On Wednesday, National League of Cities (NLC) Board Member and Kansas City, Missouri, Councilmember Jermaine Reed testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs. Appearing on behalf of NLC, Reed described how unfunded mandates place burdens on local governments and communities.
In his testimony, Councilmember Reed provided several examples of how unfunded mandates create economic strain on Kansas City and its residents. He cited provisions of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act, emphasizing that while these laws play an important role in protecting communities, federal funding and local flexibility for implementation would relieve strains on local budgets.
“City leaders are on the front lines of almost every issue — from education to healthcare to the environment — but one of the biggest barriers to our progress is the burden of unfunded mandates,” said Councilmember Reed. “Our constituents depend on a healthy, balanced federal-local partnership to ensure that government services are affordable, reliable and high-quality.”
The impact of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts figured prominently in the hearing. In her opening statement, Ranking Member Val Demings said the budget cuts would shift costs to cities and counties and burden low-income families. “Proposed federal budget cuts to critical programs would further reduce our ability to meet the everyday needs of our community, as well as add to the burden that unfunded mandates have on our city,” said Reed in his testimony.
Reed also urged the committee to improve the federal-local consultation process and the way local government input is considered in rulemaking. By offering more opportunities for local elected officials to participate in the rulemaking process, he argued, agencies would give local governments more flexibility to balance their budgets, provide high-quality services, and respond to the needs of constituents.
Councilmember Reed was joined during the hearing by Judge/Executive Gary Moore of Boone County, Kentucky, representing the National Association of Counties, as well as a representatives from Fairfax County, Virginia, the Utah State Senate, and the North Carolina State Senate. Moore underscored the need for strengthening the intergovernmental consultation process, adding, “Federal policies and programs developed with only the impact on the federal treasury in mind put the ability of local governments to fulfill our responsibilities at risk.”
For more information on the Congressional hearing, watch NLC’s video of the hearing and read Councilmember Jermaine Reed’s written testimony. For more information on unfunded mandates, read the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act and NLC’s joint letter of support.
About the author: Sam Warlick is the senior content strategist at the National League of Cities.