Unfunded mandates

The federal government may require state, local, and tribal governments and private-sector entities to expend funds for national goals. The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA, pdf, 25pp) was passed to ensure that Congress receives information about proposed federal mandates before enacting legislation. UMRA requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to prepare "mandate statements" for bills approved by authorizing committees.
In those statements, CBO must address whether the direct costs of a bill’s federal mandates would be greater than the thresholds established in UMRA and identify any funding that the bill would provide to cover those costs. If the total direct costs of all mandates in the bill exceed the statutory threshold in any of the first five fiscal years in which the mandate is in effect, CBO must provide an estimate of those costs (if feasible) and the basis of its estimate.
CBO published a report on its UMRA activities in 2009. Per the Director's Blog: "As in previous years, few laws enacted in 2009 contained mandates whose costs, in CBO’s estimation, would exceed UMRA’s thresholds."

A Review of CBO's Activities in 2009 Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
      Report (pdf, 82pp/3.4MB), March 2010
      Blog, April 1, 2010

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