Senators Seek To Reduce Burden Of Mandates On Local Governments, Taxpayers
Senate Local Government Committee Chairman John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Sen. Mike Waugh (RYork) have introduced Senate Resolution 323 to establish a task force to study the impact of state mandates on Pennsylvania’s boroughs, townships, cities and counties.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania estimates that up to 80 percent of a county’s budget is made up of directives from outside entities, including human services (which represents 60 percent of a county’s responsibilities), plus courts and corrections. A recent study by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that from 2004 to 2008, Congress shifted a financial burden of at least $125 billion onto states, a portion of which has been subsequently transferred to local governments.
“For many years, local officials have been concerned about the strain on their budgets that stem from laws and regulations passed at the state level,” noted Eichelberger. “However, much of that information has come in the form of anecdotal evidence. This firstof its-kind study would finally provide the General Assembly with comprehensive information on the specific types and impacts of the various obligations placed on municipalities by other levels of government. It is a necessary first step to providing local taxpayers relief from costly government directives.”
Waugh agreed there is a need to look closely at this issue in order for legislators to better understand the correlation between state mandates and the impact they can have on local taxes. “As a former township supervisor I have been on the receiving end of mandates, the costs of which are often made up primarily through local property taxes,” said Waugh. “And we continue to hear from individuals calling for property-tax reduction. This resolution and the task force it will create are part of our effort to continue working towards relief for our taxpayers.”
The task force would be composed of experts familiar with the funding and operation of programs implemented by local government units, including elected officials, representatives from local government associations, academicians, program directors, finance officers, and other administrators from both state and local government. It would be charged with:
Compiling a comprehensive list describing each directive placed upon local governments whether voluntary or mandatory;
Determining if the directive is federal or state in origin or a combination and if it is administrative or discretionary in nature;
The amount of money provided by the commonwealth or federal government to implement each directive; and
The reasons for discrepancies between funding levels and actual costs.
The task force would also be responsible for making recommendations on ways to reduce unfunded mandates and legislation that could address the issue. Those findings would be turned over to the Senate within one year.