Panic In Committee As Dems Call GOP’s Anti-Federal Bluff

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A funny thing happened on the way to the appropriations committee…

Late yesterday, the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee met to finalize it budget, and the third item on the agenda was the approval of federal funds to the tune of $71 million.

Before the committee outlined the programs they would fund with the federal dollars, Representative Mike Noel (R – Kanab) and Senator Margaret Dayton (R – Orem) decided to send out some red meat.

“I just wanted everybody to be aware that the $71 million we are depending on the federal government to fund us with may not exist in the future.” Noel said prior to the vote. Dayton added, “that is probably $71 million that [the federal government] probably took from us in the first place, or less, or more, who knows? Probably more, and are returning it with their strings. It really is our money, the question that we really have to resolve is how many of their strings to we have to accept to do with our own money that shouldn’t have left here in the first place.” A motion was then made to reject the federal money, which was expected to fail as there was no way the committee could pay for all the projects they had just added to the budget without the funds.

Sensing an opportunity to make a big statement, and hold the Republicans to their rhetoric, the three Democrats on the committee – Senator Jim Dabakis (Salt Lake City), Representative Susan Duckworth (Magna) and Representative Larry Wiley (West Valley) – shocked everyone by casting the deciding votes to reject the federal funds.

Due to rules set fourth in the appropriations committee, which is made up of both House and Senate members, at least half of the house or senate members have to agree with the adoption of such fees, and a majority of the members of the other chamber must motion to adopt. With the surprise vote of the Democrats, four of the six senators voted no, as did five of the nine representatives… causing the committee to reject federal funds for the 2013-14 fiscal year as it relates to natural resources.

This sent the committee into a tailspin as the unprecedented action prompted questions such as, “What does that mean?” from Representative Roger Barrus (R – Centerville). Ivan Djambov, Fiscal Analyst for the legislature, said, “This has never happened before…if you vote that they do not accept the new grants for 2014…I think that [state agencies] won’t be able to use the [federal grants].” Djambov then reminded the legislators that they would most likely not be able to fund the various projects set as priorities for the committee. Barrus, after hearing this information, asked why lawmakers would vote the way they did.

Senator Kevin Van Tassell (R – Vernal) quickly reminded the committee that “we just shut down DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), we have probably shut down most of our conservation programs, most of our firefighters. I guess if that is what we want to do, as long as we know that is what we are doing.”

Ultimately, Representative Duckworth, Representative Mike McKell (R – Spanish Fork) and Senator Ralph Okerlund (R – Monroe) changed their votes before the vote closed, and the committee accepted the federal funds – allowing lawmakers to properly fund the projects further down on the agenda.

“We decided to give Republicans exactly what they wanted – an opportunity to reject federal funds,” Dabakis said after the meeting. “Of course, once we did, the place fell into anarchy.”

**UPDATE** To listen to the committee hearing, click here and listen to the first 20 minutes.

24 comments for “Panic In Committee As Dems Call GOP’s Anti-Federal Bluff

  1. Zach Robinson
    February 27, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Well played. The R’s hate the federal government until its time to cash their checks.

    • Marvin Pride
      February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      You are missing the point. It is our money. If we didn’t give it to them in the first place, we wouldn’t have to play these games to get a portion of it back.

      • Eric Ethington
        February 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        Marvin, one point you may want to consider is that Utah does not just get back the taxes we pay in, but much more. Most western states, including Utah, get much more money from the federal government than we pay in because we have such smaller populations compared to our size than states like California or New York which have broader tax bases.

  2. L Louis Lancaster
    February 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

    “Dayton added, ”that is probably $71 million that [the federal government] probably took from us in the first place, or less, or more, who knows? Probably more, and are returning it with their strings. It really is our money, the question that we really have to resolve is how many of their strings to we have to accept to do with our own money that shouldn’t have left here in the first place.”

    Really Mz Dayton?? the Fed probably took that $71M in the 1st place? It really is UT’s money?? The fact that UT takes more from the feds than it sends to the feds doesn’t resonate with you I guess. Your statement raises questions regarding your qualifications into question.

    It is too bad that the minority party in UT’s Senate doesn’t have the ability to obstruct legislation like the Republicans in the US Senate can.

    • Susan Booth
      February 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Brilliantly stated! Apparently, some people are either opposed to or in denial of the facts, as Ms Dayton demonstrated by her statement.

    • Steve Harris
      February 27, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Doesn’t anyone hear, understand and comprehend the meaning of the words, Hypocrisy, and deceivers. Here in hart of good old run Republican headquarters of the nation, either they don’t get it or they are just down and outright stupid. Maybe the comedians Smother brother from the seventies best put it; “They are to dumb to be stupid,” and then the one brother didn’t know how to take the insult, by then, following up with his own comment by saying; “I am not”. I believe this says it all.

    • Richard
      March 1, 2013 at 8:36 am

      L. Lewis – of course the Feds send back more money than they take, that’s why we have a 16 trillion plus debt. They do that with every state. Every state gets more back than they give. It still holds that if we didn’t send it to them as seed money to print more money to begin with, every state would be better off. It seems both the Republicans and the Democrats are just playing politics. So what’s new?

      • John
        March 1, 2013 at 10:10 am

        You are factually incorrect.

      • Scott
        March 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

        Richard, take a look at

        http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union

        for details on the “taxes vs getting fed money” on a state-by-state basis.

        • March 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

          Sadly no where on that site does it state what was “federal spending”. Does that include money going into HAFB and IRS? My guess is more than likely it does. So tell me, does Utah have any control over how, how much, and when money is spent on these? How about the National Parks? Are those Utah’s to pay for? If the land isn’t controlled by Utah should we front the bill?
          It is a poor argument by anyone to say those numbers are representative of what is actually going on.
          What is even more sad though, is that the politicians in charge don’t know the numbers. Should not our politicians know *almost exactly how much Utahns are paying out in Federal taxes? It should therefore be really easy for them to determine what the ratio is of what we pay and what we receive.

  3. patt reid
    February 27, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Further proof that the GOP is not there to govern, just to posture. Yeah, and the money’s not bad either.

  4. Kevin
    February 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    What a great story. These Dems should be proud of themselves for forcing a foot in a mouth that shouldn’t have opened. Well done.

    • Richard
      March 1, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Kevn – you realize you are supporting politics as usual? Gotcha from either side is not good governance.

      • Katie Landis
        March 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

        However, it is sometimes necessary. It proved a point and brought the Republicans back to earth. There are always exceptions to the rules when it comes to politics and I think this can be classified as one.

  5. Toby Dillon
    February 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

    We most often complain when we get exactly what we asked for. In this case, the GOP bobbleheads suddenly found that they got it–and what a mistake that was.

    As with many states, Utah brings in more federal funding than we send in. Our per capita contribution to federal spending is a net -$792, meaning that if we seceded from the union, our taxes would go up 792 per person per year just to maintain what we already have (and that says nothing about the economic impact of kicking out the military). In other words, our federal taxes are an investment that pays a yearly return of nearly 20% back to the state. Does your 401(k) give you such a secure and profitable return? Mine doesn’t, and I’m aggressively allocated, meaning there’s a chance I might lose as much as I get any given week.

    I’m glad that a few of our representatives–especially those most outspoken about matters they know little about–got their hands slapped down. Keeps ‘em humble, which is a virtue missing in today’s Utah GOP.

    • Richard
      March 1, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Toby – faulty logic. Just where do you think the Feds get the extra money? Pixie dust? We are driving our country into the ground and you celebrate gotcha politics.

  6. Christine
    February 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    The numbers above are not included in many if the “take back the federal land” and “stop taking federal money” legislators thinking. From what Rep. Ivory and others have said I wonder if they believe the pledge should say “in the Sovereign States of America” instead of United States of America.

  7. February 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks to Tim Wagner for linking to your article. I used your link in my blog
    Numbers Magic!! continuing institutional patrol NRAE AppSub 2/26/13 http://www.breatheutah.org/air-activist?mode=PostView&bmi=1230301

  8. Dorothy Engelman
    March 1, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Does Rachel Maddow know about this??? Huffington Post?

  9. wayne
    March 3, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Let’s not forget to point out that Utah receives more in Federal Dollars than it pays in. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/11/states-federal-taxes-spending-charts-maps

  10. March 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Let’s also not forget that the federal government owns over 60% of Utah’s land.

  11. Katherine
    March 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    This is not ‘gotcha’ politics. Gotcha is when someone purposely plans and lures someone into making a statement or gaffe that is then turned against them. These folks opened their own mouth to insert the foot…no one had to lead them there. It is occasions like this when I can be proud of reps from my home state. Those moments don’t happen often.

  12. Pedro Vazquez
    March 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    When I read that someone is complaining about how many people are becoming old and depend on Social Security and public Health programs, I wonder if the solution for this is some kind of “mass extinction”. The notion that these people are swallowing “our money” is quite exagerated and dehumanizing. If you earn a salary and pay your taxes, no one is taking from you more than what is expected. This was a government, paraphrasing Lincoln, “of the people, by the people, for the people”. It now seems that our country is becoming a huge business, insensitive for the needs of the people.

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