The Summit County Republican Party hosted a preview of the 2019 legislative session Tuesday, featuring State Sen. Ron Winterton and State Representatives Tim Quinn and Logan Wilde. They took questions from a dozen or so members of the public on a variety of topics, including the effects of the federal shutdown on Utahns. KPCW’s Emily Means has more.
Parts of the federal government have been shut down for more than a month, while Congress and President Donald Trump have yet to come to an agreement on the national budget. State Rep. Logan Wilde, a Republican from District 53, mentioned the impact of the shutdown on programs where local and state funding is matched by federal funds. Wilde says, without the federal government sending checks, local municipalities and the state are relying on reserve funds to keep such programs up and running.
“It will not just impact the poor or those that are needy, it will impact everybody," Wilde said. "Jail services was one we were talking about. I think jail services right now, the counties and cities can cover them until about March, and then something has to change because those services that we’re providing to inmates, from mental health, to wellness, dental—they’re going to start to feel a pinch because your local community can only provide so much.”
At the same time, State Rep. Tim Quinn, a Republican from Heber representing District 54, sits on the state Legislature’s federal funds commission. He says in the short term, the shutdown is affecting Utah from a “convenience standpoint,” like Utah’s national parks being understaffed. Quinn mentioned, though, that this speaks to a larger issue of relying on the federal government for funds, as the national debt continues to climb.
“Not only that, we’re $22 trillion in debt. We can’t sit there and say that the federal government will continue to write us what are ultimately bad checks that the Chinese are covering for us," Quinn said. "One day, this has got to stop. So we’re just trying to make plans, so that when it does, we’ll be ready.”
When asked about immigration reform and the shutdown, the elected officials stressed that immigration policy is handled at the federal level and not something that can be addressed with state legislation. But Republican State Sen. Ron Winterton spoke to the difficulties of navigating the U.S. immigration system for people who want to come here and those who are already in the country.
“There are services that these people provide, that Americans are too proud to do anymore, and if we want those services we need to make a way for these people to stay here because they want the jobs," Winterton said. "For most of them, it’s a better life for them. Let’s just find a way to do it so we know who’s here.”
The current federal shutdown is the longest in U.S. history.