The Rise of a New Federalism: Federal-State Cooperation in the United States

By Jane Perry Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
The Nature and the Methods of Allocation of Federal Grants-in-Aid to the States

IN THE continuous forward surge of governmental services, the forms of federal-state cooperation constantly shift and merge with one another. Informal cooperation has been seen to mingle with cooperation by agreement, and it, in turn, is transformed into grants-in-aid1 by which the federal government makes payments to the states to help develop services which Congress has decided to aid. Viewed from one angle, grants-in-aid themselves constitute agreements by which the federal government indicates that it will give aid if certain conditions are met, and the states by their acceptance of the federal program agree to carry their share of the burdens as well as to receive the benefits. Seen in such a light, it is the understanding between the two governments that is important, for either one may withdraw almost at will from the cooperative arrangement.2

____________________
1
Also called "subsidies" or "subventions." These terms are less accurate than grants-in-aid, as the former imply bounties or payments in excess of compensation for services rendered and are often used in a derogatory sense. In this discussion the shortened form of "grants" will be used interchangeably with the more correct form "grants-in-aid." A "grant," unless used as a substitute for the word "grant-in-aid," implies a direct gift with no conditions attached.
2
In this, grants-in-aid are similar to tax credits, by which taxes paid to the federal government are offset in certain circumstances against similar state taxes (see below, ch. ix). The Supreme Court has indicated in Chas. C. Steward Mach. Co. v. Davis, 57 S. Ct. 883, 894-95 ( 1937) that the conditions to be approved by the federal Social Security Board established by the Social Security Act ( 49 Stat. 620 [ 1935]) as the basis for credit to be allowed the states under the tax credit provisions of the Act "are not provisions of a contract, but terms of a statute, which may be altered or repealed. . . The state does not bind itself to keep the law in force. . . By this we do not intimate that the conclusion would be different if a contract were discovered."

-137-

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