This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Salt Lake Tribune had two significant stories on its front page last week that demonstrate the dysfunction of Utah's political system and show government deficiencies that occur when leaders worry more about a few thousand delegates than the public welfare.
The first story's headline screamed: "Herbert was warned that Planned Parenthood cuts were 'bad idea.'"
It referred to Gov. Gary Herbert's knee-jerk reaction in August to the heavily edited and much discredited video distributed by an anti-abortion group that seemed to indicate Planned Parenthood sold aborted fetal tissue for to medical research institutions for profit.
That was proven false. But no matter. It was seized upon by right-wing interests who have attempted different tactics for years to get around the more than 40-yer-old Supreme Court decision making abortions legal in the United States.
So Herbert reacted to the video and the right-wing frenzy by announcing he would order state agencies to stop funneling federal funds to Planned Parenthood of Utah, which amounts to about $200,000 a year for programs ranging from sex education to STD testing to cancer screenings.
Herbert said at the time that those vital programs could be picked up by other programs and state agencies. Now, it turns out he was warned by state health officials that they would not have the resources to duplicate the services of Planned Parenthood, particularly the free services given to low income women and families that qualify.
He ignored those warnings and made the announcement on the eve of the State Republican Convention. The announcement also came after Jonathan Johnson, who is challenging Herbert for the Republican nomination for governor next year and has contended Herbert is not conservative enough, made strong statements against Planned Parenthood.
So did Herbert try and one-up his challenger from the right to win over state delegates at the expense of thousands of needy Utahns? It looks that way from here.
The second headline said, "Herbert: Medicaid expansion rests with legislators."
That story came after the Republican-dominated Utah House killed the latest attempted compromise to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of needy Utahns. The proposal was killed in a closed-door caucus meeting of House Republicans.
That was after the House rejected Herbert's proposed Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds that would flow to Utah for the expansion.
To Herbert's credit, he did try to get something done in the face of a conservative Legislature hostile to the idea.
But after Johnson made numerous public statements criticizing the Medicaid expansion ideas, Herbert began making it known in legislative leadership circles that he wanted the Legislature to resolve the issue so he could wash his hands of it.
The speculation then, which seemed to be proven by his announcement last week, was that he didn't want to defend his attempts to expand federal welfare programs against a libertarian opponent who would appeal to the right-wing delegate crowd that Herbert was too liberal.
But real leadership is making the hard choices despite taking political hits.
When then Democratic Gov. Scott Matheson determined the state needed a long-delayed increase in taxes to deal with the burgeoning education system, he bypassed a recalcitrant Republican-dominated Legislature loathe to any type of a tax increase and took his case directly to the people, launching a whirlwind trip around the state and holding more than a dozen town hall meetings over four days.
He generated such support from the public, the Legislature ended up giving him most of what in he asked in tax increases.
A few years later, when then Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter, determined more tax increases were needed, mostly for education, he turned to the small contingent of Democrats in the Legislature to garner enough votes for his tax hike package. It almost cost him his political career. But he was re-elected the next year when his Democratic opponent, Ted Wilson, had to admit he would have done the same thing as Bangerter because it was good policy.
That kind of leadership in the wake of political heat seems to have been lost.