Unfunded Federal Mandates: 'Don't Let OSHA Be Next!' (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Article excerpt

The proliferation of federal regulations is not new news. But the increasing struggle of state and local governments to accommodate unfunded federal mandates is.

According to recent reports, federal regulations last year added 70,000 pages to the Federal Register, the third-highest increase since the Carter years. Since 1988, in addition to increasing taxes and government spending, Washington has imposed numerous unfunded regulatory burdens on local governments and on business. Is it any mystery that these burdens are dragging down the economy? Irresponsible spending in Congress is forcing State and local taxpayers to bear the costs of federal government.

The exploding costs of unfunded mandates have already driven Florida and California to the drastic step of preparing lawsuits against the federal government for repayment. According to California Governor Pete Wilson, "What we need now is not the well-meant tinkering on the margins of the federal mandate problem. What we need is dramatic action from Washington that tackles these federal mandates head-on."

I wholeheartedly agree. That is why I have introduced, along with Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.), a bill which will make Congress accountable for the laws it imposes on state and local governments. The Federal Accountability and Intergovernmental Reform (FAIR) Act, which has widespread support among governors, mayors, and other local officials, would require Congress and the federal executive agencies to assess fully the economic impact and recognize the real price tag of new legislation and new regulations on state and local public resources.

The OSHA Mandate

Recently, a bill to reform the nation's occupational health and safety act (OSHA), H.R. 1280, was considered in the House Education and Labor Committee. In addition to increasing mandates and regulations on business, it would mandate that state and local government employers, including cities and towns, school districts, public hospitals, and state government agencies, city agencies, comply with OSHA regulations.

This mandate will directly increase costs for public employers in the 27 states which are not currently covered by OSHA requirements and will lead to increased costs in the other 23 states which currently have state enforcement of OSHA laws for public employees.

I offered an amendment to the bill that would ensure that any new mandates on state and local government employers are only in effect to the extent that they are funded by the federal government. …