Another unfunded mandate

Published 9:04 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Despite some lip service from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell about the evils of unfunded mandates, the problem is getting worse, not better.

The latest example is the General Assembly’s decree that local governments in Virginia must give their employees 5 percent raises over the next few years so that those employees, in turn, can pay 5 percent of their salaries toward Virginia Retirement System benefits.

In a perfect storm of unprecedented fiscal pressures for local governments, Richmond has again compounded the problem.

Requiring government employees to contribute to their pension plans is a needed, long-overdue step. Workers in the private sector have been doing it for years now as businesses have made the hard decisions required to remain profitable in a difficult economy. Government employees should be no different.

But it should be up to each locality to decide whether to subsidize employees’ contributions and, if so, in what amount. The commonwealth has no business whatsoever dictating what localities pay their workers.

The Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League, which lobby on behalf of member localities, are both hopping mad about the state mandate. We don’t blame them.

Taxpayers ultimately will foot the bill in the form of higher taxes and fees.

“There are not many things I hate more as governor than unfunded mandates from Washington in the areas of the environment and health care,” McDonnell was quoted as saying back in January.

The governor needs to become equally outraged about the fiscal harm being inflicted on localities by his own state.