SALT LAKE CITY — Saying government shutdowns "aggravate" him, Gov. Gary Herbert suggested Thursday that returning power to the states could mitigate them in the future.
"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," the Republican governor wrote in an op-ed for 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."
Herbert wrote that the "seemingly perennial game of chicken between federal leaders" costs states like Utah millions of dollars because they end up footing the bill to keep national parks open and serve as backstops for federal social programs.
"Shutdowns also reveal a disheartening failure of federal leaders to accomplish their most basic responsibility to pay their obligations. They represent a special kind of dysfunction that simply doesn’t happen at the state level," he wrote.
Herbert said he doesn't consider his solution partisan.
A year ago, in meeting with other governors and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Herbert said he emphasized the need to return power to states, where government is more innovative and responsive. Pelosi, he said, agreed, using the phrase "laboratories of democracy" to describe states.
"Usually, I’m the one reciting that phrase to federal officials, so I was happy to experience the reverse," Herbert wrote.
Herbert said he's not suggesting states take the lead in immigration or defense policy, "but why do we presume the federal government should take the lead on health care, education, welfare and a host of other policies?"
The governor said he hopes federal leaders find a way to compromise and end the shutdown.
"But I also hope that we come away from this latest experience with the understanding that our federal government simply does too much," Herbert wrote. "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."