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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Legislature review: Air, alcohol and the Affordable Care Act

Published: Sunday, Feb. 9 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Pignanelli: Regardless of differences between Gov. Gary Herbert and Speaker Lockhart on the issue, there is a perception that GOP delegates do not favor expansion. Thus, I predict Medicaid is enhanced in the summer after the caucuses and party conventions have concluded.

Webb: The really hard decision is whether to accept hundreds of millions of federal dollars for a Utah version of Medicaid expansion, and over the long-term commit more state tax dollars to Medicaid, so tens of thousands more low-income people can obtain medical services.

On the question of accepting federal funds, Gov. Herbert rightly notes that we’re all paying the taxes, whether to state government or the federal government. So why not get our fair share back from federal coffers? Refusing the funds won’t reduce federal borrowing and will mean many low-income Utahns go without medical services.

On the other hand, is it wise to expand a program that is already in serious long-term financial trouble, considering future liabilities?

The real long-term solution is restoration of balanced federalism so a limited amount of tax dollars goes to the federal government for limited purposes, and the bulk of tax revenue stays in the states. Then solutions for crucial societal challenges like health care, education and poverty could be crafted at the state level.

Unfortunately, we’re a million miles from balanced federalism, and drifting further away every minute. So the practical solution is to obtain waivers and develop the most responsible Utah expansion program possible, and take back at least some of the tax dollars we’re sending to the federal government.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email:lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email:frankp@xmission.com.

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