By Shafroth, Frank
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 17, No. 6
Mayor Greg Lashutka, chair of NLC's Task Force on Unfunded Federal Mandates and a member of NLC's Board of Directors, urged the nation's governors to unite with city and town leaders in an effort to reduce the cost and burden of existing environmental mandates and to set firm principals to restrict the imposition of any new, unfunded federal mandates. He thanked the governors for their close work with NLC in developing legislative initiatives to reduce the costs of complying with federal Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water mandates:
"In the 1970's the federal government joined in a partnership with states and local governments to clean the nation's waters. The federal laws were accompanied by checks to pay for meeting national standards. But in the last decade, the river of federal assistance has dried up, while the river of unfunded federal mandates has overflowed."
Lashutka was joined by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public WOrks Committee, in presenting recommendations to the National Governors' Association Committee on Natural Resources at the National Governors' Association annual midwinter meeting in Washington, D.C., and then joined key governors in a meeting with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner.
Baucus responded to Lashutka and comments from the governors, "We hear you; we're getting the message." He said his committee was intent upon acting on legislation this year to reduce Clean Water, drinking water, and Superfund relief, and to increase federal assistance to help shoulder a little more of the state and local burden.
Baucus said that during the Reagan administration many Congressional leaders had reacted to a perception of too little attention to the environment and that maybe the `pendulum had swung too far.' But Baucus added: "Let's not swing too far back the other way."
Utah Governor Mike Leavitt warned, however, that among city, state, and business leaders there is a build-up of resentment against federal environmental mandates that is so powerful that "it's like a dry field ready to be set off."
Subsequent to the meeting, the governors broadened their policy opposition to unfunded environmental mandates to call on the federal government to pay for any new environmental mandates or to give state flexibility to set priorities when the federal government is unwilling to pay its fair share. The governors also joined NLC in calling on Congress to set cost-benefit analyses before imposing any new environmental requirements.
Lashutka's presentation came days after former NLC President George Voinovich, governor of Ohio and Chair of NGA's mandates effort, chalred a meeting with representatives of the National Governors' Association, the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Association of Counties, the International City Managers' Association, the Council of State Governments, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Lashutka and NLC in an effort to reach agreement on putting together a consensus approach on the issue of unfunded federal mandates. …