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Why Dan Liljenquist?

March 20, 2012

I previously wrote to explain my opposition to reelecting Orrin Hatch. Frankly, that opposition means little without a viable alternative. So I went looking for one, and found him in Dan Liljenquist. Here’s why:

Perhaps the greatest issue facing our country right now is soaring debt. Our national credit card bill now equals everything we take in for a year. President Obama, after promising to cut deficits in half, continues to submit budgets that see spending rise and debt skyrocket. The Democrat controlled Senate doesn’t even bother to pass budgets anymore. As a consequence, the US credit rating was downgraded for the first time in its history. The biggest culprit to our national financial woe are entitlement spending programs Social Security and Medicare. In 2008, the first of the baby boomer generation became eligible for Social Security. In 2011 they became eligible for Medicare. And if we do nothing, these pension programs will result in a “tsunami of spending” that will engulf the entire federal budget. We’ll have nothing left over for Defense, Education, Energy – nothing.

Utah’s version of these entitlement programs, public employee pensions, faced a similar crisis. Despite managing its fund far more responsibly than the federal government manages its fund, the recession and resulting stock market crash made $6.5 Billion disappear. That’s obviously a huge amount of money, but putting it into even more perspective is the fact that the entire state budget is just $13 Billion. Without taking significant steps to fix the problem, Utah’s pension would eventually gobble up virtually the entire state budget. No more education, no roads, no any other kind of spending. Sound familiar?

Fortunately, Utah had real leadership. Instead of ignoring the problem, or worse, adding to it, Dan Liljenquist tackled it head on. He ensured that every current worker would not see benefits cut. He then tweaked the plan so that new hires would still received a generous retirement package while keeping the entire program solvent.

After saving Utah’s long-term budget by fixing its pensions, the very next year Dan tackled Medicaid. It also projected to gobble up the majority of the state budget, consuming almost 50% of it just 8 years from now. This, after being just 9% of the budget in 2001. The effect of having to pay for that kind of increase equates to the state having to shut down a couple of universities. Goodbye Utah Utes (if only) and Utah Valley Wolverines. Again, Dan went to work solving real problems and when the dust settled it had passed both houses of the legislature unanimously.  It was such a success it had the Deseret News calling Dan

“the Utah Legislature’s champion of long-term structural fiscal reform”

Guess what the federal government’s biggest current need is? Long-term structural fiscal reform.

Dan has a proven track record of identifying issues, presenting and collaborating on solutions, and getting things passed. His is exactly the kind of record we need in Washington right now.

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From → Politics

8 Comments
  1. Taylor permalink

    Great article. It’s refreshing to see people support their candidate as opposed to attack their opponent.

    • Thanks Taylor. There are a lot of really good reasons to be Pro-Dan rather than just Anti-Hatch.

  2. Clint permalink

    Cameron, while I can probably agree that something needed to be done to address the projected (assumed) shortfall for the state pension plan, some of your numbers really skew the reality. You mention that there was a 6.5 million dollar shortfall, that is not a one year shortfall, that was a projected shortfall over the next 25 (or so) years as those currently in the system retire, so while if this was all funded in one year we are looking at half the state budget, if you spread it out over the projected shortfall window, we are now talking approx. $260,000/year. So now we are talking about 2% of the state budget, the conversation starts to shift and does not seem so urgent that the legislature couldn’t conduct an Interm study and analyze what the projections really meant.

    Is this what we really want in someone that makes major decisions for us, is someone that is quick to make decisions before fully evaluating the consequences?

    • Clint permalink

      Sorry, I need to correct some of the math. There was a supposed 6.5 billion dollar shortfall, Dan Liljenquist is quoted as saying “should the state have to pay $400 million a year for 25 years to cover the loss” so according to Dan, we were talking $400 million per year which is approx. 3% of the budget still a far cry from the 50% of the budget as you stated.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply and questions Clint.

        The $6.5 Billion shortfall wasn’t a “projected” or “assumed” shortfall. That’s what the professional actuaries calculated. It’s a solid stat.

        (Also, minor point, the “50% of the budget” stat was for Medicaid, not for the pension shortfall.)

        The $400 million a year number is what the state would have to invest above what it already pays into the system. $400 million equates to 10,000 new teachers. For a growing state very conscious of our class sizes, this is no small number.

        You point out that $400 million is actually a small fraction of the $13 billion I used in the post. In fact, I was being generous using $13 billion. Most of that is federal money allocated for particular uses. Our own state sales and income taxes amount to around $4.5 billion. Now that $400 million is eating up almost 10% of what the state takes in every year for the next 25 years. That money has to come from some other program, and you can bet those programs wouldn’t be too thrilled to be shut down. Using an additional 10% of the general fund for 25 years just isn’t realistic.

        You question the speed at which the bill was passed, and intimate Dan acted rashly. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m impressed with how he identified the problem, gathered the relevant data from the URS, had professional actuaries analyze the data and make projections on a variety of scenarios, and present it to the committee he chaired. These weren’t numbers he just made up. And now, 2 years later, I have yet to see any superior alternative solution to the problem he solved 2 years ago.

  3. John permalink

    Amen. I am not a Hatch basher, but I feel strongly that the folks who got us into this problem won’t get us out of it. Dan has demonstrated a remarkable skill set that allows him to identify and grasp difficult problems, to find practical solutions and then to build consensus around those solutions. He has proven ability to drive change.

    • I agree wholeheartedly John. The impact of the fiscal reforms he got passed can’t be understated.

  4. Zach J permalink

    Excellent article. I’m passing it on to all of my family and friends. This race is too important to not get it right. We need Dan in the US Senate!

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