Regulatory Improvement Update

Published September 1, 1999

As a general rule, people are more comfortable making decisions when they’re informed. They’re willing to do the research–and the leg work–to get the facts they need to make the right choice.

For example, when buying a home, most people hire an inspector to make sure everything is well-built and secure. When buying a new car, they look at different models, consider options, compare prices, take a test drive, and maybe even ask a professional mechanic to look things over.

People want to get their money’s worth. Shouldn’t their representatives in government want the same thing?

When it comes to knowing how our government spends our hard-earned tax dollars, we know very little. Consider the cost of regulations on Americans.

Here are some disturbing facts:

  • Federal regulations cost every man, woman and child in America more than $3,000 a year.
  • The typical American works 40 days each year just to pay for the cost of federal regulations.
  • The total cost of regulations is equal to 43 percent of the federal budget and about 9 percent of America’s gross national product.

We know little about what we are getting for this huge investment. But thanks to groups like Alliance USA, a national coalition of business groups and individual companies advocating smarter government rule-making, Congress is beginning to get the message.

A number of bills are moving forward to improve the regulatory process and the information taxpayers can get about government regulations that affect their lives. The Mandates Information Act, Regulatory Right-to-Know Act, and Regulatory Improvement Act would all increase the flow of information about regulations and improve the regulatory process.

Who’s behind these bills? Just about everyone. Each measure enjoys bipartisan support, including Republican and Democratic cosponsors. And leading national organizations representing mayors, governors, county officials, and state legislators endorse them all.

The newest bill in the regulatory improvement arsenal is called the Truth in Regulating Act (TIRA). Introduced on June 18, 1999 by Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), TIRA would establish a three-year pilot project under which the General Accounting Office (GAO) would report to Congress on economically significant rules.

TIRA is designed to promote an efficient, effective, and fair regulatory process. It’s built upon the principle that the American people have a right to know about important regulatory decisions. Under TIRA, information provided by GAO would help Congress understand and evaluate regulatory decisions. The bill also creates an information clearinghouse that taxpayers can use to keep up to date.

This regulatory improvement agenda will give federal regulatory agencies useful tools–like risk assessment and benefit-cost analysis–to help them make better policy decisions. The regulatory process would work better and cost less.

These legislative proposals do more than give the public the right to know. They give citizens the right to see how the government works.

They’ll make public the information that regulatory agencies use to make rules. This will enable legislators to ensure that new regulations are consistent with Congressional intent. It will also prevent regulatory agencies from over-stepping their authority.

Taken together, these proposals will make the regulatory process more transparent, accountable, and democratic. Not only will they improve the quality and fairness of important regulations, they’ll contribute to the success of programs that the public values, improving overall public confidence in government.

Just as individual Americans carefully choose a house, a car, or anything else that’s important, they have a right to know their government is carefully considering where their tax dollars are going and how those investments will improve our lives. These bills will help make that happen.

And that’s a good thing . . . because every American benefits when the government performs well.

J.W. Wymer is vice president of Fairmount Minerals Ltd. in Chardon, Ohio, a member of Alliance USA.