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Gov. Gary Herbert calls government shutdown a 'sorry state of affairs,' but says Utah will be fine

FILE - Gov. Gary Herbert reveals his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2020 at Silicon Slopes headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.
FILE - Gov. Gary Herbert reveals his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2020 at Silicon Slopes headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert called the federal government shutdown a "sorry state of affairs," but said Utah will be just fine despite the impasse in Congress.

"We've insulated ourselves in anticipation and in preparation. Probably no state's better prepared than Utah when it comes to this kind of shutdown in Washington, D.C.," the governor said Friday.

Some federal services will shrink with a partial shutdown, but the state will continue to function, he said.

Utah's five national parks will remain open, though with limited services. Although many of the state's ski resorts operate on federal public land, they, too, will stay open.

"Parks should not take measures to keep visitors out of an area unless access presents a serious and imminent threat to human life, safety, or health, or a serious and imminent threat to the condition of a sensitive natural or cultural resource," according to Interior Department guidelines in the event of a shutdown.

But services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities and road maintenance, including snowplowing, campground reservations and backcountry and other permits will cease.

The national parks were closed during the 16-day government shutdown in 2013, but Utah provided $1 million in emergency funding to open up its national parks, monuments and recreation areas. The federal government has yet to reimburse the state.

The state believes it can help keep the national parks open during the holiday season at less than a tenth of that cost, according to a post on its website.

The Bureau of Land Management's Utah office warned on social media Friday that "in the event of a lapse in appropriations, the Bureau of Land Management will be closed. During a shutdown, we will not monitor or update social media or web information. Some areas are accessible, however access may change without notice, and there may be no BLM-provided services."

Utah can weather a short-term partial shutdown and was taking the necessary precautions Friday to ensure services continue, according to Herbert. State agencies that use federal funds have contingency plans in place.

"We have reserves put away," he said.

But a long-term federal government shutdown creates greater challenges and risk for everyone, according to the state.

Herbert expressed disappointment with "dysfunctionality" in Washington.

"We ought to call our congressmen and tell them, 'Hey, fix it. Do better,'" he said.

President Donald Trump told reporters Friday the chances of a partial government shutdown were "very good" after meeting with Senate Republicans at the White House.

The House passed a bill that would keep the government funded through Feb. 8 while also allocating $5.7 billion for the border wall President Donald Trump has demanded.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, voted for the measure as did GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis. Outgoing Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, did not vote.

"A government shutdown is never a desirable option," Bishop said Thursday after the House vote. "Once we answer the questions of border security, we will be free to address the many countless matters facing our nation's immigration policies. This work can only be done with an open and funded government. This vote was a no-brainer."

Following the meeting with Trump on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced on the Senate floor that he supports the House bill and would be proud to vote for it.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, intends to vote for the spending bill, according to his office. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, did not immediately respond to a question about how he plans to vote.

"Securing our nation's borders is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government. Five billion dollars for border security efforts that will save lives is a very reasonable request, and I hope Democrats will end this spending impasse soon," Lee tweeted late Friday as time had expired.

Trump, who previously has said he wants and would take responsibility for a shutdown, said in a tweet Friday that Democrats "now own the shutdown!"

"The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don't want Open Borders and Crime!" Trump tweeted.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the Senate floor that the Senate had unanimously agreed to a spending bill earlier in the week and that Democrats would not support the House bill.

"President Trump, you will not get your wall," Schumer said. "You're not getting your wall today, next week or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House."