Unformatted text preview: o reinvigorate state and local governments by
putting decision making closer to the people, and to reduce administrative costs that came with the existing grant
system. Enacted by Congress and signed into law by Nixon in 1972, the general revenue sharing program provided
roughly $6 billion a year for state and local governments from 1972-1976. It was re-authorized in 1976 for four years. In
1980 states were dropped from the program, and only local governments benefited from the program before it passed 15
18 Ibid., p. 58.
David B. Walker, The Rebirth of Federalism, 2nd ed., (New York: Chatham House Publishers, 2000), p 10.
Deil Wright, Understanding Intergovernmental Relations (North Scituate, MA: Duxbury Press, 1978), p. 130.
See Richard P. Nathan, The Plot that Failed: Nixon and the Administrative Presidency (New York: Wiley, 1975). 27 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance from the intergovernmental scene in 1986.
Revolution.” 3. 19 Nixon had termed his revenue sharing program part of a “new American DECENTRALIZATION President Nixon’s anti-Washington rhetoric caught on, and became a consistent theme for the successful presidential
candidates who were to follow him. Jimmy Carter, the self-proclaimed “little old peanut farmer from Georgia,” continued
the anti-Washington theme. He was defeated in 1980 by Ronald Reagan, who took the pro-states/anti-Washington
rhetoric to a new level. The seeming digression from this trend, George Bush’s election in 1988, was due more to the
failures of the Dukakis campaign than to any reaffirmation of Washington. The election of Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush continued the importance of an “outsider” campaign.
During this period state and local government officials increased their criticism of the federal government’s pattern of
intergovernmental relations. New complaints were added to the existing list that most prominently included the high
administrative costs, lack of flexibility, and uncertainty. Cross-cutting requirements to the receipt of grants in particular
increased in the 1970s and 1980s. These conditions of receiving federal grants often imposed policies on state and local
governments, in seeming violation of the 10th Amendment. Initially involving mostly administrative and procedural issues,
Congress began to add goals in areas such as nondiscrimination, health and safety, and environmental protection,
without explicitly funding them.
Examples of these requirements include a mandating of a 21-year-old drinking age for states, a 55-mph speed limit on
interstate highways, and accessibility of government buildings for the handicapped. The US Supreme Court affirmed
these arrangements when they were challenged. They concluded that entering into a grant was a voluntary decision by
the sub-national governments, and that therefore they had the option to decline the funds if they did not want to be
subject to the conditions attached. While this view may have been technically true, the loss of federal funds made
rejection on principle politically unwise.
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