For the past few years, Utah’s Republican Legislature has made a lot of noise about the federal government. They complain about expanding Medicare, how much of the state is owned by the feds, how they won’t enforce new federal gun laws. But when it gets right down to taking federal money or not, there appears to be plenty of hot air.
On Tuesday, the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee met to put together the final numbers for the next fiscal budget. Part of that budget – $71 million – would come from federal funds.
Two of the most vocal critics of the federal government are on this committee: Representative Mike Noel-R, Kanab and Senator Margaret Dayton-R, Orem. Noel pointed out to members of the committee that they could be depending on federal money that may not be available in the future. Dayton said the money was probably taken “from us in the first place, or less, or more, who knows? Probably more, and are returning it with their strings. It is really our money.” She went on with a rant about strings tied to money that “shouldn’t have left here in the first place.”
The motion was to reject the federal money. Here’s how a small minority of Utah Democrats make a point.
Senator Jim Dabakis-D, Salt Lake City, Representative Larry Wiley-D, West Valley City, and Representative Susan Duckworth-D, Magna voted to reject the federal money. That was not the republican plan. At least half of the members from each legislative house have to agree, and they were planning on the usual fight from the Democrats in order to let them stay on their anti-federal high horse and still get the money. The Democrats didn’t play their game.
Rejecting the money would have meant huge cuts in natural resources funding. Priorities would need to change, programs would have to be cut, and as Senator Kevin Van Tassell-R, Vernal said, “I guess if that is what we want to do, as long as we know that is what we are doing.”
In the end Duckworth, Representative Mike McKell-R, Spanish Fork, and Senator Ralph Okerland-R, Monroe switched and voted to accept the federal funds and it passed the committee. Dabakis later said they just wanted to give the Republicans what they wanted and “of course, once we did, the place fell into anarchy.”
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Source: Utah Legislature, Utah Political Capitol