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Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Urging Legislation To Carry Out Recommendations of the Joint federal-State Action Committee.

May 14, 1958

[ Released May 14, 1958. Dated May 13, 1958 ]

Dear Mr. Speaker:

On numerous occasions I have warned against the dangers of overcentralizing power and authority in the National Government. Similarly have I made clear my deep conviction that to avoid these dangers State and local governments must be strengthened.

To this end the Administration has sought continually to examine and to improve the balance in our system of divided governmental responsibilities. Early in 1953 I recommended and the Congress authorized the establishment of a Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. In its report of June 1955 the Commission concluded that we should:

"Leave to private initiative all the functions that citizens can perform privately; use the level of government closest to the community for all public functions it can handle; utilize cooperative intergovernmental arrangements where appropriate to attain economical performance and popular approval; reserve National action for residual participation where State and local governments are not fully adequate, and for the continuing responsibilities that only the National Government can undertake."

More recently, in June 1957, in an address before the Governors' Conference at Williamsburg, Virginia, I proposed the creation of a task force to take specific action:

"One--to designate functions which the States are ready and willing to assume and finance that are now performed or financed wholly or in part by the federal Government;

"Two--to recommend the federal and State revenue adjustments required to enable the States to assume such functions; and

"Three--to identify functions and responsibilities likely to require State or federal attention in the future and to recommend the level of State effort, or federal effort, or both, that will be needed to assure effective action."

This task force proposal was accepted by the Governors and in August of last year the Joint federal-State Action Committee was created, composed of ten Governors and seven federal representatives. In transmitting their initial report to me and to the Chairman of the Governors' Conference, the Co-Chairmen of the Committee advised that--

"The purpose of filing our first report at this time is to permit early action. The Committee urges that those recommendations requiring legislative implementation be transmitted to the Congress and State legislatures for consideration at their next sessions."

This report, which I dealt with in some detail in my last Budget Message, contained six specific recommendations. Three of those recommendations requiring congressional action were that the federal Government-- (1) discontinue its grants for vocational education; (2) discontinue its grants for construction of waste treatment facilities under Section 6 of the Water Pollution Control Act of 1956; and (3) reduce its 10% tax on local telephone service to 6% to assist the States in assuming financial responsibility for these programs--to accomplish the transition a tax credit device would be used for the first five years. The Director of the Bureau of the Budget will transmit draft legislation to implement these three recommendations.

To carry out the fourth recommendation the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission will suggest such revisions as are appropriate in the language of the pending proposal on peacetime uses of atomic energy. The fifth recommendation which concerns natural disaster relief will be implemented at the federal level by Executive Order as indicated in the report on this subject filed with the Congress on April 24, 1958• finally, I strongly support the Committee's sixth recommendation that each State increase its efforts in urban development, housing, and metropolitan planning.

Enactment at this time of federal legislation would be an encouraging step in the effort to strengthen State governments, by restoring to them specific functions in fields which are traditionally their responsibility. To give full effect to the Committee's recommendations the States, through their Governors and Legislatures, will also have to act. Prompt action at both levels would insure that functions and services will continue unimpaired.

I wish to stress that the legislation is designed solely to effectuate the recommendations in the report of the Committee which emphasized the necessity for a relationship between functions to be assumed by the States and tax sources to be released by the National Government. Also, it should be pointed out that passage of this legislation would have no effect on the presently accelerated public works programs since adequate time will be allowed for an orderly readjustment.

Therefore, in order to strengthen our federal system and to provide the circumstances for more responsible State governments, I strongly urge the Congress promptly to enact legislation consistent with the recommendations of the Joint federal-State Action Committee.



Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Urging Legislation To Carry Out Recommendations of the Joint federal-State Action Committee. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233396

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