Mandate ombudsman: Michigan should create the nation's first official federal-state mandate Ombudsman to track, forecast, disseminate, and distribute information regarding mandated legislation. This position will serve a multitude of purposes, all designed to increase the awareness of taxpayers, lawmakers, and special interests at every level of government as to the fiscal impact of mandated legislation.
Mandate database: The Michigan Department of Management and Budget (DMB) should create a computer database so that the Mandate Ombudsman could generate reports that provide up-to-date total cost estimates to government entities as a function of appropriated funds. The database would also provide reports that break costs down by program and agency within the state and be made available to the governor, director of the DMB, the Michigan legislature and federal delegation, as well as the media and the general public.
This position would also be a tremendous asset to budget officers in Washington who are required to make impact estimates of all legislation containing mandates expected to cost over $200 million. Currently, many programs preclude the use of standard budgeting processes. This forces CBO employees to do extensive research in order to comply with the 1981 Local Government Cost Estimate Act. A mandate liaison in state budget offices would provide them with a quick source of accurate data that federal legislators could use in their decision making process.
Peter Denton, of the Idaho Legislative Budget office, has taken the first step toward creating a state level mandate computer tracking system. The concept behind this system is to enable budget officers in Idaho to make data queries available to state legislators via a Local Area Network with a gateway to a central mainframe computer. Currently, all data is input manually to a Paradox database,
In the future, such a computer system could access a national bulletin board, such as LegisNet, so that mandate updates could be made in every state. Each state could electronically receive mandate updates from the federal government. The reason for these "real-time" updates would be so that budget officers could have as much time as possible to accurately predict the cost impact of federally mandated legislation.
State resolution: The consensus of opinion among analysts is that relief from the burden of unfunded federal mandates will occur only when federal legislators are themselves concerned with the impact mandated legislation has on the states. In order to facilitate a greater awareness of unfunded programs that Congress requires Michigan to implement, we suggest that a resolution be adopted calling upon the Michigan delegation to the United States Congress to appear before the Legislature (or a special joint committee thereof), oil an annual basis to provide an account of how they have fulfilled their constitutional responsibilities in representing One people of this state. At such an occasion, they should be invited to explain and justify the particular mandates the federal Congress has imposed. The Governor should use the weight of his office to encourage our representatives and senators to participate. He should ask the Michigan Legislature to adopt a resolution expressing, its desire to see this happen.
In the fall of 1992, both houses of the Alabama Legislature approved arid the state's governor signed just such a resolution. Alabama's federal representatives will be appearing before members of the state legislature On April 6, 1993 – the first meeting of its kind in the nation. Michigan ought to follow suit.