Gov. Tim Pawlenty is considering relaxing some state mandates to help cities and counties weather the economic downturn, according to a story today by MPR's Tim Pugmire. In many cases, the state requires school districts, cities and counties to meet certain standards, but doesn't provide any money to make it so.
In the story, Pawlenty said he's waiting for some suggestions:
"We have repeatedly asked the counties and others if there are certain mandates that you think are cumbersome or inefficient or unfair or burdensome or dramatically underfunded, and you want to be relieved of those. Give us a list. We haven't received it yet, this year or last year or anytime we've asked for it. So, it's pretty clear to us they don't want to say which ones they want to eliminate. So we will give them the option," Pawlenty said.
An MPR reader/listener found that to be disingenuous of the governor and he pointed out that such a list has been available for several years. The Legislature encouraged school districts, cities, and counties to provide suggestions for cutting unfunded mandates, and they've been sitting on the state auditor's Web site.
Hundreds of proposals range from the state-mandate for detox services (which I wrote about earlier today) to a relaxation of indoor air quality rules.
The schools, county, and city officials can provide additional suggestions by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, though there is obviously no guarantee anyone is going to look at them.
Here's my suggestion for which unfunded mandates to cut: all of them. It should be unconstitutional for the state to put any mandates on counties, school districts, municipalities, etc., for which the state does not provide at least a major chunk of the funding.
If something is important enough to the state that the state makes it mandatory, the state should put its money where its mouth is.
While not to disagree with the MPR reader/listener but I think the Governor's request was slightly different than the state auditor's mandate of posting objections to a state mandate. Those objections did not need to be for the reasons that the Governor gave. His request seems to be a bit looser. But I don't know how 'advertised' his request was.
Governor 'Teflon' Tim will get some good milage out of the statment on right wing radio. But will not make a lot of friends in local government. Plus he might get a suprise of a list from the local governments.
Re: the "...relaxation of indoor air quality rules,' I presume you mean the suggestion from the City of Plymouth on enforcement of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.
Highly unlikely to happen, as this 3/17/2006 suggestion was made well before the Minnesota Clean Air Act was amended to include ALL indoor workplaces.
The City does not offer any evidence that enforcing the state law causes any undue hardship or financial burden on Plymouth, in fact, the Freedom To Breathe Act is largely self-policed by the hospitality industry, patrons and the MN Department of Health.
This suggestion is based on the City's position that they are on record for being opposed to ALL unfunded/under funded mandates, regardless of the intent of the law.
Commissioner McLaughlin's description of mental health as an unfunded mandate is misleading and could result in cuts in vital services just when they are about to be needed the most. Calling the Maintenance of Effort requirement regarding county-funded mental health services an unfunded mandate is a little disingenuous since it is merely a requirement that counties "maintain" their historic contribution to mental health services in return for which they get additional state grant support. The MOE requirement is there to prevent counties from substituting state funds intended to augment local services for current county funding.