As budget woes continue to plague states and municipalities across the country, there is at least one proposed solution a large majority of Americans do not want to pursue. According to a recent poll by Pew Research and National Journal, only 26 percent of respondents indicated that they want the federal government to intervene to help relieve state and local budget pressures.
The poll reveals a greater underlying concern of the American people: they are fed up with Washington, D.C.’s dysfunction and inability to get things done. This sharp opposition to increased federal aid and involvement shows that citizens nationwide do not want more of Washington in their lives. Instead, Americans prefer to have problems solved closed to home, using local resources and with the input of local people.
And yet, even with such clear opposition to federal intervention into state and local budget crises, Washington continues to stand in the way of state and local governments’ ability to get things done. Burdensome federal regulations create significant impediments to states and municipalities problem solving.
Western states understand all too well the drawbacks of federal involvement. These states face perhaps some of the greatest challenges as a result of the federal government’s ownership of more than 50 percent of their land. The funding sources for states west of Colorado are directly tied to the federal government, and these Western states must rely on Washington to pay them for the natural resources utilized on their own land.
States have felt the negative impact of this ownership arrangement most recently with Sequestration. The resulting federal spending cuts dramatically impacted the state budgets, particularly those in the West. For example, Wyoming’s state budget relies heavily on mineral leasing royalty payments they receive from the federal government.
As we have discussed previously, the federal government initially refused to pay these mineral royalties as a result of mandatory Sequester cuts. Fortunately, Washington backed down on its refusal to pay the Wyoming the money it was due; otherwise, the state would have experienced devastating reductions in funds, affecting vital programs like education.
States and municipalities have serious budget problems, and greater federal involvement is not the solution. There is an alternative, one that Americans largely favor: allow states greater flexibility to utilize their rightful authority to make decisions, solve problems and bring government closer to the people.