CHICAGO -- U.S. Conference of Mayors officials said yesterday the group has set up a task force to determine the cost of unfunded federal mandates on cities.

Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, who was named chairman of the task force, said at a press conference that federal mandates and regulations are "burdensome" for the nation's cities.

"Unfunded federal mandates are an indirect form of taxation on local taxpayers," Daley said. "We think Congress should put its money where its mouth is. These endless regulations are burying local governments and community agencies."

Daley was joined by Louisville, Ky., mayor Jerry Abramson, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, vice chairman of the task force.

Rendell said that federal mandates, if imposed, should be applied with "common sense," and involve the input of local officials.

The task force's goal is to conservatively estimate the cost of meeting unfunded federal mandates for all of the 1, 100 cities whose mayors are members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Daley said, noting that unfunded mandates cost Chicago at least $160 million a year. Nationally, Abramson estimated that unfunded federal mandates cost cities $1 billion or more a year.

The task force will complete the study in the fall, Daley said. He said the study will be helpful in pushing for legislative changes aimed at eliminating unfunded mandates and the hidden taxes they impose on taxpayers.

Abramson said that several pieces of legislation to eliminate or reduce unfunded mandates are pending in Congress.

Abramson said the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties are also "very involved" in the effort to eliminate unfunded federal mandates.

Yesterday, delegates to the counties' group meeting in Chicago passed a resolution urging Congress to enact legislation that would "relieve counties and cities of all obligations to carry out any new mandate arising from federal law, regulation, or policy unless federal funds are provided."

The group also called for legislation to reimburse local governments for the costs of complying with existing mandates.

When asked why the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other groups did not stop the imposition of unfunded mandates when they were pending in Congress, Rendell said that special interest groups and the federal bureaucracy were primarily to blame for their passage.

Last November, Daley forwarded a report to President Clinton that called for the federal government to eliminate or fully fund its mandates and to reduce its regulations.

Clinton, speaking via satellite to the association's meeting Monday, said he would support the reduction of unfunded mandates on cities. Clinton also said Vice President Al Gore is heading a task force to look into the issue.

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