SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's top two lawmakers have issued a challenge to the federal government: give back the taxes Utahns pay for some government programs so the state can run them.
The offer from Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, was detailed in an op-ed piece published Friday in the Washington Post.
Neither Waddoups nor Clark are expecting a response, especially since both Congress and the White House are controlled by Democrats and Utah is among the most Republican of states.
"Maybe they will say, 'Let's give it a try.' I don't know," Waddoups said. "There are certainly those back there who think they have all the answers."
Clark was even less optimistic when asked if the piece titled,piece, titled "A modest proposal to the federal government: Let Utah do it," would improve the relationship between Washington and the states.
"Not at all," Clark said, noting Utah's complaints about the federal government trampling states' rights have been ignored for years.
The 2010 Legislature is giving it another go, with more than a dozen resolutions and bills aimed at asserting Utah's right to govern itself on a wide range of issuesissues, including the registration of firearms made in the state.
The proposal from Waddoups and Clark is much more limited. They suggest turning Utah into a laboratory to study whether states can better manage the federal dollars that go into programs like education, transportation and Medicaid.
Those are already "managed mostly by Utah's government, but with significant federal dollars and plethora of onerous federal interventions and regulations," the leaders wrote.
In exchange for taking those programs over entirely, the state would want to keep the portion of federal taxes that Utahns pay for them.
They acknowledge it's not the best deal financially for the state. Waddoups said Utahns would end up getting back about 70 cents on the dollar in taxes paid toward those federal programs.
Still, the leaders contend, Utah can operate these programs more efficiently and productively without federal strings and mandates, leading the way for the rest of the country.
As a specific example of how the system would work, Waddoups said the free school lunch program now paid for by the federal government would be taken over by parents and other volunteers.
"Under federal regulations, it becomes basically a federal entitlement program," Waddoups said, often giving meals to children who don't really need the handout "for the convenience of their parents".parents."
But don't think this means Utah leaders don't want federal dollars for programs that create jobs in the state, such as developing technology to return the U.S. to the moon.
"If it's a Utah job and it's not furthering the federal mission of leadership in the world, I would say we should cut it," Waddoups said. "But the moon project, I think that's a program that merits continuation."
Clark said he and Waddoups began thinking about the op-ed piece several months ago. FormerLaVarr Webb, former Deseret News managing editor, now a lobbyist and political consultant, LaVarr Webb helped them write it.
Clark said he and Waddoups did not ask Gov. Gary Herbert to sign on to the offer. "We thought it appropriate to keep this within the legislative branch," Clark said.
The offer was supported by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.
"At a time when so many politicians are trying to concentrate money, power,power and influence in Washington, it is refreshing to see two of Utah's political leaders offer such a bold and innovative solution," he said, promising to introduce legislation to pursue their proposal.
You can read the op-ed at washingtonpost.com