1994 Scorecard Vote
The vast majority of Americans demand clean air and safe drinking water. But in this era of tight budgets, the age-old debate over how we should pay for these critical resources has become heated. Some state and local governments, for example, want the federal government in Washington to shoulder more of the financial burden for complying with health and safety laws. They are primarily concerned about "unfunded mandates" -- national requirements that are only partly paid for by federal taxpayers.
Unfortunately, many lawmakers in Congress are not interested in developing reasonable solutions to the challenge of paying for clean air and water. Instead, urged on by polluters, these radical opponents of environmental protection want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" -- they want to totally eliminate the critical health and safety protections demanded by Americans simply because there is a debate over who should pay for them.
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID), for example, has introduced the Community Regulatory Relief Act (S. 993), which would allow states and localities to ignore any federal law or regulation -- no matter how important -- if it was not accompanied by full funding. In addition, the proposal would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to issue an annual report that estimates the total economic impact of existing mandates on the nation's 50 states and 80,000+ localities. The CBO would also be required to analyze the economic impact of every proposed mandate.
Such legislation would not make government work better or make environmental protection less expensive. Rather, it would paralyze the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies with meaningless paperwork and block fair and reasonable efforts to protect the public's health and safety. Moreover, the Kempthorne proposal undermines a fundamental principle of American government: that all Americans, regardless of where they live, deserve equal protection from threats to their health and safety.
In addition to these problems, the Kempthorne legislation ignores a host of other issues, including the many reasons that state and local governments have trouble complying with federal mandates, the complexity of estimating the "full" cost of implementing a mandate, and the question of how to account for the huge sums of unrestricted federal money that states and localities currently receive.
As a result of these problems, "unfunded mandates" proposals like the Kempthorne legislation are opposed by a wide range of organizations -- from the League of Women Voters to the American Lung Association.
The League of Conservation Voters considers cosponsorship of Sen. Kempthorne's legislation an irresponsible anti-environmental action. So far, 62 senators have cosponsored the legislation.