A modest proposal to the federal government: Let Utah do it

By Michael G. Waddoups and David Clark
Friday, February 19, 2010

We propose a modest experiment. As Utah state leaders, we are greatly concerned about the unprecedented expansion of the federal government over many years, and the enormous debt levels being left to our children and grandchildren.

We believe the federal government is attempting to do far more than it has the capacity to execute well. Congress has inserted itself into every aspect of our lives with laws and regulations that don't fit the widely divergent nature of the states and localities. The job descriptions assumed by President Obama and Congress have grown far larger than their ability to deliver.

We'd like to relieve some of their burden.

We don't believe that 535 members of Congress and the president can educate our children, provide health care, pave our roads and protect our environment as well as the nation's 8,000 state legislators and tens of thousands of local officials.

So please, let us help. Let's select a few programs -- say, education, transportation and Medicaid -- that are managed mostly by Utah's government, but with significant federal dollars and a plethora of onerous federal interventions and regulations.

Let Utah take over these programs entirely. But let us keep in our state the portion of federal taxes Utah residents pay for these programs. The amount would not be difficult to determine. Rather than send this money through the federal bureaucracy, we would retain it and would take full responsibility for education, transportation and Medicaid -- minus all federal oversight and regulation.

We recognize that, financially, this is not the best deal for Utah. We would not receive our share of debt revenue used in these programs, and Utah taxpayers would continue to pay our share of the interest on the national debt used for these programs in other states.

Even so, we believe we can operate these programs more efficiently and productively without federal strings and mandates.

Utah is a small state, and this experiment in the interest of balanced federalism would have little impact on the federal budget, on other programs or on other states.

If it works, perhaps other states would choose to opt out of federal programs and retain the federal tax dollars paying for them. This could eventually relieve Washington of massive obligations while also restoring a better balance in the federal system.

We suggest this experiment not from a partisan or ideological perspective but because this approach is the best governance model for the 21st century.

Thanks to enormous advances in networking and communications, the Founders' vision of balanced federalism can operate better than ever. We support a forward-looking, high-tech, progressive approach to governance that fosters innovation and empowerment.

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