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Beware of Governmental Mandate Claims

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When you hear a government official talking about mandates from another part of the government, you need to verify that it is, in fact, a mandate. Generally, the representative of the people paying the taxes will have the final decision, so you should be suspicious if your representative says that a new expense “mandated by another part of government” cannot be rejected. 

The way one part of government usually gets another to spend money is with an “incentive”. It might be a grant that pays for a portion of the cost of the hiring of additional staff but also includes requirements on how those staffs are used. A good example of this behavior was the federal No Child Left Behind laws which included funds that required changes to testing and curriculum on the local level. If you wanted the federal funds you have to make those changes.

One part of the government offering an incentive to another part of government is that it can greatly influence the behavior of the governmental entity on the receiving end of the incentive. This is similar to the way incentives can convince you to buy a new car when you don’t need a new car. The offer was too good to pass up so you bought the car.

The reason a government official is tempted to claim that something is “mandated” is that it ends the discussion. It does not matter how much it will cost. It does not matter if it is the correct allocation of resources. Their hands are tied. If you have an issue with what is happening they cannot help you. You have to take up the issue with the part of government that is issuing the mandate. 

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So when a government official tells you that something is a “mandate”, you need to verify that is the case. There is usually a bit of truth to the claims that something is mandated, but it may not be an accurate statement entirely.

The Hernando Sun has twice looked into claims of “mandates.” The first time, there was said to be a mandate that the school system purchase tablets for all the students. The mandate turned out to be several hundred thousands in state dollars that had to be spent on software. In order to get the most out of the software, the school system was discussing spending tens of millions of dollars to purchase tablets for every student. The second time concerned the proposed judicial building/ government complex project. There is a requirement that the county provides “adequate space” for the judges. The county commission gets to decide what “adequate space” means, but the judges can challenge the county commission’s decision in court. It would be simple for county commissioners to say they must approve the $70-$100 million expenditure as a mandate from the court system, but not entirely true as they do have the right to define what adequate space means and how to provide it.  

Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein has over 35 years experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with neurologically impaired adults. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Speech Pathology.
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