How Conservative Is Dan Liljenquist?
The number one issue facing our country is federal spending and its resulting debt, particularly entitlement spending and the unfunded promises our Congress has stacked a mile high. Dan Liljenquist is the only candidate in the Utah senate race who has shown the courage to fix entitlement spending. His conservative bona fides are beyond reproach.
There is one group in Utah who claims to differ. They call themselves Grassroots Utah, and they’ve been issuing grades to the Utah Legislature since 1992. They’ve given Dan Liljenquist a lifetime score of just 63%. This score includes a supposedly inexcusable 50% in 2009.
Despite their longevity, I’d never even heard of Grassroots Utah until just a few weeks ago. Consequently, I’ve spent some time taking a close look at their data and methodology.
Out of 800 bills introduced each year, Grassroots chooses 20 to score, or 2.5% of the bills. One of the first things I noticed was that, on these handful of votes at least, our overwhelmingly conservative legislature also overwhelmingly disagrees with Grassroots. The lifetime score of the legislature as a whole is just 54%. Governor Jon Huntsman’s paltry score of 39% dwarfs that of our noted “liberal” governor Mike Leavitt, who accumulated a lifetime 27% rating. Governor Leavitt was reelected in 1996 with the largest vote total in state history, was only the second Utah governor elected to a third term, and was a hugely popular conservative governor for a full decade. If he couldn’t crack even the 30% mark in Grassroots’ ranking, something is seriously wrong. Perhaps even more telling is that when a handful of Utah’s most conservative legislators organized the Patrick Henry Caucus a few years ago, one of its founding members had a lifetime score of just 58%. In other words, the most conservative members of our conservative legislature can’t even get a passing grade. That is head scratching to say the least.
A close look at their 2009 report reveals why Grassroots’ rankings don’t make much sense.
House Bill 12 was the first vote on which Grassroots differed with Dan Liljenquist. Dan voted for it and Grassroots dinged him on it. The bill requires that county sheriffs actually be certified police officers. Not surprisingly, it passed with 76% of the vote, and even had the support of Grassroots’ second highest rated Senator. It’s a common sense, conservative bill with overwhelming conservative support. Yet Grassroots would have voted no.
Another glaring example is Senate Bill 16. It gave our police more tools to combat gang activity. It passed on a 25-2 vote, and the only two no votes were from Democrats. Yet this is supposed to prove Liljenquist isn’t conservative? It simply does not make any sense.
As I went through the last few years of rankings, these bills were just two examples of an overriding theme. On the great majority of votes, Grassroots is on the opposite side of mainstream, conservative Utahns. And not only that, but they somehow inexplicably failed to include two of the most fiscally conservative bills to come out of the Utah Legislature in the last three years. The 2010 pension reform bill saved the state $400 million per year, for two and half decades. The 2011 Medicaid reform bill is projected to save the state $770 million over the first seven years alone. These two bills helped Dan Liljenquist garner numerous legislative awards, including being named the Taxpayer Advocate of the Year two consecutive years and Governing magazine’s Public Official of the Year.
These reforms were touted in national conservative publications like the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online and held up as models of conservative fiscal reform for the rest of the country to follow. And yet somehow these aren’t even included on a local conservative rating scorecard? When respected, nationally renowned conservatives and conservative policies can’t get passing grades, clearly something is amiss with the Grassroots scorecard.