SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said he hopes to help Americans understand the meaning of federalism his when he becomes chairman of the National Governors Association this summer.
Herbert left Thursday for Washington, D.C., where he'll attend the association's winter meeting. The four-day meeting that begins Friday is one of Herbert's last as vice chairman of the governor's group.
Governors from around the county will consider an initiative from the outgoing chairman, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, intended to make state government work in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
"I think regulation reform, for the economy’s sake, is something every state ought to be engaged with and certainly encouraging Washington, D.C.," to do, Herbert said. "It's not just taxes that get in the way of the economy. It's all the red tape."
He said Hickenlooper, a Democrat, understands that as a business owner.
When Herbert takes over as chairman at the association's summer meeting in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in July, he plans to take on the task of promoting states rights.
"I sometimes wonder if we have too many initiatives rather that just concentrating on the basics," the governor said. "Federalism ought to be something we ought to be emphasizing more."
Herbert said he is still working on the details, but "clearly the heart and soul of my efforts is going to be on federalism."
That includes educating the public on what the term means.
"Most people don’t even know what the definition of federalism is. If you did a survey, you’ll find most people think it has to do with the federal government as opposed to states rights issues," the governor said.
Even though the Founding Fathers called for the states to stay in control despite a centralized government, Herbert said an analysis by his budget office found the federal budget is more than twice the spending by all states combined.
"Somewhere along the line this thing got turned upside down," the governor said. "We need to right-size it, get it back to the way our Founding Fathers" envisioned, by given states more control over taxes sent to Washington.
"We'll make good decisions," Herbert said. "It just costs efficiencies and money to send (tax dollars) to a bloated Washington that nobody, nobody believes is running efficiently."
When the governor was named vice chairman in 2014, he pledged then to focus on finding a better balance between the states and the federal government. He said then both Republicans and Democratic governors see too much federal overreach.
While he is in the nation's capital, Herbert plans to meet with members of the Obama administration along with other Western governors on issues including public lands, forest management and endangered species.
There are no meetings planned in Washington dealing with Herbert's Healthy Utah alternative to Medicaid expansion. The governor spent much of the past year negotiating for federal waivers from the Obama administration.
The governor said throughout the negotiations, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has been "as cooperative as the president will allow her to be. I think we’re about there."
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