The federal nanny state shrinking, so why do our officials complain?

Jul 16 2012 - 11:43pm

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Trentelman
Trentelman

I was surprised to see a story in Monday's paper about a shortage of federal Community Development Block Grant funds in Davis and Weber counties. What was surprising was that the story made it sound as if that shortage is a bad thing.

Davis County, especially, is one of the most Republican and conservative areas of Utah. Swing a cat in Farmington, you'll hit someone who thinks the federal government needs to spend less money.

So it is, and yet, this story quotes officials from both counties sounding as if they want more CDBG funds, not fewer.

The shortage is pretty severe. Davis and Weber didn't get $700,000 each. That's almost $1.4 million. Davis only got half what it wanted. Weber did slightly better.

What are CDBG funds?

In 1974 the federal government came up with the crazy idea that local governments could spend money more wisely than federal meddlers.

CDBG grants are provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities to spend as they need, within limits. Programs have to qualify, but for nearly 40 years the system has worked. This year CDBG grants nationwide are around $4 billion.

The federal government uses our tax money for such things because most poorer communities don't have the resources to do the work themselves. That may sound like socialism, but federal highway funds, for example, are why even Box Elder County has an interstate highway.

But now we have a huge federal deficit. Rep. Rob Bishop, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Mike Lee and many others have made it clear that the federal government spends too much money.

They want to cut spending and cut taxes and let local people decide how to spend their own money themselves.

And they have cut federal taxes -- yes, including your income tax. Federal income taxes are lower than any time since Eisenhower was in office. They've been lowered under President Barack Obama, too.

The federal government is also cutting spending, at least in the CDBG fund. Maybe HUD officials listened to all those complaints that poor people get too much free housing.

Weber's CDBG funds are already allocated, but Davis will hold a hearing on July 31 to divvy what funds it will get. It had requests for double what it got; something has to give.

I pick the $300,000 Clinton wants to improve a road to make life easier for 231 homeowners nearby.

I have no clue why Clinton wants federal funds to fix a road. I hardly ever drive to Clinton. Why should my taxes be used to fix Clinton's roads?

Those 231 homeowners could form a special taxing district, add the cost of fixing the road to their property tax and pay to fix their own road.

Another request was $150,000 from the Pheasant Brook Condominiums in Centerville to fix condos damaged by a windstorm last December.

Apparently some single mothers, elderly residents and people with physical disabilities didn't have enough insurance to cover the damages. They need help.

Again, why should the help be tax dollars? Maybe Centerville residents should hold a bake sale to raise the funds.

Or have a community repair party. There's an idea. If someone in Centerville will organize it -- the mayor perhaps? -- and schedule it, I'll run a notice promoting it.

The point is, if you want federal funds to be cut, don't be surprised if they cut the federal funds you were getting.

More important, when those funds get cut, be ready to step up and fill in the gap yourself.

Or drive on a bumpy road in Clinton. Your choice.

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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