Resolution Opposing Unfunded Mandates on the Cities and Towns of the Commonwealth (2012)

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As adopted by the members on January 21, 2012.
Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts provide a wide range of essential services for all the citizens of the Commonwealth, including providing safe, clean and affordable drinking water, and safe and sanitary wastewater treatment and stormwater management systems; and

Whereas, efficient, well-constructed and well-maintained water infrastructure is critical to public safety and an integral part of a healthy and growing local economy; and

Whereas, the cost for maintaining and upgrading water infrastructure has increasingly been shifted from the state and federal government to the cities and towns of Massachusetts, and the economic recession and the enduring impact on government revenues have resulted in budget shortfalls and challenges at both the state and local levels; and

Whereas, the federal government has imposed additional requirements, based on incomplete scientific analysis and review, on the cities and towns of Massachusetts without any additional appropriations; and

Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts depend on receiving an adequate amount of state and federal funds in order to meet the federal drinking, wastewater and stormwater requirements; and

Whereas, the fiscal 2012 Congressional House Interior Committee Appropriations bill would cut $967 million from the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water appropriations, nearly 40 percent, threatening our residents’ ability to access clean water and adding to the already significant backlog of safe drinking water infrastructure projects and imperiling the proven job creation that these investments would bring; and

Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts cannot continue to absorb these and additional mandates and the corresponding workload imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without compensation, reimbursement, or other relief from the Commonwealth;

Therefore it is hereby resolved that:

• The cities and towns of Massachusetts call on the federal government, the Legislature, the governor and the state’s administrative agencies to refrain from imposing any further unfunded mandates and requirements on cities and towns, as said mandates harm municipal budgets, adversely impact municipal services, and increase reliance on the property tax; and

• In the event that any such legislation or regulation is considered, the Executive Branch, Legislature and federal government should be required to provide a fiscal note included as part of any such proposal that clearly explains the costs imposed on municipal governments as a result of such legislation or regulation, including, but not limited to, the requisite staff necessary to administer or implement said legislation or regulation; and

• In the event there is a cost identified in said fiscal note, that the Legislature, Congress or agency should refrain from enacting such a legislative proposal or regulation until such time as an appropriation satisfying said amount be provided for; and

• The cities and towns of Massachusetts oppose any legislative or ballot initiative that would limit the ability to raise local revenues necessary to operate, maintain and upgrade public drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems; and

• The state should grant authority to cities and towns to establish drinking water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure banks to help to repair, maintain, and expand their water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure systems; and

• The state should establish a statewide ban on phosphorus in fertilizer used for non-commercial agricultural operations to assist communities in meeting unfunded federal phosphorus reduction mandates; and

• The state should pass dam removal and repair legislation to assist communities in meeting the state’s proposed streamflow criteria, federal phosphorus reduction mandates and protect the health and safety of their residents; and

• The administration should implement the $25 million Drinking Water Quality Act Authorization as passed in the 2009 Massachusetts Environmental Bond Act; and

• The United States Congress should, at a minimum, maintain funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs at 2011 levels of $963 million and $1.52 billion, respectively, in the Fiscal Year 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill; and

• A copy of this resolution shall be presented to the governor, the members of the Massachusetts Legislature, the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, and the President of the United States on behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth.