I think states have something to offer as we ask for more flexibility and maybe take less money to help them balance their budgets. —Gov. Gary Herbert
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert will meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to tell him that decisions made as the nation heads for the so-called fiscal cliff will have a "dramatic" impact on states.
But he isn't sure whether the president and congressional leaders will listen to anything he and other governors have to say.
"We don't know," Herbert said. "It's never happened before."
Herbert will join several other members of the National Governors Association executive committee — Republicans and Democrats — in meetings with Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Herbert is one of nine members of the executive committee.
Herbert said they will let the executive and legislative branches know that states have something to offer to help resolve the nation's economic problems.
"I think states have something to offer as we ask for more flexibility and maybe take less money to help them balance their budgets," he said in an interview Monday.
Meantime, legislative fiscal analysts told the Executive Appropriations Committee on Monday that Utah would lose $500 million if the country goes over the fiscal cliff. Combining that with the projected additional revenue for next year's state budget would result in a $248 million net loss, said Andrea Wilko, chief economist for the legislative budget office.
"Not be perceived as completely negative" the state would get $15 million in one-time money, she added.
"Yea," replied Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.
Herbert believes Washington makes decisions without seeking thoughts and opinions from governors. "I think that actually hurts them getting good policy," Herbert said, citing the Affordable Care Act as an example.
The governor said he anticipates the discussion with Obama will be more general than specific.
"I think we're not going to get into the weeds on the details, other than the fact they need to know what they do or don't do is going to have a dramatic impact on the states, our own budgets, the economy," he said.
Washington, he said, needs to reduce the debt and balance the budget, and do it in a way that doesn't throw the economy back into a recession.
"I think Utah is a great example of how to do it correctly," Herbert said.
"Sometimes in Washington they tend to kick the can down the road. They've been kicking the can down the road too long and that's put us in a very difficult situation today."
House Republicans on Monday proposed a new 10-year, $2.2 trillion blueprint to Obama that calls for raising the eligibility age for Medicare and lowering cost-of-living hikes for Social Security benefits, a counteroffer to jump-start stalled talks with the "fiscal cliff" just weeks away.
The proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans comes in response to Obama's plan last week to raise taxes by $1.6 trillion over the coming decade but largely exempt Medicare and Social Security from budget cuts.
The GOP plan also proposes to raise $800 billion in higher tax revenue over the decade but it would keep the Bush-era tax cuts — including those for wealthier earners targeted by Obama — in place for now.
Dismissing the idea of raising any tax rates, the Republicans said the new revenue would come from closing loopholes and deductions while lowering rates.
Obama did not respond to questions from reporters on his reaction to the Republican counteroffer or whether he had seen the proposal. He was asked about it during an event in the Oval Office with the Bulgarian prime minister.
The clock is ticking closer to the end-of-year deadline to avert the fiscal cliff, which is a combination of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are the result of prior failures of Congress and Obama to make a budget deal.
"They've got to get some things done," Herbert said, adding he thinks all parties will be able to come together.
Herbert last met with Obama this past February along with other governors. His message then was flexibility.
He said he quoted from Obama's own handouts that some of the best ideas come from states. Medicaid, the governor said, is one of the areas where Utah could do a better job than the federal government.
Contributing: Associated Press
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