News: CJ Exclusives

Reviewing Government Regulators

EPA economist says that regulatory review has improved under Bush

Government regulations cost each typical American household about $8,000 a year, an EPA official said recently at a John Locke Foundation luncheon.

In describing the value of reviewing the type and extent of government regulatory activities, Allen C. Basala, a senior economist with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Air Quality Planning and Standards, said that while costs are significant, so too are potential savings. Citing recent reports from the Office of Advocacy in the U.S. Small Business Administration, Basala said the savings can total $3.6 billion to $21 billion per year.

Potential savings can be achieved through a variety of ways, including increased transparency within the government and outsourcing, Basala said. Not only should taxpayers ask whether a government agency can perform a certain function better, but they should also question whether the agency should be performing the function at all. Can a certain public service be better provided by the private sector? Basala asked.

If it is decided that the government should perform a certain service, taxpayers should question the cost-benefit relationship of the service within a community. The benefits of providing the service to community members might outweigh the costs incurred upon them, Basala said.

Taxpayers should demand that all proposed options for carrying out the service be revealed in the review process, Basala said. Agencies should make the public aware of all possible ways to perform a service so the public can better choose the best process. “If we only see A and B proposals, we are leaving out the cost saving potentials of C, D, and E,” he said. “Agencies must distribute information instead of disseminate it.”

This transparency would prevent agencies from selecting the “Goldilocks” proposal, “not too hot, not too cold,” because the choice might not always be “just right,” Basala said.

Regulatory review has been reformed considerably in the last couple of years, Basala said. “[The Bush] Administration is head and shoulders above the last administration, but there is much work remaining,” he said.

Increased public awareness and, more importantly, public participation, would speed the reform process, Basala said. For more information on the process of regulatory review, visit regulations.gov or whitehouse.gov/omb.oira.

Hood is a contributor to Carolina Journal.