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Joint statement on entitlement reform issued by NLC, NACo, NCSL.

A precedent-setting Joint Statement on Entitlement and Mandatory Spending Reform was adopted by the leadership of the National League of Cites, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The action follows a year-long initiative to bring about a coordinated review and restructuring of federal entitlement spending.

The agreement on key issues and principles that must be part of any analysis and action on entitlement spending was concluded by leaders of the three organizations during a meeting in Washington on October 9. The joint statement includes an assessment of the need for reshaping entitlement programs and a six-point outline of principles that should guide the process.

It declares that "representatives of state, county and municipal government must be full partners in the decision-making process and be included in the development of new federal approaches to entitlement programs."

The statement also contends that "if state or local government-administered means-tested entitlement programs are capped or reduced without corresponding program changes, state and local governments must be absolved from legal obligations to provide services to entitled individuals."

The document culminates a series of discussions and meetings that began in late 1991 among leaders and staff of the organizations and produced consensus on final language at the recent meeting.

NLC President Glenda Hood, mayor-elect of Orlando, called the meeting and the agreement "one of the most important, most cooperative and most satisfying efforts I have ever been part of. The shared sense of purpose and mutual concern was truly extraordinary."

In the language preceding the six points to guide further action, the joint statement warned of the consequences of unilateral action by the federal government.

"State, county and municipal governments are participants in the current delivery and funding of federal entitlement and mandatory programs. For some time, we have been acquired to assume many of their costs and burdens," the statement said.

"Capping the federal share of mandatory spending does not reduce the cost of these programs. It simply shifts the cost and burden to state and local governments in order to continue to provide the same level of benefits," it concluded.

"The effects of such action would be disastrous," Hood said. Copies of the joint statement were sent last week to the three major presidential candidates and their campaign organizations, accompanied by a letter signed by Hood, NACo President John Stroger, commissioner of Cook County, Ill., and New York State Senator James Lack of Long Island, N.Y., chair of the NCSL State Federal Assembly.

The letter urges that any initiatives or policy positions should address this difficult issue as it affects all levels of government and should include state and local participation in the development of any new federal approaches to these programs. We stand prepared to contribute to such an effort as full partners," the letter said.

NLC members taking part in the discussions were: NLC President Glenda Hood, mayor-elect, Orlando; NLC First Vice President Don Fraser, mayor, Minneapolis; NLC Second Vice President Sharpe James; mayor, Newark, N.J.; NLC Past President Cathy Reynolds, councilwoman-at-large, Denver, Colo.; NLC Past President Ferd Harrison, mayor, Scotland Neck, N.C.; Don Benninghoven, executive director, California League of Cities; Tony Capizzi, commissioner, Dayton, Ohio; Maryann Mahaffey, council president, Detroit, Mich.; Ruth Messinger, Manhattan borough president, New York City; and Kathryn Nack, Councilmember, Pasadana, Calif.

Principles of the Agreement

* Representatives of state, county, and municipal

government must be full partners in the decision-making

process and be included in the

development of new federal approaches to entitlement

programs. * Every mandatory spending program and

entitlement, including tax expenditures, and new revenue

proposals must be open to review and discussion. * Entitlement "reform" must not simply cap federal

contributions or transfer program costs to state and

local governments, but must take into account the

fiscal conditions and impact of changes on the

entire intergovernmental system. * Given the current and future demographic realities

and public resource constraints, policy makers

need to redefine the right to services. Eligibility

criteria for entitlement programs should be reviewed

to ensure that programs are acutely sensitive to

need and give equitable attention to children and

families. * Should the federal government cap or reduce state

or local government-administered means-tested

entitlement programs, such action must be

accompanied by statutory and/or regulatory changes to

existing law that would authorize options for state

and local governments to restructure, reduce or

limit services, eligibility and/or payments to

beneficiaries. There should be incentives for states and

local government to demonstrate innovative

programs to reform the current system. * If state or local government-administered means-tested

entitlement programs are capped or reduced

without corresponding program changes, state and

local governments must be absolve from legal

obligations to provide services to entitled individuals.
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Title Annotation:includes related information on agreement principles; National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, National Conference of State Legislatures
Author:Arndt, Randy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Oct 19, 1992
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