Shutdown Prevention Plan

Disagreements can lead to improvements. This morning, as I walked in Zion National Park with constituents to talk about ways we can improve our federal government, we came up with a good idea for the future. We’re calling it a Shutdown Prevention Plan or a Shutdown 72-hour Kit.

The federal government—and that includes both political parties—increasingly regards citizens as the enemy. It spies on us. It takes actions against us based solely on our political ideology. And, as we now see, it picks shutdown targets intended to cause maximum harm to us. How might we learn from this current situation, to turn the tide?

The Administration and Congress Creatures and of all stripes want to distance themselves from Shutdown 2013 by pointing at someone else. (They’re really good at that!). Here’s how they can do that political dance, while doing something meaningful. They need to pass a Shutdown Prevention Plan that mandates in the event of a future federal shutdown that (1) the first spending cuts are salaries of Congress and the Administration and (2) that—pursuant to mutually-agreed upon plans—States can run specified programs that otherwise would be shutdown.

The rationale: on Point 1, Congress and the Administration cause the shutdowns, and they are the ones who can end the shutdowns. Rather than point the pain elsewhere (I would argue that they point it elsewhere in vulgarly political ways intended to make citizens suffer as much as possible), they should share in the pain and be the first to feel the pain.

On Point 2, people view Government (with a Big G) as a whole. They don’t really segregate the functions of federal, state, and local sovereigns. They just expect Government to work. If the feds can’t run things, the States should be allowed to step in on a reimbursement basis. States typically are much better than the feds at managing their budget. Thus, States could set aside rainy-day funds to pay for things like National Park operations, if the feds can’t.

To prepare for shutdowns, the feds and states should be authorized to prepare plans. Along with being good management tools, the plans could provide good accountability/transparency measures. For example, the National Park Service and the State of Utah should have plans in place for the State to immediately take over operation of the parks in the event of a shutdown. As part of that plan, the federal government would need to annually report the daily operating costs of each park, so that the State can make sure it has adequate money set aside to assume operations.

I call on Congress to pass such legislation. (I hope Rob Bishop will do it, given his committee assignments and his skills.). I will open a bill to take care of the Utah side of the equation. This seems like responsible governance to me and the constituents I met with this morning.

And, by the way, shutdowns can be part of Congress and the Administration working things out. I’m not saying they shouldn’t ever happen, just that they shouldn’t be left high and dry while they enjoy watching the people suffer.

Any thoughts to improve on this plan?

Our discussion

  1. Connor Boyack said

    Idea: Utah establishes a tax escrow account for federal taxes owed. It’s dormant at all times but is activated whenever a shutdown occurs, such that federal taxes collected and owed by the state to be sent to the federal government are instead deposited in the escrow account. Authority is then given to utilize those funds for defunded federal programs specific to the state during the shutdown (parks, WIC, etc.), with remaining funds being transferred to DC when the shutdown concludes and operations (and funding) resume.

  2. Sam said

    Steve – I’m not a fan of yours, by any means, but this is a very rational idea. Thanks.

  3. Brandon Phelps said

    Love the idea. What can “We the People” do to help you get it done?

  4. Ronald D. Hunt said

    Its a good idea, however I am not sure its feasible. The 10 days Utah funded cost, 1.6 Million dollars, Even with a rainy day fund the term that Utah can afford to last in a shutdown just isn’t very long.

    While short term periods (1-15 days give or take) would be possible, a HUGE chunk of Utah’s economy is based in Federal employees and Federal contractors, meaning shutdowns longer then that would heavily eat into Utah’s tax revenues rendering any sized of rainy day fund moot. And even worse should Social security checks be delayed.

    I wonder how long a shutdown could be sustained before road projects using Federal dollars would be delayed, Or at what point rural telco’s would squeal from the lose of FUSF subsidies. And I suppose farm subsides are mostly(though not entirely) safe as they are mostly via the tax code, tho I suppose a shutdown in January could delay tax returns, And I wonder if the Fed could use delayed tax returns to fund the government obligations through a protracted debt limit fight.

    I also wonder about the virtue of keeping the parks open for the tourist industry, while ignoring the wider problems of a shutdown.

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