Everyone's slamming unfunded federal mandates these days. Except me.
It's easy to complain that Congress should be ashamed of itself for enacting regulations that cost a bundle, and then passing them and the bill onto the states. In principle, I agree the Beltway bigwigs shouldn't be allowed to pass the buck like that.
However, one of the examples being used to demonstrate the abusive nature of federal mandates is the proposed requirement concerning the use of rubberized asphalt for roads. In fact, the governor of the Great State of Ohio, George Voinovich, gave that mandate as an example while serving as a point man in congressional hearings on the subject.
Hold it, George. It sounds like you've been swallowing a little too much hooey from your highway department bureaucrats.
In the first place, the federal directive for states to use rubberized asphalts isn't an unfunded mandate. The money comes from federal, not state, taxes in the first place. The federal government just directs how it will be used.
It sounds like some states just don't want to be told what to do.
Secondly, is someone under the illusion that this directive just popped up one day? That some big, bad Congress is making a grandstand play for votes?
Certainly, that has been the case on many unfunded mandates. But not this one. This issue has been hashed around for years. The rubberized asphalt provision was included in the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, but enforcement was halted in the last Department of Transportation appropriations bill. The legislative game still is in play.
Most importantly, a mandate on rubberized asphalt is a good thing.
There is no more environmentally safe method for disposing of scrap tires than to use them in asphalt rubber. No one wants a tires-to-energy incineration plant in his backyard; recycled rubber has cost and performance limitations; and burying scrap tires is unacceptable. Converting scrap tires into rubberized asphalt provides a better road surface and takes a bite out of the nearly 1 billion used tires now in existence.
What is more important: To reduce the amount of scrap tires in existence at a higher cost for road projects, or to have lower road costs but mountains of scrap tires-like the 80-million-tire pile in Voinovich's own backyard, in Sycamore, Ohio? It just happens to be the largest pile of scrap tires in the world.
To me the choice is clear.