing the borders, which everybody agrees with, well let's do it. Republican, Democrat, that's one thing we can agree on, secure the borders, however you do that, electronically, with a wall, with a fence, with troops, I don't care, but if that's what we all agree to, let's do it, number one, and then when we talk about the gate, or excuse me, the fence, we forget to talk about the gate, the gate's broken, how you come into this country, how you leave the country, let's talk about fixing the immigration so that people can come in here as we need them, make adjustments, have their green cards, have the ability to come and to leave. Most of those who are illegal probably just stay here for the economic opportunity, would love to go back and visit their families and their homeland, so there ought to be the ability for people to come and go and that gate is broken.

So again, I guess we're all frustrated and tired that Congress has been talking about this back to the days of Reagan, and yet we don't seem to have a resolution, so it's time for them to quit kicking the can down the road and actually resolve the issue.

WHITNEY EVANS, KUER FM90: Governor, do you have any thoughts on what's going on at Huntsman Cancer Institute with the abrupt firing of CEO Mary Beckerle. Do you see any issues with transparency there?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I don't really know the inner workings of the University of Utah and their personnel policy there as it works with the University of Utah Hospital, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the Huntsman Foundation, they're intertwined, but they have different roles to play, the foundation really is designed to help raise money and clearly, the Huntsmans and Huntsman family have been very generous and that's kind of their creation, they've given a billion dollars of their own money and raised another over a billion dollars of other people's money to help keep that Huntsman Cancer Institute afloat and financially strong, and I think it's making money now, by the way, and so it seems to me this is a failure to communicate, and the fact that a surprise, remember the old Holiday Inn commercial, the best surprise is no surprise. And I think people have been caught unawares here without explanation, so I don't know the inner workings, I really don't have an opinion on what should have happened or not happened when it comes to the termination of Dr. Beckerle, but I know that there's been poor communications and my encouragement to both sides is you need to get together and talk and make sure there's dialogue and understanding and then decide what's the proper way to go forward.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: Governor, it's 4/20, which is the unofficial marijuana holiday. Your thoughts on--

GOVERNOR HERBERT: It's 4/20?

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: It's a thing.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Oh, April 20th, I thought you were saying it's 4:20 

REPORTER: No no, but any thoughts on where the legislature is with the medical marijuana issue and what Nevada may be doing with their recreational ballot.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well I think we're just slowly but surely moving towards research and understanding of the medical benefits of marijuana, making sure that we understand the truth, not just by anecdotal story but by scientific evidence.

Clearly, as we address opioids and the addiction of other drugs, if there's a way to relieve pain that's an alternative to opioids, and if marijuana actually could serve that purpose, we ought to know it and we ought to have it tested and the scientific proof given to us, so I think we're in the research mode here, I think we need to have cooperation on the federal government's side, it's a little bit disappointing that we have an administration in the past that says we want you to have legalization marijuana, but by the way, it's still against the federal law.

That needs to be changed, we need to have opportunities to do the research and then discover what that gives us as far as direction and then see if we want to implement some kind of medicinal use for marijuana. I'm not to the recreational part, again I've talked with Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado, he's told us all to be very careful and cautious about this. It's not all upside with recreational use of marijuana, at least in their opinion in Colorado. So, I think we're taking a very measured approach and I think we'll let the science dictate what the direction we should continue to follow.

LEE DAVIDSON, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Governor, the Utah Transit Authorities had a rough couple of weeks. One of its former board members was indicted, others are under investigation. Is it time to look at changing the governance of that board, perhaps electing it or having only elected officials serve?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: I don't think so right now. Again, people think the governor has more influence on the UTA because it says Utah Transit Authority, but I have one appointment, that appointment now is Greg Bell, I appointed David Burton before.

What I appreciate is the fact that after the audit was done under David Burton's leadership from the board, they implemented the recommendations of the audit. So we've got history, past history, pre-2009, and the issues there are legitimate and real and who knows what's going to happen as we have investigation and potential prosecution, I know there has been some indictments brought down. But what I do look at is what's happening now and with the audit and the implementation of the recommendations, I think that the UTA is now in a good place, it's a special service district created by the people, it's really run by people that have been elected in their appointments, and I think the openness and transparency that we wanted to see is now there and corrections have been made.

So, I think as we look at it today, I think it's in a good place. Look at the history, there's been some problems and those have been corrected, so I don't think it's time to have a change of governance and at least my appointee, Greg Bell, thinks that they're doing some really good things now and are in a good place, so I follow his recommendation and his lead.

BOB BERNICK, UTAHPOLICY.COM: You're on your second lieutenant governor, do you think that maybe the current lieutenant governor may leave and run for this third district?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: You know, what irritates me, Bob, is that in all this speculation about who's going to run for Jason Chaffetz's seat, nobody mentions my name. What's the deal? Well I'm going to think about it. I think that Spencer Cox is doing a great job as Lieutenant Governor and he's an outstanding talent, he comes from rural Utah, he's a business person, he's an attorney, not that that's a bad thing, and really has a wealth of experience in local government, he's worked his way up, bottom up, and he's doing it the right way, he's a talent no matter what he would decide to run for, whether it's Senate, whether it's in fact Congress, or whether he wants to run for governor some future time. So he hasn't talked to me about it, but I just know he's a very very capable and talented individual that can serve in many different capacities, that's how good he is.

BEN WINSLOW, FOX-13: On that note, are you seeking reelection in 2020?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Am I seeking reelection in 2020?

REPORTER: Yeah.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Well it's a little early to make that decision, we've kind of laid it out and again, who knows, I may run for Congress. I'm going to consult with Senator Hatch and see what he recommends me to do. So we're doing good things, the state's in a good place, and I'm pleased with our success and what we're doing and I'm grateful and humble about being Utah, being the leader in this country today.

GLEN MILLS, ABC4: Governor, what are your thoughts on Judge Low out of Utah County referring to a convicted rapist as a good man and getting emotional during the sentencing phase?

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Again, I know mostly what I've read in the paper and saw in the media, I was not in the courtroom, I understand that the decision was over two hours long so taking a little 20-second snippet probably doesn't tell the whole story. That being said, judges have a responsibility to make sure that there's consideration and compassion for a victim, and judicial demeanor requires that to take place and so again, the more important thing is he got the decision, well I shouldn't say the more thing, an important thing to recognize is he got the decision right, life imprisonment, and so that's important.

If there's a concern, there's a judicial review commission, if you think the judge didn't do things properly, you can make a complaint, that will be reviewed, they can sanction, they can reprimand, and I expect that that process is there for a purpose and we'll see what happens.

ERIK NEILSEN, KUED: Governor, thank you very much, we're out of time.

GOVERNOR HERBERT: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This has been the Governor's Monthly News Conference. An archive of transcripts, video, and audio is available online. Please visit kued.org. Thanks for joining us.

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