States should use gift clauses to control government spending

Deseret News

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seems to understand what his recall victory really means. “It was a triumph more than anything for middle-class taxpayers,” he said after the recent recall election. “Middle-class taxpayers have overwhelmingly paid for the expansion of government.”

Walker is right, but restraining runaway government will need more than political victories. It will need institutional tools that allow Americans to directly challenge wasteful spending.

Fortunately, they already exist in most states in the form of “gift clauses” — constitutional prohibitions on subsidies. Arizona’s Constitution, for example, states that no state or local government agency “shall make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association or corporation.” It’s time for state lawmakers rediscover and make full use of these clauses to restrain the growth of government.