Study: Put regulators on a budget

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A new study by the nonprofit American Action Forum suggests the federal government institute a paperwork budget.

Paying fewer government workers for fewer hours spent dealing with paperwork could save taxpayers up to $3.1 billion a year, according to the report.

With a recent explosion in regulation, American Action Forum regulatory policy director Sam Batkins argued that the taxpayer burden is seriously affected by the cost of what seems to be bureaucratic busywork.

“You do have to hire staff to deal with the regulatory requirements because from now on your paperwork is going to go up. Especially if you tally up Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act, that’s 500 new regulations alone,” Batkins told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Federal government-wide, the time spent on paperwork documenting onerous regulations adds up to 10.3 billion hours. “You’re looking at anywhere between $300 and $700 billion a year in paperwork costs,” Batkins explained.

Some of that cost is just for busywork. “There are driver vehicle reports that require you to report whether your trip on a truck was safe — even if nothing happened,”  Batkins said.

The idea of a regulatory budget is not new. Competitive Enterprise Institute expert Wayne Crews has proposed tallying total government spending on making and enforcing regulations,  limiting funding available to agencies for their given regulatory duties.

This type of public tally, just like the fiscal budget, would focus more public attention on the regulations being written. ‘We need to know as much about regulations and their cost as we know about taxes and how much we spend there,” Crews told TheDCNF.

Critics argue that regulations help consumers and that the important calculation is whether benefits exceed costs.

“I could write a net-benefit budget for a rule mandating fifteen-foot bumpers on the front and back of cars, so that’s a nonstarter,” Crews countered. Federal authorities looking to regulate will always find reasons to do so, he said.

From just 2009 to 2012, 13,000 final rules were published in the Federal Register according to Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations, a pro-small business organization. TheDCNF has reported that although only 22 laws have been enacted by Congress in 2013, several thousand rules are written every month.

Batkins believes controlling the amount of paperwork is a politically achievable step toward controlling regulations.

“First of all, I don’t think the president would ever sign anything repealing one regulation for any new one issued,” Batkins explained. “And I don’t know too many progressives that would be okay with you repealing a regulation…”

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