New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is “gravely concerned” that Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, may be jeopardizing the future of programs like Medicare, Medicaid and school aid through the guise of reducing the impact of unfunded mandates on state, local and tribal governments. Unfunded mandates are federal statutes or regulations that require non-federal governments to achieve certain goals or perform actions but do not provide federal dollars to aid in the achievement of those goals or cover the costs.
On Friday, Sweeney responded to a December 2016 letter from Chaffetz in which the chairman asked for the New Jersey senate president’s input in identifying “the burden than unfunded mandates place on non-federal entities.” In his response, the senate president expressed concern that Chaffetz’s initial letter misinterpreted a 2005 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. According to Sweeney, while the 2005 report—Unfunded Mandates: Views Vary About Reform Act’s Strengths, Weaknesses, and Options for Improvement—details the effectiveness of the 1995 Unfunded Mandate Reform Act, it does not justify the claim in Chaffetz’s initial letter that many state, local and tribal governments, as well as private sector entities, have “raised concerns” about the nature of unfunded mandates.
According to Sweeney’s response, the senate president is concerned that Chaffetz is using the 2005 report in order to attempt to shift challenges from the federal government to local governments “under the veil of ‘flexibility and efficiency.’” Sweeney’s letter says he is concerned that congress “intends to alleviate itself of the responsibility of making and enforcing policies that provide for the general welfare of the American people.”
Sweeney also said using unfunded mandate reform to scale back entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid would mean “congress will have knowingly walked away from its sworn oath.” The Senate President concluded his response with a request that congress “continue to live up to its oath” and promote the general welfare of U.S. citizens.
Sweeney’s letter copied both New Jersey U.S. Senators—Cory Booker and Bob Menendez—as well as all members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation.
Observer attempted to reach out to Chaffetz for comment but was not able to reach anyone at either his Washington D.C. office or Utah office.