|National League of Cities Congressional City Conference
The National League of Cities Board of Directors adopted an Action Agenda for 1999 during the annual Congressional City conference in Washington March 12.
NLC President Clarence Anthony, in his presidential address, said that the Agenda identifies major areas essential to building a stronger future for cities and towns.
Five federal priorities were adopted, based on ballots sent in by NLC members from the Annual Congress of Cities in Kansas City last November.
With 3,000 local officials in attendance, Anthony, mayor of South Bay (FL) signaled the intent of NLC to launch a grass-roots lobbying campaign to help make Electronic commerce fair, and protect existing revenue sources for cities concerned that purchase of goods and service on the Internet will be exempt from local sales taxes.
The highlights of the NLC Five-Point Action Plan follow:
Making Electronic Commerce Fair
The federal government must act to create a level playing field for electronic commerce of sales of goods and services over the Internet. The President and congress must change the federal rules to ensure that retail businesses, cities, and states can all play by the same rules-and that those rules are fair. It is unacceptable for the federal government to treat local businesses inequitably, depending upon whether they sell goods in a local store, on the phone, by mail order, or over the Internet. Federal legislation should not create a protected class of taxpayers at the expense of Main Street and other taxpayers. Only the congress can change federal laws to provide authority for states to require out-of-state mail order and electronic vendors to collect and remit state and local sales taxes.
Letting Cities Work
For the nations municipal leaders, preemption has become the successor to unfunded federal mandates. This priority is about putting a real check on federal preemption, and to make the Administration and congress accountable to our citizens. It is to press for a simpler, more rational, and more flexible intergovernmental system to let city leaders develop more innovative and cost effective methods of delivering programs, infrastructure, and services to citizens, and to enhance public involvement and restore public confidence in government. It is to end the one-size-fits-all mentality that has governed at the federal level for too many years and replace it with a true partnership that ensures a safe and healthy future for our citizens. From telecommunications to Internet taxation to takings to electric deregulation, preserving the ability of local governments to manage the public rights-of-way and receive fair and reasonable compensation for their use, to protect municipal zoning and taxing authority from federal intrusion, and to minimize the impact of deregulation on municipal revenues and citizen costs is increasingly important.
Building a New Economy.
We must build a new economy. We must ensure that an equitable share of our federal budget is dedicated to local priorities and that a significant share of any surplus is reinvested in the future of our communities. The current economy is accelerating disparities in our cities between the highest and lowest income families. The future economy and economic opportunities will depend not only upon investments in the physical infrastructure of our communities, but also upon investment in families and children, schools and education. As Congress and the President debate scrapping federal legislation enacted at the height of the Great Depression to now deregulate the nations financial institutions, we must ensure that every institution bears a responsibility to reinvest in its own community. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires that every federally guaranteed financial institution bears a responsibility to return a share of its deposits back into cities and towns.
Investing In Transportation
The President or Congress must make sure that at least a portion of the future surplus is reinvested in our public infrastructure. That will be the foundation for a 21st century economy. The federal government must move swiftly to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration before the current law expires on March 30th. With international trade accounting for nearly one-third of the economy, the capacity of airports in cities to handle cargo and traffic safely and efficiently is more important than ever. The legislation must halt diversion of trust fund revenues for other purposes. The legislation must address service to under-served areas. There are 18,224 public and private airports-nearly all of them in cities and towns. Issues about local authority and funding are at risk. The continuation of federal funding is critical to meeting safety and traffic demands.
Electric Power to The People & Cities
Congress should leave the issue of electric utility deregulation to states and local governments. Federal legislation could affect traditional local government authority, such as zoning, revenue, and right-of-way authority. It could affect the cost of power for all cities and towns, as well as their citizens and businesses. It could provide for a far-reaching federal preemption of traditional state and local authority. Legislation has already been introduced that would retroactively change the status of tax-exempt bonds regarding municipal power. As with cable rates, congressional action could lead to much higher costs. Not only could rates increase for states and local governments and their citizens, but also some of the changes being considered by Congress could eliminate taxes and franchise fees collected by state and local governments from electric utilities.