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Remarks on Signing the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

March 22, 1995

I thank Governor Winter for his introduction and for the fine work he has done as head of the Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations. I want to welcome all of you here, especially the Members of the Congress. The Senate's been involved in business, and I think the House may still be voting. Representative Towns, I'm glad you made it. And I thank Senator Dole for coming. I want to say a special word of thanks to Senator Kempthorne, who picked a great first bill to pass in the United States Senate; to Senator John Glenn, who was the Democratic floor manager of this bill; Congressman Bill Clinger, the House sponsor; Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, the Democratic floor manager; Congressman Gary Condit and Jim Moran, who both pushed this bill. And I welcome Governor Voinovich from Ohio here, who drew State and local governments together on this matter. We have many mayors here. I see Mayor Abramson and Mayor Daley and Mayor Lashutka. And there are representatives of the counties and the State legislatures here, other Members of Congress. I thank all of you for your work on this important piece of legislation.

I had the privilege in 1989—he may not remember this—of having dinner in Chicago with Mayor Daley just a couple of weeks after he took office. I learned that night, somewhere between salad and the main course, just how much Mayor Daley hated unfunded mandates. [Laughter] For those of you who would have been nice enough to let me get all the way to dessert, I welcome you here, too. [Laughter]

I share these concerns, having served as a Governor for a dozen years and witnessed the growth of many of the unfair burdens that unfunded mandates impose. Shortly after I became President, I signed an Executive order to prohibit Federal agencies from imposing nonstatutory unfunded mandates on State and local governments without full consultations first.

We have a few more Members coming. Come on in. Representatives Peterson and Tauzin, we're glad to see you.

This bill today extends that discipline to Congress. And I applaud Congress for passing it. It for the first time limits the ability of Congress to pass laws which impose unfunded mandates on State, county, local governments and tribal governments. Having been there as a Governor, I know this bill will make a big difference in the lives of our people.

We've made important progress this year in reforming Government already. The Congress passed a bill which I was proud to sign which requires Congress to live by the laws it imposes on the private sector.

Now this unfunded mandates law will be another model for how we have to continue to change the way Washington does business. The best ideas and the most important work that affect the public interest are often done a long way away from Washington. This bill is another acknowledgement that Washington doesn't necessarily have all the answers, that we have to continue to push decisionmaking down to the local level, and we shouldn't make the work of governing at the local level any harder than the circumstances of the time already ensure that it will be.

The other thing that this bill shows is that Republicans and Democrats can come together and break gridlock and do what the American people expect us to do. For all of you who are part of that cooperative effort and especially for the Members of the Congress, I thank you.

This is spring, and the roses are about to bloom here in the Rose Garden. This is a new beginning and a time for a new spirit of cooperation. I hope the Congress will move on from this to first pass the line-item veto, so we can bring more real discipline to our spending process, and then to pass welfare reform that promotes work and responsible parenting and tough child support enforcement.

We have got to build a true partnership with the American people, with a Government that gets rid of what's unnecessary for today and tomorrow and does what we have to do in a limited but effective way. We're trying to do that in reducing the deficit, the size of the Federal Government, reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation. This bill will make a real start.

Listen to this: Before 1964, the number of explicit mandates from the Congress on State and local governments was zero. But according to the National Performance Review, on the day I took office there were at least 172 separate pieces of legislation that impose requirements on State and local government. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost to States and localities of all the regulations imposed just between 1983 and 1990 is between $8.9 billion and $12.7 billion. After today, this should stop.

This bill requires Congress to show how much mandates over $50 million per year will cost State and local governments, to require Congress to identify a specific funding source for these mandates, and if it does not meet these criteria, Congress must explicitly waive the requirement that there be no unfunded mandate, something which I think will become increasingly rare with the passage of this law.

You know, our Founders gave us strong, guiding principles about how our governments ought to work, and they trusted us in every generation to reinvigorate the partnership they created with such wisdom so long ago. For 200 years, we've had to do that over and over and over, and about once a generation, we had to make some really big changes in the way we work together as a people, citizens in their private lives, local governments, State governments, and our Government here in Washington.

Today we are making history. We are working to find the right balance for the 21st century. We are recognizing that the pendulum had swung too far and that we have to rely on the initiative, the creativity, the determination, and the decisionmaking of people at the State and local level to carry much of the load for America as we move into the 21st century.

This bill will help to keep the American dream alive and help to keep our country strong. Every Member of Congress here who voted for it and every one who is not here deserves the thanks of the American people. And all of you from all over America who are here, from the cities, from the county operations, from the State legislatures and State Governments, we are all in your debt. I thank you, and I am honored to sign this bill.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi; Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio; Mayor Jerry Abramson of Louisville, KY; Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, IL; and Mayor Greg Lashutka of Columbus, OH. S. 1, approved March 22, was assigned Public Law No. 104-4.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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