- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Big government is getting big criticism. A coalition of 15 free market groups say that stifling and potentially costly federal regulations can have an effect similar to tax increases, proposing that these regs be capped, tracked and disclosed annually - just like federal spending. The group is now urging Congress to include a regulatory budget in its final budget for 2017, and they’ve got an example in mind, spelled out in an open letter to lawmakers.

“Specifically, Congress should pass a budget that includes the regulatory budget put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Georgia Republican, in the new House Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2017,” the groups advise in their message.

“The chairman’s budget is remarkable for including a seven-point section on regulatory budgeting and reform that, for example, require[s] an annual, congressional regulatory budget that establishes annual costs of regulations and allocates these costs amongst federal regulatory agencies.”

Led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and supported by such organizations as FreedomWorks and the American Tax Payers Union, the coalition also faulted certain White House practices.

“The current rulemaking process is broken. The executive branch can and does go around Congress and the states on matters such as healthcare, retirement, labor and education policy—not solely by issuing normal regulations. The Obama administration, in particular, has escalated the use of agency guidance documents, memoranda, bulletins, manuals, circulars and other proclamations to circumvent our elected officials,” the letter notes.

It also cites previous efforts to establish a regulatory budget, notably by former Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen in 1979 to cap compliance costs and establish an annual regulatory budget. More recently, Sen. Mike Lee , Utah Republican, put forward a “Regulatory Cost Assessment Act” and Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, a “National Regulatory Budget.” 

“With the recognition of the regulatory hidden tax alongside the budgetary one, we urge Congress to seize this unique opportunity to assert control over the regulatory state and enact significant reforms,” the group concludes.

The coalition letter was organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and signed by American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Individual Freedom, Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, Citizens Against Government Waste, FreedomWorks, Frontiers of Freedom, Log Cabin Republicans, Main Street Growth Project, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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