The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
One of the most arrogant practices of government is regulatory blackmail. Thatís when funding of a lower government is tied to that government adopting a specific rule or practice. These rules or practices are ones that the higher level has no constitutional right to impose, so it resorts to blackmail to get its way. At the Federal level, we see it most frequently with highway funding, when funds are withheld from Missouri because we wonít comply with cosmetic open container rules that donít address the real problem, the drunken driver.
When we read about reactivation of the Regional Planning Commission (RPC), we can see that the state highway people have learned from the feds. Counties in our area arenít allowed to participate in highway planning unless they have an RPC. On the other hand, the highway department that canít afford to fix our roads will give them around $40,000 if they do. Of course, local taxpayers in the four counties involved will have to pony up almost $30,000 from strapped county budgets. Another $35,000 will come from other tax-supported coffers. All in all, taxpayers will be saddled with over $100,000 in expenses so the officials we elect (and pay well) to represent us can have a voice with the Jefferson City bureaucrats. Missouri has 19 of these regions. If all were to get about the same money, thatís about $3/4 million from highway funds going into RPCs instead of fixing roads.
I did some research into the laws authorizing RPCs; theyíre contained in Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 251. Section 251.320 is particularly instructive; it says in part ďThe regional planning commission shall have the function and duty of making and adopting a comprehensive plan for the development of the region.Ē It further states, ďThe comprehensive plan shall be made with the general purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the region which will, in accordance with existing and future needs, best promote public health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity or the general welfare, as well as efficiency and economy in the process of development. ď For the internet savvy, read the whole thing at www.moga.state.mo.us/STATUTES/C251.HTM.
While local governments should have the sense to work together on projects of mutual self-interest, it is unconscionable for the highway department in these times of budget austerity to spend taxpayer money to force local governments to spend even more money and create new bureaucracies. Instead of kowtowing to the Jefferson City bureaucrats, we should be asking our legislative candidates what they intend to do to end the practice of official blackmail.
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