State Legislators Standing Up For Federalism
The president of the Utah Senate and the speaker of the Utah House of Representatives recently took to the pages of the Washington Post to lay out a “modest proposal.” While their ideas are modest in a historical context, the sad irony is that what they propose is quite radical for the modern era. Simply put, they want the federal government to butt out and let Utah take care of Utah.
The two Utah legislators, Michael G. Waddoups and David Clark, propose to have the state take over completely several programs, such as education and Medicaid, which are currently influenced by both state and federal policy. They argue that the strings which come with federal dollars for these programs are onerous and promote inefficiency. They’d rather those dollars be kept in the state to begin with, instead of first being funneled through federal bureaucracies, only to return with strings that threaten state sovereignty.
I’ve written in the past about the destructive consequences of allowing the federal government to abuse its tax and spending power in order to cajole states into adopting its preferred policies. Such a system wastes money, distances tax payers from their local governments, and undermines the federalist system which has served us so well.
Utah isn’t the only state talking about restoring federalism. Alabama Governor Bob Riley recently signed a resolution reaffirming the long-ignored Tenth Amendment. While not legally binding, the resolution ought to serve notice that the states are not longer rolling over to federal demands. Other states have similar measures at various stages of the legislative process.
It’s about time that state lawmakers stand up and say that they’d rather not take federal dollars at all. They deserve support, because this is not an easy position to take. Too often the states are complicit in the erosion of their own authority as they run hat-in-hand to the federal government for more money. Perhaps now they are realizing that sacrificing long-term governing authority for immediate political expediency is a bad bargain.