What Are Practical State Benefits of the Amendment?
- Unilaterally Mandated Federal Obligations
Congressional legislation unilaterally mandates programs that obligate the States’ support.The U.S. government does not fund some of these programs. Consequently, the States are obliged to pay their costs. This distorts the allocation of taxes and resources, thereby reducing the nation’s overall economic effectiveness and efficiency. A nationwide Ballot Initiative process will permit states to modify, limit or remove unilateral federally mandated programs. The cost of the programs to the States is about $30 billion per year. The U.S. REAL ID act obligated significant additional costs. These costs generally appear as a visible state tax, but are really a hidden federal tax. Of course, Initiatives are not suitable to micro-manage these mandated obligations. Instead, they are suitable to establish overall policies, procedures, and limitation. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) might coordinate this—as a U.S. organization, NCSL will have the right to propose Initiatives. The Initiative process could address policies that control unilaterally mandated obligations.
- Unreasonable Strings Attached to Federal Funds
Federal funds to States and local Government have grown to over $500 billion per year and now account for or from 20 to 45 percent of each state’s funds. State funds include more than 1,100 different federal aid programs for the states, with each program having its own rules, regulations, and strings on state funds that commingle with any federal funds. Consequently, the total federal influence on the states is greater than the funding amount suggests. The attached strings enable the Congress and the Presidency to exert powerful and perhaps unreasonable influences on the states and the citizens of those states.
On the one hand, states generally are satisfied to let the U.S. government collect taxes on their behalf, which the Internal Revenue Service does very efficiently. On the other hand, a compelling question often raised is “whose money is it anyway?” Use of nationwide Initiatives could address policies regarding this issue.
- Wishes of the People for Nationwide Initiatives
Today, over 70 percent of Americans use initiatives in their states and cities. The 24 initiative states have experience of their people’s support for initiatives and their criticisms of the initiative process. In general, these experiences show that the state’s people jealously guard their right to have an initiative process.
However, the extent of special interest influence and the high cost of the initiative process frustrate the voters. These are non-issues in the planned Solution, because the nationwide process using an Assembly is inherently immune to special interests’ influence, the cost of proposing an initiative is low, and the cost per voter is insignificant. This gives reason to expect that the nationwide Initiative process should receive even greater public support than enjoyed by the state initiatives.
There have been four polls on nationwide initiatives—Gallup 1987, Washington Post 1994, Gallop 1997 and Portrait of America 1999-2000. Averaging the four polls, Citizens are 63.5% in favor and 21.3% against Initiatives. In other words, voters overwhelmingly support nationwide initiatives by three to one. A separate page describes the polls. The public’s deteriorating view of federal government and their growing frustration with special interests’ influence may make today’s opinions even stronger.
The great support for nationwide initiatives will probably influence State legislators when making their decisions. State legislators have an obligation to fulfill their constituents’ wishes whenever possible.
- States’ Inherent Efficiency
In a federal republic, delegation to the States is generally desirable and should be encouraged. The fifty states compete with each other on a long-term basis and thereby improve their efficiency and effectiveness to the benefit of the people. The Federal government, on the other hand, is a monopoly without U.S. competition and therefore inevitably less efficient. This fundamental philosophy of competition is a cornerstone of our capitalist system. The Initiative process could address policies that encourage efficiency.
- States’ Inherent Ability to Innovate and Stimulate Economic Growth
The states are on average only two percent of the size of the U.S. This is comparable to the relationship between small and large businesses. A disproportionately large proportion of our innovation and growth occurs in the small business sector. Analogously, the States are a valuable and often untapped source of innovation in government. An inherent key reason it that it is easier to adjust the goals, change direction, revise technology, and even abandon a small project than to make such changes to a big program.
Therefore, it makes sense to test innovations and improvements on a state level whenever possible before applying them to the whole nation. In the past, Congress has made many preemptive nationwide changes at great expense without first verifying that they work, ignoring appeals that the States should try them first in a few States. Use of nationwide Initiatives could address this situation.
- Term Limits
On one hand, elected representatives at all levels dislike term limits, feeling that their years of experience are valuable and that enforced retirement from office is a waste that harms the people. On the other hand, public polls indicate that they are popular with voters. In the first half of our Republic, House members had a tradition of only one or two terms. From 1830 to 1850, turnover in the House averaged 51.5 percent. From 1998 to 2002, House turnover during re-election averaged about two to four percent. The Plan takes no position on term limits except to note the facts relating to the States’ support of the Plan.