Gov. Gary Herbert pushes to keep Utah off 'federal crack'

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 10:57 p.m. MST

Gary Herbert

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — While some states rely heavily on federal funding to help keep their economies afloat, Utah is one that relies more on its own resourcefulness, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report for Fiscal Year 2010 showed that, unlike many state economies that are increasingly reliant on federal government spending, Utah depends less per capita on federal dollars, according to Herbert's office.

The report showed that only Minnesota and Nevada received less per capita than the Beehive State — just over $8,000 per resident. By comparison, Alaska, Virginia and Maryland all received in excess of $16,000 per resident.

The census report indicated that roughly one-third of Virginia’s economy relied upon the federal government, while about one-third of Connecticut and Maryland’s federal funding went to health and human services, and approximately one-third of federal funds in Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia was spent on defense.

"It's very easy to get addicted to the federal crack," Herbert said, speaking about becoming too reliant on federal dollars to fund state programs.

"It just keeps coming and just makes me feel good and I like more, more, more," he said, referring to some states' appetite for federal financial resources.

"We are more self-reliant. We are more stand-alone capable," the governor said. "We are less reliant than other states and that's good for us."

States have an obligation to not be "hat in hand" asking for the federal government to bail them out when they are fiscally irresponsible, he explained. Herbert said the report validated what Utah’s leaders understand in practice — that relying on the federal dole is an unsound way to restore economic prosperity.

“Fiscal prudence, including state independence from federal dollars which always come with strings attached, is the most sure foundation for a recovering economy,” he said.

Herbert added, "It is no accident that Utah is best poised to lead the nation out of the recession."

Part of being fiscally responsible is to live within your means, and unfortunately, America is not doing so because of excess spending in Washington D.C., Herbert remarked.

Utah and all states are partners with the federal government. Herbert said that while he is "not anti-government," the role that it plays should be smaller rather than larger.

Calling the federal government "bloated and inefficient," he also said it was living beyond its means and running up huge debt. Because states are typically much smaller, they are often able to operate in a more streamline fashion, Herbert said.

Citing Utah as a prime example, he said states are better able to manage locally based programs and serve their citizens more effectively.

"We have a AAA bond rating, our unemployment rate is nearly two points lower than the nation’s unemployment rate, our economy is growing at two and a half times the national average, we don’t spend more than we have and we save for a rainy day," the governor said.

"We make the tough decisions. Utah’s people understand that, Utah’s leaders understand that, and now the data prove it.” 

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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