- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

Maryland and Virginia officials warn that unfunded federal mandates in their states could threaten homeland security projects and health insurance for the poor, but analysts say they should cut spending instead of asking the Bush administration for more money.
The officials, who are struggling with huge budget shortfalls, say the biggest problem is that the federal government will not pay for mandates on public education, election reform, highway construction, homeland security and Medicaid.
While Maryland is expected to have a $1.8 billion shortfall next year, Virginia is struggling with a $3.8 billion budget deficit.
As a result, the states are spending millions of dollars from reserves to pay the mandates.
For example, when the federal government failed to pay Medicaid money, Maryland had to take $600 million from its funds, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said last week at the Council of State Governments convention.
The federal government also failed to pay states to improve homeland security after promising them money after the September 11 terrorist attacks, officials said. Virginia had to spend about $80 million, and Maryland spent more than $28 million in state money, they said.
"The federal government promised $3.5 billion to respond to future emergencies, but no money was appropriated," said Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner. She also said the delay was preventing the state from "moving forward and becoming more prepared for terror acts."
However, some political analysts say states should reduce spending on such social service programs as Medicaid and public education to improve the budget deficits.
"There is only one reason why the states have a budget problem, and it is because of a massive increase in spending," said Stephen Moore, senior fellow in economics at the Cato Institute, a District-based public policy group. "In the 1990s, many states doubled their budgets with an enormous expansion of public services. Now they're turning to Washington and saying, 'Bail us out.'"
During his speech at the Council of State Governments, Mr. Warner also criticized the federal government for failing to pay.
"As a matter of philosophy, no federal responsibility is more fundamental than defense of the homeland," he said. "And as a practical matter, states do not have the money to pay for it."
The first bill signed into law by President Bush after he took office, the No Child Left Behind Act, also has not been fully funded, though state officials say they were forced to make immediate changes, including extensive student testing.
Mr. Glendening said the problem is that the federal government has issued too many mandates.
"What we see is a series of decisions that erode state resources and the ability of states to make decisions," he said.
The federal government improved on paying for mandates after the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act was passed in 1995, sources said. But they also said the federal government still occasionally fails to pay.
Mr. Warner, in his speech last week, asked the federal government to implement no programs that would begin immediately. He also opposed federal programs that offer grants to states so long as they can post a matching amount.
"It's time to stop scoring political points by announcing new federal programs," Mr. Warner said. "Don't authorize big new programs, then fail to enact needed appropriations."
Mr. Moore said states must find ways to spend less on programs such as health care and education, especially programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.
"They should have never created those in the first place," said Mr. Moore, adding that programs such as Medicaid are "just eating up state budgets."

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