April 19, 1999
WASHINGTON, APRIL 19, 1999-Federal regulators have been doing a "woefully inadequate job" of providing the public with information about the cost and impact of regulation, says Angela Antonelli, director of The Heritage Foundation's Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, in a new paper.
"The frenetic pace at which the federal government produces new regulations strongly suggests the need for further accountability," says Antonelli. In fiscal year 1998, 53 departments and agencies spent $17 billion writing and enforcing federal regulations. The General Accounting Office, the federal government's spending "watchdog," estimates that between April 1996 and March 1999 agencies issued 12,925 final rules. Just 188 of them carried an estimated cost to the economy of more than $18.8 billion in new regulatory costs.
During the past three years the White House budgetary agency, the Office of Management and Budget, has been required to provide Congress with annual reports on the cost of regulation, but the two reports filed to date contain only aggregate figures, says Antonelli. As OMB itself noted, the "substance is in the details, not in the total." The Regulatory Right to Know Act of 1999, introduced with bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, would require OMB to supply data on the cost and benefit of individual regulations. The legislation will be marked up in a House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on Tuesday, April 20, and will be the subject of a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, April 22.
"Americans have a right to engage in dialogue over regulatory priorities and spending," says Antonelli. The people need "more and better information to help them participate in the process of making regulatory policy." Regulators today have little incentive to provide that information, but the Regulatory Right to Know Act "would begin to bring the hidden effects of regulation into the sunlight," she says.