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Three Tennessee mayors call for end to unfunded mandates.

Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, Mayor Phil Bredesen of Nashville, and Mayor Gene Roberts of Chattanooga held simultaneous news conferences April 14 in their respective cities to call for an end to unfunded mandates, particularly from the federal government.

"When Congress creates a new program and doesn't provide the money to pay for it, that's an unfunded mandate," Ashe said.

In recent months Mayor Ashe has raised the issue of unfunded mandates with President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.

"This has become popular for congressmen as the federal government's deficit has grown larger," Ashe added. "These mandates are causing tax increases or service cutbacks at the local level as towns, cities and counties try to find the money to pay for them."

The goal of most mandates are noble, and the programs often positive and worthwhile, the mayor said.

"Our wish is that the level of government responsible for initiating the program raise the money to pay for it," Ashe said. "As it is now, it almost always flows downhill, and that means the people who live in cities are the first to pay."

Ashe said that complying with stormwater management permitting requirements will cost Knoxville taxpayers $250,000 this year, and $750,000 by 1993. Ultimate cost: between $3 million and $12 million.

The first year cost for the city's bus system to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act is $500,000. Total cost of ADA compliance cannot yet even be calculated, according to City Finance Director Randy Vineyard.

Solid was mandates regarding landfills will cost Knoxville taxpayers $1 million in the coming year. Superfund requirements are too expensive to be calculated a this stage, Vineyard said.

"Those are only three mandates, and there are many more," Ashe said. "All of them have good purposes behind them and will do good things for the environment and the disabled. But we can't even calculate the cost. That should be Congress' role, and it should be the responsibility of Congress to fund them."

According to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in Washington, D.C., "the financial burdens imposed by federal regulations have been increasingly faster than the growth of federal aid since 1986."

Ashe said that Knoxville has major needs involving public safety, streets, parks and recreation, fire protection, and other basic services.

"Federal mandates place a new burden upon city or county government, and that means a burden on the residents of the city or county. We're just asking Congress to do the responsible thing and pay for the programs it creates."
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Title Annotation:Victor Ashe, Phil Bredesen, Gene Roberts
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 27, 1992
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