A Mandate for Some Mandates

UNFUNDED federal mandates, who could be for 'em?

The government forces people to do things, then doesn't pay 'em to do it. State and local governments are forced to take on responsibilities and raise taxes. Business is forced to assume a large regulatory overburden. An army of federal bureaucrats tramples everything from local budgets to local fences guarding wetlands.

The bureaucrats and the mandates should be gotten rid of, fast. That's what the new entrepreneurial class in Congress says as part of the ``Contract With America.'' Sounds good. But some people appreciate at least some mandates.

Those who drink or swim in safe public water, for one example, or those who breathe less-polluted air and live in more energy-efficient housing.

Federal lawmakers, under their own budget pinch, have passed an increasing number of mandates without any dollars attached - more than 70 since the late 1980s versus fewer than 20 in the previous 15 years. That trend needs to be halted.

On the other hand, few local governments would pony up the revenue to finance needed sewage disposal systems without federal pressure. What governors, mayors, and business leaders reasonably can expect is federal sensibility and flexibility in its use of mandates.

Efforts to control federal mandates should make government run better at all levels, not gum it up worse. Crafting good mandate-control legislation will require time and thought. Congress should invest in both.

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