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Mayors want money to enforce federal mandates

The U.S. Conference of Mayors opened its annual meeting Sunday with a frontal attack on federal regulations they say are costing cities billions of dollars and driving some close to bankruptcy.

The problem is the growth of federal mandates, often in the areas of the environment and transportation, which are passed by Congress but paid for by state and local governments.

The mayors at the 61st annual conference said federal mandates grew sharply during the Bush and Reagan administrations while federal revenue sharing was cut.

"It is intellectually dishonest to continue government the way they're doing it," conference president William Althaus, mayor of York, Pa., told a news conference.

A cornerstone of the mayors' effort to halt the growth of such mandates is legislation from Idaho Sen. Kirk Kempthorne, a former Boise mayor. The bill would require that any federal program imposing rules on states and cities would have to provide the money for compliance.

Kempthorne conceded that since Congress is wrestling with cutting the federal deficit, passage will be difficult.

The mayors said the goal is not to end federal mandates but to make sure the cost is known before the law is passed.