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Mark Wetzel, KSL TV

Herbert predicts tax reform in 2018; is still looking at GOP health plan

By Michelle L. Price, Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 7, 2017 at 11:03 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday he is encouraged that legislators are scrutinizing the state's tax policies and says a Republican plan to replace President Barack Obama's health care law is a starting point.

Herbert made the comments to reporters as legislators wrap up their final days of their 2017 session.

Here are some highlights from the governor's remarks:

Health care law

The governor said it's "a little premature for" for him to comment on any specifics of the health care proposal because it had not been out for 24 hours yet."We have our own people here who are going to analyze it. They're in the process of doing that now," Herbert said, adding that those staffers would then report to him on how it would affect Utah. He said the Affordable Care Act took months, and the GOP plan to replace it will likely take some time.The Republican governor acknowledged that some Republicans and some Democrats don't like the proposal, saying: "This is probably just a starting point on the discussion."

Taxes

The governor says he appreciates that legislators are taking a look at reforming taxes, something he called for in his State of the State address. Legislators were considering this year a plan to raise the sales tax on food but lower the sales tax rate. They walked away from that plan Tuesday night after legislators said they realized it wouldn't stabilize Utah's revenue from sales taxes as they expected. Speaker Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said legislators will instead take a deep dive into Utah's tax policies this summer during their offseason. Herbert said he thinks by this time next year, legislators will have passed comprehensive tax reform.

Budget

Herbert said he's encouraged that lawmakers are sending about $230 million in new money to education this year. Legislators are finalizing a budget that sets aside $68 million for growing school enrollment and $116 million more for local school boards, which can be used to help praise teacher pay. Those amounts match a request Herbert made in his budget proposal issued in December.

Liquor

In his state of the state address this year, Herbert offered support for a proposal to reform Utah's liquor laws and allow restaurants to start preparing alcoholic drinks in view of customers rather than behind barriers. The proposal, awaiting final approval in the Senate, contains trade-offs that include a higher price on liquor and restaurants setting up child-free buffer zones. The governor said Tuesday that the proposal is something everyone can support.

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Michelle L. Price

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