SALT LAKE CITY — How much money is the state able and willing to spend to help thousands of Utah's uninsured poor get health coverage?
That's the question Utah lawmakers will be asking next week as they dive into competing proposals to expand Medicaid in the state.
Rather than having more people on Medicaid, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wants to use federal money to help about 90,000 people get private insurance. Herbert, a Republican, has negotiated a tentative deal with the Obama administration for such a plan, but he needs Utah lawmakers to approve.
So far, they've resisted it.
This past week, Herbert continued his sales pitch, telling reporters Thursday that his plan will return more money to Utah than the limited plans some Republicans prefer. Herbert said those pared-down plans are "better than nothing, but it's not a lot better."
Here's a look at how Medicaid and other issues may play out:
A bill containing Herbert's plan finally debuted at the Legislature on Friday, allowing it to move forward for formal votes as early as next week.
Senate Republicans plan to discuss the bill during a closed-door meeting Tuesday. They'll also discuss scaled-back plans from the Republican-controlled House that would cost less and cover fewer people, and a proposal from Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, that would fully expand Medicaid as envisioned under President Barack Obama's health care law.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Senate Republicans should come out of the Tuesday meeting with a good idea of which plan they're willing to back.
In the House, Republican leaders say they're working to negotiate with the governor's office, but they're also pursuing other options.
Taylorsville Republican Rep. Jim Dunnigan said Thursday that the House GOP feels the governor's plan covers more people than necessary.
Utah must find a way to pay for more than $11 billion in road and highway maintenance over the next few decades. Lawmakers are wrestling with raising the state gas tax for the first time 1997 or finding a different way to generate road repair money.
Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, unveiled a bill Friday to hike the gas tax by 10 cents to 34.5 cents per gallon. The bill would also raise the diesel fuel tax by 5 cents, putting it at 29.5 cents per gallon.
"I don't know that the House has much appetite for a gas tax increase," House Speaker Greg Hughes, a Republican, said Friday.
Hughes said raising taxes is politically difficult. Instead, the House is looking at changing the tax from a straight cents-per-gallon rate to some kind of formula or percentage that would adjust with fluctuating gas prices.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
One of three proposals to have the state opt-out of Daylight Saving Time failed to clear its first legislative hurdle this week. The proposal would have had the state remain permanently "sprung forward," on Central Standard Time. Effectively, Utah would be an hour ahead of its eastern neighbor Colorado for more than half the year. On Wednesday, the Senate Government Operations Committee ruled that the proposal needed more study. The measure could be revived but it's unlikely.
A similar bill to put Utah on Central Standard Time is still alive in the House, as is another bill to keep Utah on Mountain Standard Time and aligned with Arizona year-round.
Both bills could be considered next week by House committees more open to the change.