Does Oregon Struggle for Sovereignty?

Congress: Give us the option of keeping policy control, and our money, within our state borders. That’s the point of a recent Goldwater Institute report, and the reasons for doing so are applicable to Oregon and other states. “Arizona’s Struggle for Sovereignty: The Consequences of Federal Mandates“ notes, Arizona is swimming in federal money, about $8 billion in 2008. This brings with it a serious problem: The Grand Canyon State Legislature “has direct appropriation authority over only 25 percent of state spending.” Problem 2: federal programs start to take priority over those that are state-developed. Oregon is likely to be in a similar situation, even if the dollar amount and percentage is different.

Goldwater’s June 3 “Sovereignty” media release cites several recommendations by report author Benjamin Barr, JD, the aim of which are to “provide states with more budget and policymaking autonomy.” My favorite is an opt-out option and tax credit:

“While states can already opt out of program participation, they can’t opt out of tax payments for those programs; which helps explain the near 100 percent participation by every state in all federal programs. [Barr] recommends Congress remedy that by providing citizens and businesses of non-participating states a credit against their income taxes.”

Other recommendations include:

“¢ Amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit federal mandates that require states to use non-federal funds to pay for them.

“¢ Create a “states’ veto” amendment to the U.S. Constitution, under which a majority or supermajority of state legislatures could vote to block unwanted federal mandates.

“¢ Expand the reach of and eliminate the use of procedural gimmicks to skirt the federal Unfunded Mandates Reform Act so that it is applied more robustly.

“¢ Opt out of No Child Left Behind; the federal government’s education program.

“¢ Seek judicial redress in three areas: reaffirming the U.S. Constitution’s promise of state sovereignty; revisiting the interpretation of the taxing and spending clause of the U.S. Constitution; and holding the federal government accountable by requiring it to follow set spending limits in statutes.