Editorial: State should keep all its options open
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 8:01 AM
If you think you know how this General Assembly session will go, you might want to reconsider.
Legislators are now gearing up for the three main issues — a two-year budget, education and the infrastructure — they want to hit hardest and the dozen or so that will consume most of their time. But there are always bumps in the road and detours that take the legislature to unexpected places. That is more likely to be true this year than in any other.
That is so because the incoming administration of Donald Trump in Washington will be anything but a “business-as-usual” government, and nobody knows what the federal government is going to send the state’s way in 2017.
But it could be a lot. If Trump’s rhetoric is indicative of what he will actually do, and if his Cabinet appointments have been serious about what they have said, Washington will be cutting back a great deal on what it does and redefining what the federal government is by those cuts. One of the ways it has of getting rid of something is just to push it back on the states.
And there could be burdens to assume even if the federal government just stops doing something instead of ordering the states to do it. States will still have to make the decision about whether what was provided is valuable and how much of it should be done by the state.
There have always been good arguments for the state to hold on to most of its $2 billion surplus rather than spending it or giving it back to the people. Now, there is one more. With heaven knows what coming from Washington in the next couple of years, the state had best keep all of its options open and its maneuvering room at a maximum.
And now — before the Trump team settles in and gets serious about its work — would be a good time for some of the brightest people in state government to to sit down and discuss just what the state’s role in our great federal system should be. Such a rethinking has not happened for a long time, and this would seem to be a perfect opportunity.
How the state is defined will determine how much of the federal slack the state should pick up.