President's Unfunded Mandates Criticized; Group Says States Face Huge Bills
The Washington Post
It's a familiar complaint from state officials -the charge that the federal government passes bills that voters love and then passes the buck on paying for them.
The issue, a hardy perennial in the 1990s, came back with a vengeance yesterday as the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that currently has Republican leadership, assailed the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress for socking the states with at least $29 billion in "unfunded mandates" in the current fiscal year. President Bush's budget for next year will increase the burden to $34 billion, according to the report made public at a news conference beginning the NCSL's winter leadership meeting in Washington.
Accusing the federal government of "cost-shifting," Utah House Speaker Martin R. Stephens (R), president of the NCSL, said "we have seen an increase" in that practice in recent years "and we're concerned this is going to get worse."
The report fingered two big education programs -- the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind Act -- as creating a gap of almost $20 billion in state budgets this year. Another major culprit, the NCSL report said, was the mandate for states to provide prescription drugs for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. It put the shortfall on that program at $6 billion.