US Local Governments Fight Back against Costly Federal Regulations

By Thayer Sibley, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 1993 | Go to article overview

US Local Governments Fight Back against Costly Federal Regulations


Thayer Sibley, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


LOCAL governments are launching a revolt against Washington.

The source of their pique: "unfunded federal mandates" - programs Uncle Sam imposes on city and county governments without earmarking money to carry them out.

Local officials charge that federal requirements governing everything from the cleanup of underground storage tanks to the disposal of solid waste are costing them billions of dollars a year at a time of tight budgets.

They portray themselves as helplessly caught in a tuna net of federal rulemaking.

A new study released Oct. 26 by the US Conference of Mayors, for instance, estimates that federal mandates will cost cities $6.5 billion in 1993. Over the next five years, it says, the price tag will climb to $54 billion as local governments are forced to build sewer systems to comply with the Clean Water Act, design landfills to meet waste-disposal laws, and fulfill other federal mandates.

"We want to make it clear we have no quarrel with the intentions of the laws to provide clean water or handicapped accessibility or proper disposal of toxic waste," says Jerry Abramson, mayor of Louisville, Ky., and president of the US Conference of Mayors. "But when the good intentions of these laws are put into the hands of the bureaucrats who have no idea or concern about what their mandates are going to cost, you have a horror story." A longstanding problem

Local officials, of course, have longed chafed at the strictures sent down from Washington. But they haven't had much luck in doing away with them. This year, officials are more hopeful.

The US Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities, and International City/ County Management Association kicked off a campaign Oct. 26 to draw public attention to the problem. Their real target, though, is Congress and the White House, which mint the rules.

In July, President Clinton promised a NACo conference that he wouldn't load any more unfunded mandates on local governments. At least 20 bills have been introduced in Congress to see if lawmakers on Capitol Hill are feeling as benevolent.

One of the most sweeping, by Rep. …

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