WASHINGTON - Federal mandates imposed on cities and counties without any accompanying financial aid will cost the governments nearly $90 billion over the next five years, according to two studies released yesterday.
City and county officials released the studies after meeting with President Bill Clinton at the White House yesterday to complain about the huge costs local governments incur to comply with a variety of federal standards.
The meeting was held as Clinton signed an executive order calling for the reduction of unfunded mandates in future federal regulations.
"This is a new tone, a new focus, and a first step" by the federal government to reduce burdens on state and local governments caused by laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, said Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Municipal lobbyists later acknowledged, however, that Clinton's order does not overturn existing laws. But the order may prod federal agencies into thinking twice before drafting unduly burdensome regulations to implement such laws, they said.
The White House meeting and release of the surveys came on the eve of National Unfunded Mandates Day, designated by the mayors' group and several other state and local associations to kick off a campaign to educate Congress and the public about the negative effects such requirements have on states and localities.
The two surveys, conducted by Price Waterhouse, represent the first attempt by cities and counties to quantify the effect of unfunded mandates, said Barbara Sheen Todd, a commissioner for Pinellas County, Fla., and the president of the National Association of Counties.
Price Waterhouse found that unfunded federal mandates will cost cities about $6.5 billion this year and about $54 billion over the next five years. The cities reported that mandate costs consume an average of 11.7% of locally raised funds.
Counties, meanwhile, will incur costs totaling $4.8 billion this year and $33.7 billion over the next five years, Price Waterhouse found. For counties, the mandates consume an average of 12.3% of their locally raised revenues.
For cities, the most expensive unfunded mandate is the Clean Water Act, which is estimated to cost cities $29.3 billion over the next five years. Two other expensive mandates are the Safe Drinking Water Act, expected to cost cities $8.6 billion over the next five years, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, with a five-year projected cost to cities of $5.5 billion.
Counties reported that the most expensive mandate is the Immigration Act, which is estimated to cost them $13.1 billion over the next five years. The second most expensive is the Clean Water Act, at $6.5 billion over five years, and the third is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, at $4.5 billion.
The state and local officials said they are not campaigning for repeal of existing requirements. "It's simply a question of who's going to pick up the tab," Abramson said.
Abramson and other officials said they will continue to pursue Congress for funds to help finance compliance of the Clean Water Act and other existing requirements.
But some municipal lobbyists said that if Congress just eases standards on the laws it passes in the future, the campaign Kill have achieved the most it could.
The state and local officials, meanwhile, said they were impressed by the support they received from Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas.
"We've got a president who really understands this problem," said Gov. Bruce Sundlun of Rhode Island.
In a light moment during the news conference, Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, N.J, said he was happy about being served donuts during the meeting with Clinton.
James said it as the first time in 16 years of making trips to Washington as a public official that he came away from the White House "With something in my stomach." James is also first vice president of the National League of Cities.