In a speech to the Utah House of Representatives, Speaker Becky Lockhart called on legislators to exercise restraint in accepting federal funds, in creating new laws and regulations and in seeking out problems where they don’t exist.
She was sharply critical of the Congress of the United States which she described as 535 people who have made gridlock a profession.
Lockhart said that both federal action and inaction has a direct and immediate impact on Utah and on the success the state has in managing its own budget.
“So who do we want managing our affairs in Utah,” Lockhart asked, “a federal government trillions of dollars in debt and unable to do anything as basic as passing a budget, let alone a balanced budget, or a responsive state level representation that balances the budget and regularly answers to the people.”
The Speaker told members of the House that Utah must have a plan to make it less reliant on federal money because Congress is an unreliable provider and Utah cannot continue to count on Washington for 30% ($4 billion) of its budget.
She warned of the perils of entering into a partnership with the federal government and said that the state cannot negotiate with the federal government on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since “The federal government’s definition of a partnership is when they command and we obey - usually while they are picking our pockets.”
“We in this room are not free from sin” when it comes to accepting cheap and easy money that will lead us to a “fiscal ship wreck,” Lockhart told her fellow House members and she called on them to implement a plan that makes Utah less reliant on federal revenue.
Lockhart told House members that if more money is required for high priority programs then other lower priority programs may have to be eliminated. She challenged Representatives to become problem solvers and to think outside of the money box since Utahn’s are already saddled with 20th highest tax burden in the country.
Turning her attention to other areas, she asked legislators to exercise restraint in the legislation they are proposing and to ask themselves if all of their bills are really necessary.
She warned legislators to carefully read bills proposed by outside influences since “A little restraint today means a lot less trouble down the road,” and she called on her colleagues to stop looking for problems where none exist.
“Do we really need to license more so-called professions to artificially limit commerce,” she asked. And is it really necessary to file over 1,000 bills each year, pass 400 new laws and add 200 pages to the Utah Code?
Lockhart also said that Governor Gary Herbert should exercise more restraint when it comes to signing bills and that he should make greater use of his veto.
She concluded by reminding legislators that they should be tackling the foundational issues that government is supposed to deal with and that the interests of their constituents must always come first.
The speech was praised by advocates of limited government who support reallocating funds from nice-to-have state programs to must-have programs such as education, public health and safety and infrastructure.
House Democrats responded that it does not make sense to give up federal funds since they include taxes that Utah sends to Washington. However, no mention was made of the fact that 40% of every dollar that the federal government sends to Utah is borrowed and that future generations will eventually have to repay that debt.