Utah Gov. Herbert suggests returning power to states would help ease shutdown pain

More than two dozen federal employees and supporters demonstrate at the Sacramento International Airport calling for President Donald Trump and Washington lawmakers to end then partial government shutdown, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Decrying the federal government shutdown as a failure of leadership, Gov. Gary Herbert says the most alarming thing about it is that shutdowns seem to be becoming a sort of business-as-usual tactic in Washington.

His solution — at least in the long run — is shifting power from the federal government to states.

“I don’t presume to suggest a way out of the current gridlock, but the increasing frequency of federal shutdowns — this is the third one in the past year — should tell us that the problem is deeper than a disagreement over immigration or health care or the debt ceiling,” Herbert, a Republican, wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in Politico. “If we accept that federal shutdowns are likely to continue to occur, then we should consider long-term strategies to mitigate their scope and severity — including the return to a robust federalism that leaves more policymaking power to the states.”

In the short term, the governor says he’s aggravated over the “disheartening failure of federal leaders to accomplish their most basic responsibility to pay their obligations.” He adds that this tactical game of chicken reflects a “special kind of dysfunction that simply doesn’t happen at the state level.”

It also ends up costing states — and their taxpayers — millions of dollars because they have to step in with money to keep national parks open and staffed and to backstop funding for federal social programs.

Herbert, a lifelong Republican, doesn’t ascribe blame to one party or one government branch over the other (although polls show most Americans blame President Donald Trump). He believes that a movement to return power to states should be a bipartisan goal, arguing that while states certainly make their share of mistakes, they are quicker to correct course when they do because they are closer and more responsive to constituents.

“We’ll all be better off when we leave more to the states — those governments within our system that balance their budgets and keep their lights on, even when Washington doesn’t,” the governor wrote.