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Billions of dollars, no sense; survey shows mandates' cost.

Dozens of reporters and news camera crews crowded into a news conference last week in Washington, where leaders of state and local government assembled to launch National Unfunded Mandates Day.

The news conference followed a White House meeting with President Clinton and came a day before hundreds of communities conducted their own events as past of a nationwide campaign to break Washington's habit of enacting, but not funding, costly programs and regulations.

New information collected from cities and counties across the country found that some of the most costly federal mandates are currently requiring annual expenditures of $11.3 billion by cities and counties, and that between 1994 and 1998 those costs are expected to total $87.8 billion.

Two surveys, one of 314 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and another of 128 counties conducted by the National Association of Counties, were released at the news conference and presented a broad national picture of the costs of some of the most expensive federal mandates. The survey data was analyzed and compiled for the organizations by Price Waterhouse, a national accounting firm.

The USCM survey, which focused on 10 specific mandates affecting cities, found that current year costs of $6.5 billion and that the costs of those programs will total $54.0 billion between 1994 and 1998. On the average, the 10 mandates are consuming 11.4 percent of locally raised city revenues.

The county survey found that counties are spending an estimated $4.8 billion annually to comply with 12 specific mandates, and that the costs of those programs will total $33.7 billion between 1994 and 1998. On the average, the 12 mandates are consuming 12.3 percent of locally raised county revenues.

Another survey, conducted in September by the National Conference of State Legislatures, compiled cost estimates from 21 states for compliance with five specific mandates. Preliminary results, which did not include data from a number of the largest states, found total costs of $1.5 billion over several years.

Speaking at the news conference, NLC First Vice President Sharpe James, mayor of Newark, N.J., said the ever-growing array of unfunded mandates reminded him of the amazing World Series game a week earlier that set an all-time record score and lasted well past midnight.

"For too long," said James, "the mayors, governors and other leaders of state and local government have been asking the same two questions about unfunded federal mandates. How big the score, or how big the cost, of the unfunded mandate? How long the game, or how long the pain, to pay for unfunded mandates?"

"Clearly, these actions will affect the quality of life and opportunity in each city affected. Clearly, it underscores the reason why we are here today," James said.

Mayor Jerry Abramson of Louisville, Ky., USCM president, said survey data revealed the disturbing extent to which federal mandates have injected themselves into local governance.

"These survey findings erase any doubts about the seriousness or the pervasiveness of the unfunded mandate problem," said Abramson. "The survey make it clear: the urban infrastructure is being compromised, public safety is being compromised, because so much money is being absorbed by the unfunded mandates."

Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd of Pinellas County, Fla., NACO president, said the data compiled in the survey of counties "substantiate what we had believed. The burden of unfunded federal mandates on county governments is enormous. It is clear that local governments cannot continue to absorb these enormous costs. Our goal is simple. We want to stop the mandate madness. National programs must be funded at the national level."

Gov. Bruce Sundlun of Rhode Island, one of lead governors on federalism for the National Governors' Association, said, "We must educate our citizens - and Members of Congress who pass these mandates - about the damaging effects they have on state and local governments. Through our activities to focus attention on mandates, we hope to inform the public and motivate Congress to stop this fiscally irresponsible trend."

"Unfunded mandates are a costly burden to state budgets," said State Sen. Robert T. Connor of Delaware, NCSL president. "Unfunded mandates leave state legislators in the unenviable position of having to cut current services or raise additional revenues in order to meet the needs of citizens. Legislators must have the flexibility to make funding decisions based on needs and circumstances in their states. State, federal and local governments should work cooperatively, not coercively, to ensure the health, education and welfare of all citizens."

Ohio Senate President Stanley Aronoff, representing the Council of State Governments, said, "States must be allowed to fulfill their own unique constitutional role and not be treated as administrative subdivisions of the federal government. The federal deficit is not a license for Congress to cripple states by holding state resources hostage to federal mandates."

Daniel A. Kleman, city manager of Tallahassee and president of the International City/County Management Association, said, "Although mandates are written to improve the quality of life, these directives may, in fact, compromise that quality. First, communities have virtually no voice in the mandates process, yet it is local citizens who most often pay for these directives - through additional taxes and fees."

Among the leaders of other organizations at the news conference and supporting the campaign against unfunded mandates were the Government Finance Officers Association, National Association of Towns and Townships, National School Boards Association, American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, and the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commissioners.

All of the participating groups emphasized that their memberships support the goals and objectives of laws enacted by Congress, such as assuring a healthful environment and enabling people with disabilities.

The President and Congress

Address Stopping The Buck

President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, joined NLC First Vice President Sharpe James, Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlin, Conference of Mayors President Jerry Abramson and others for a meeting and ceremony to mark the signing of a President Executive Order on Unfunded Mandates last week. The special White House signing the day before National Unfunded Mandates Day came as more members of the House and Senate joined in the campaign to attempt to limit the cost of federal mandates on state and local governments.

The White House executive order, "Enhancing the Intergovernmental Partnership," would bar the imposition of any federal regulations not required by Act of Congress unless accompanied by sufficient funds to cover any imposed costs. The order would also require each federal agency to set up a consultation process to insure municipal officials a meaningful opportunity to have input into the development of federal regulations affecting local governments.

The executive order is scheduled to become effective on January 24, 1994. It will not, however, be enforceable. No city or town would be given any right to seek judicial review or enforcement for failure by the federal government to comply with its own order.

The order would require every agency to review waiver processes and render decisions on waiver applications by any city or town within 120 days. The order does not apply to independent agencies, such as the FCC, although they are requested to comply.

Congressional Relief

On October 27th, 24 members of the House from the 87 member strong Congressional Caucus on Unfunded Mandates gathered on the Capitol steps for a press conference on unfunded federal mandates. The new and rapidly growing caucus was formed by bipartisan chairs: Reps. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) and William Clinger (R-Pa.).

In the Senate, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) joined in introducing S. 1592, the Fiscal Accountability and Intergovernmental Reform or FAIR Act to require the federal government to determine the cost to state and local governments and private businesses of any unfunded mandates. The Dorgan- Domenici bill is a companion to the House bill, HR 1295, introduced by former Alexandria Mayor Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Rep. Bill Goodling (R-Pa.), which now boasts more than 200 co-sponsors.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Jim Sasser (D-Tenn) introduced the Federal Mandate Funding Act of 1993, which would:

* Require the federal government to set aside federal funds when it imposes expensive requirements on state and local governments;

* Require a two-year moratorium on any new unfunded federal mandates; and

* create a Federal Mandate Assistance Fund to help pay for the cost of existing mandates.

Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) introduced a constitutional amendment prohibiting unfunded federal mandates except during a fiscal emergency.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on the Presidential Executive Order on Unfunded Mandates
Author:Arndt, Randy; Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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