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Unformatted text preview: rs and programs a committee or subcommittee supervises, the more important that
committee is. Thus the "specialization" of the grant system neatly matches the specialization of Congress. Categorical
grants also allow the targeting of federal money to specific groups who are deemed "deserving" by Congress, or
perhaps to reward associations who have contributed to campaigns. Finally, tight controls on the use of federal money
act to mollify the concerns of fiscal conservatives who fear misuse of the funds at the state and local level. It is not
surprising, therefore, that before 1966 nearly all federal grant programs were categorical in nature, and that they have
consistently accounted for more than three-quarters of all federal grant-in-aid money (TABLE TWO). The “golden rule”
of grants was “he who has the gold makes the rule.”
Criticisms of categorical grants first appeared in the late 1960s. Critics, particularly recipient governments, saw
categorical grant programs administratively burdensome and too restrictive in that they did not allow enough flexibility to
allow for tailoring and adaptation to city or state specific conditions. Further, there was duplication and overlap among
some grant programs, while a proliferation of grants at work in a similar geographic area, yet administered by different
federal agencies, making coordination difficult. Block grants, the second major type of aid to emerge in the US
intergovernmental system, first appeared in 1966 and were a response to these concerns.
The characteristics of block grants are as follows:
♦ recipient jurisdictions have fairly wide discretion within the designated program or functional area; ♦ administration, reporting, planning, and other program features are intended to keep grantor supervision and control at a
minimum; ♦ formula-based allocation provisions are intended to limit grantor discretion and decrease fiscal uncertainty for the grantees; ♦ eligibility provisions are fairly precise, tending to favor general as opposed to special district governments, retaining grantor
administrative discretion, and favoring state and local generalist officials over program spets; ♦ funding provisions tend toward specifying low matching requirements for recipient jurisdictions.17 Block grants, then, designate broad goals and leave the means to these ends to local discretion to a much greater
extent than do categorical grants. The first block grant program was 1966’s Partnership for Health Act, followed closely
by the Safe Streets Act of 1968.
President Nixon launched the broadest attack on the federal government’s grant system in his 1971 State of the Union
message. He called for a program of general revenue sharing, or unrestricted aid to state and local governments, along
with six new block grants that he termed “special revenue sharing.”18 His pronouncements in support of these programs
were heavily anti-categorical, and hence anti-Washington. His goal was t...
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