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Dissolution of the governors association is no answer

By Jill S. Farrell
web posted November 10, 2003

Some members of the conservative movement are calling for the dissolution of the National Governors Association because the governors are asking for more federal aid. The $20 billion bailout given last May, by any standard, is a great deal of money. A couple of weeks ago the Governors were back in Washington asking for more. That is certainly a problem, but dissolution is not necessarily the answer. The Feds are, in effect, telling governors across the country to "do as I say, not as I do."

Just last month Arnold Schwarzenegger swooped into town saying, "I came basically to Washington to establish relationships and to make sure that we are getting more federal money to California, as I promised in my campaign."

A very intelligent, liberal-leaning acquaintance of mine made the following observation: "Here comes Arnold sweeping through town to call, yet again, for more federal aid for California, and as far as I can tell from reading the papers, not a single fiscal conservative has stood up to say no. Why is it apparently okay for a Republican movie star to beseech Washington for aid, when it wasn't okay for the National Governors Association or proven conservatives like Dirk Kempthorne? What happened to the principle?"

Regarding California: by and large we totally agree. This does raise legitimate questions.

However, California should receive additional funds -- to cope with the raging fires and not due to their raging irresponsible spending. Whatever Federal assistance California receives should be earmarked for specific disaster-related projects and not handed over blindly.

While the states are saddled are several un-funded Federal mandates, nearly all of their problems are of their own making. Most of the governors have never seen a new project they didn't like or an old one that they didn't want to give a boost. The real root of the problem? No self-restraint either on the part of the Governors or the governed.

During the go-go 90's, tax revenue was up, up, up! Government spending had to try very hard to squeeze all the juicy gains dry. But they did. And when the drought hit, no one was prepared to "do without." The piglets and the old pork were protected equally.

That behavior really does defy common sense. When times are tough, everyone must make adjustments. To do otherwise is to live in a dream world and to invite reality to come burning in like the Santa Ana winds. The states and the Feds are living on a massive credit card and the bills will come due. Some of our creditors (China owns about 20% of our national debt) will enjoy watching and may even fan the flames.

The states and the Feds still have the opportunity to make sensible corrections that may be uncomfortable but will avert a natural economic disaster such as history has rarely seen. That is why the Free Congress Foundation believes that a measure like the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act (CARFA) -- at least on the Federal level
-- is so essential. It is not a cure-all, but it is an important beginning. Possibly states could design their own CARFA-esque commissions. Like the BRAC base-closing commissions, the Brownback-Tiahrt CARFA commission gives everyone arms-length protection from disgruntled voters who like (or do not fully grasp the implications of) things the way they are now.

The family car has broken down. It is time for everyone to get out and push!

Jill S. Farrell is Director of Communications for the Free Congress Foundation.

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