The topic in question is what’s known as “unfunded mandates.” That involves some bigger government, typically the state, oardering a community to do something and not contributing a dime to help the task get done.
Rob Ware was addressing such a mandate that seems harmless enough: Demanding all cities, counties and school districts in the state submit copies of all their taxes/expenses — budgets, in other words — to the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government to be stacked into a web-accessible database for any citizen to look at.
Not a bad idea, though that place/location doesn’t exactly jump out at you the way sex and sales sites tend to do. Not only that but most larger, more modern places (such as Greater Rome) already offer similar well-hidden information on their own sites. Not to mention that, by other laws, this newspaper as the “official organ” prints public notices with much the same material annually.
All the Greater Rome entities were already in compliance when Ware made his observation ... and in the statewide minority at that time.
His larger point was that this takes manpower, paid by local taxpayers, to shuffle yet more papers and this was yet another straw added to what is becoming a huge haystack of local burdens undertaken to satisfy the whims of others who don’t/won’t pay for it.
“ONE OF the things that happens,” he said, “when you have these requirements is that it creates more work for local governments to do. ... There’s no direct support to perform this action. ...
“We have additional re-quirements for accountability for other state and federal governmental agencies but there are no contributions for the effort we make to comply to these. They impose requirements but there is no financial support for having these things accomplished. These things we’re required to do have increased over the years.”
Frankly, if an accounting needs to be done that might be worth spending some money on it is having all local entities tally up what “unfunded mandates” are costing the hometown taxpayers. The range and total would likely be incredible as not just paperwork shuffling is involved.
That’s not to say all such “mandates” aren’t worthwhile in intention, although some of them tend to simply be the piling on of regulations and even whims to satisfy some powerful lobbying group. It is to say that states are perhaps the worst offenders and, in times of local budgetary problems, these unfunded orders from on high might be unaffordable and perhaps the first thing to go — or at least should go before another police officer or teacher is added to the unemployment lines.
By the way, since 2008, nationally almost 700,000 state/local employees have joined the jobless (including the 750 at shuttered Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital) while one can’t recall hearing of a single “mandate” being eliminated.
TO BE SURE, paying for the mandates — which means the action must be done — isn’t all that difficult given the evil, evil local officials can be counted on to do what must be done having no other option available other than raising taxes. For example, South Carolina legislators recently “mandated” a 2 percent pay increase for all teachers and didn’t offer a penny to pay for it. Well, not hard for local school districts to deal with that one: Just fire 2 percent of the teachers, increase class sizes and the problem is handled.
Washington rolls these downhill as well but, other than perhaps some of the purely regulatory ones, tends to at least try to help a little bit.
For example, Medicaid is mandated but not unfunded ... just not totally federally paid. Washington pays part, the state has to pick up the rest of the considerable bill.
These state mandates, in particular, without monetary support have become so numerous nobody seems to have attempted to tally them all up, much less what they cost at the local level. The root cause, by the way, is generally attributed to a state-level perception that localities aren’t competent to manage their own fiscal affairs. Strange but that’s exactly the perception growing numbers of Greater Romans have of how the state handles its own fiscal affairs.
Some such unfunded mandates don’t really cost much; others cost a bundle. They involve law enforcement, fire protection, building codes, education, environmental/wildlife aspects, how businesses can/can’t operate and on and on and on.
SO, WHAT does all this stuff cost in these times of local budgetary troubles? What’s the bill?
Perhaps that is what really needs to be and would be worth tallying up. How does one know what is “worth it” when almost nobody in the public knows what they are buying and what it is doing?
A lot of politicians/legis-lators are in love with the idea of “zero-based budgeting” in these times of squeezed revenues and increasing demands. The idea is supposed to be to uncover what services are good/successful to do and which ones aren’t.
It might be a lot wiser to consider doing some “zero-based mandating” and assume that none of them are worth doing until somebody figures out what they are costing.
And then, if it appears wise in the public interest to maintain such currently unfunded mandates then it would be equally wise for the state to share in the costs/expenses, let’s say on at least a 50/50 basis instead of dumping 100 percent of the price of state demands on city, county, school taxpayers. At minimum, that would likely slow the proliferation of such mandates down.
How’s about “mandating” that? How’s about putting all such information onto the Vinson and other websites? How’s about printing as a public notice in the official organ of the county a full list of all such current mandates and what they cost taxpayers?
OF COURSE, that would be a mandate that might better help citizens to govern themselves and to elect representatives that know what problems they cause by simply rolling some notion downhill.
Perhaps that is why such a mandate appears to be about the only one not on the books.