CBO Releases Annual UMRA Report

March 30, 2012

In 1995, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) was enacted to ensure that the Congress receives information, during the legislative process, about federal mandates—requirements that would be imposed on state, local, and tribal governments and on entities in the private sector. In particular, UMRA defines a legislative provision as a mandate if that provision, when enacted, would:

  • Impose an enforceable duty on state, local, or tribal governments or on private-sector entities;
  • Reduce or eliminate funding authorized to cover the costs of complying with existing mandates; or
  • Increase the stringency of conditions that apply to the distribution of funds to state, local, and tribal governments through certain mandatory programs or make cuts in federal funding for those programs.

As required by UMRA, CBO prepares “mandate statements” for bills that are approved by authorizing committees. In those statements, CBO identifies requirements that would meet UMRA’s definition of a federal mandate and estimates whether the costs of such mandates would exceed annual dollar thresholds specified in that law. (In 2011, the thresholds, which are adjusted annually for inflation, were $71 million for intergovernmental mandates and $142 million for private-sector mandates.)

Today, CBO released its annual report on UMRA, part of a series begun in 1997, which summarizes mandates in legislation considered by the Congress in 2011 and those that were enacted into law in that year. Most of the legislation that the Congress considered in 2011 contained no mandates as defined in UMRA. Of the 434 bills CBO reviewed in 2011, 56 (13 percent) contained intergovernmental mandates and 67 (15 percent) contained private-sector mandates. Only two bills included intergovernmental mandates with costs above the threshold, and two contained such mandates with costs that could not be determined. Twenty-six bills (6 percent) contained private-sector mandates that would have imposed costs exceeding the annual threshold. For 17 bills (4 percent), CBO could not determine the costs of the private-sector mandates.

Of the 81 public laws enacted in 2011, 12 contained intergovernmental mandates and 16 contained private-sector mandates. Many of those mandates were temporary extensions of existing mandates and were included in bills providing short-term funding for federal programs until full-year appropriations were enacted.

No public laws enacted in 2011 contain intergovernmental mandates with costs that will exceed the statutory threshold, in CBO’s estimation. Six public laws contained private-sector mandates that CBO estimates will, in aggregate, exceed the statutory threshold.

This report was prepared by Amy Petz of CBO’s Microeconomic Studies Division, under the supervision of Patrice Gordon and Joseph Kile, and by Leo Lex and J’nell Blanco, under the supervision of Theresa Gullo and Peter Fontaine. A number of other CBO staff members who prepare the analyses of federal mandates in legislative proposals also assisted in the preparation of the report.