Fairfax County Supervisor and VACo Board of Directors member Jeffrey C. McKay testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs on April 26. The hearing, “Unfunded Mandates: Examining Federally Imposed Burdens on State and Local Governments,” offered an opportunity for representatives from states and localities to provide perspectives on ways to improve the relationship between the federal government and states and localities, particularly in the regulatory arena.
McKay stressed the importance of flexibility for localities in complying with federal requirements, noting that local governments frequently share the policy goals that federal mandates are intended to achieve; the problem often lies in the overly prescriptive nature of the mandates, which, McKay noted, often dictate “not only what we must do but also how we must do it.” He also pointed out that localities in Virginia are particularly limited in their available revenue options, and that this problem is compounded by the strictures of the Dillon Rule and limited state support for shared government services, making compliance with federal requirements a particular challenge if appropriate levels of funding do not accompany those requirements.
In the discussion with subcommittee members, McKay and his fellow panelists, including NACo representative Gary Moore, the County Executive of Boone County, Kentucky, encouraged federal agencies to include local representation early in the regulatory process, since meaningful collaboration with local elected officials and staff can help tailor policy solutions to the differing needs and capabilities of localities. McKay noted in his testimony that in the absence of certain federal mandates, his locality might still opt to pursue the same goals, but “the way in which we would carry out those activities might be completely different, and that could vary from community to community – my suburban, densely populated locality may find solutions that are different than those that would work in a more rural, less populated area, which is as it should be…it is essential that we receive appropriate contributions from our federal and state funding partners, while also being empowered with the tools we need to diversify our revenues and strike the appropriate balance for our communities.”
In reflecting on the hearing, McKay said, “We are lucky to have some great federal partners on Capitol Hill, so when Rep. Connolly and the House Oversight Committee asked me to testify about unfunded mandates – which play a huge role in our County budget – I was more than happy to participate. It’s no secret that the state ties our hands as far as creating revenue sources outside of property taxes, so we at the local level must continue to seek relief as well as diversification. This was a tremendous opportunity to do that. I think we had a very productive conversation and I’m hopeful we continue that dialogue moving forward.”
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle
Photo: NACo Twitter