Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Remarks at Hearing Entitled: Why Federal Investments Matter: Stability from Congress to State Capitals

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth, for holding this hearing. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome my friend, Larry Walther, the Chief Fiscal Officer for the State of Arkansas. Larry, thank you for being here with us today.

Before I begin, I would like to yield a minute of my time to my colleague from Ohio, Mr. Johnson, to introduce one of our witnesses.

Late last year, we heard firsthand from experts several times right here in this room that our economy is historically strong by numerous metrics thanks to pro-growth policies enacted under this Administration.

A strong American economy yields positive results for us all – from the largest state’s government to the smallest local authority, everyone feels the benefits.

We are experiencing historic economic prosperity. A recession is not imminent; rather, the true threat to state and local governments is the dire status of the federal government’s finances. The federal debt recently eclipsed $23 trillion, and annual deficits are projected to exceed $1 trillion over the next ten years. We may be facing a sovereign debt crisis, which will affect every state, regardless of size, and negatively impact every American.

When the federal government does provide support to state and local governments, federal overreach often stifles flexibility and innovation. Many well-intended federal requirements hinder states’ efforts to address domestic priorities. Such requirements impose unfunded costs, hours of additional paperwork, and prescriptive measures that prevent state and local governments from tailoring programs to suit the needs of their constituents.

For example, in my home state of Arkansas, the Department of Energy gave Clean Line Energy Partners a waiver to develop the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project after the state rejected the proposal.

For years, the Arkansas delegation fought for our state’s right to prior approval before an agency exercises eminent domain. This was a highline that Arkansas did not need, nor benefit from enough to justify the amount of land and resources taken from Arkansans.

Thankfully, after multiple meetings and letters from the Arkansas delegation, and under a new presidential administration, the Department of Energy terminated its contract with Clean Line. This action effectively stripped their waiver to circumvent state and local approval, placing the authority where it belongs – with Arkansans.

Republican lawmakers have offered many proposals to promote state flexibility in key domestic spending priorities, such as implementing a Medicaid per capita allotment or an optional block grant and dialing back burdensome infrastructure regulations imposed by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

The point is that state and local governments, along with private sector innovation, are best equipped to address domestic needs. The federal government should focus on finding more opportunities to stay out of the way.

The size and scope of the federal government have vastly increased throughout our country’s history. The power dynamic between the federal government and state and local governments has become greatly skewed, overly dominated by federal control, and far out of line from what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

Today’s hearing presents an opportunity for us to have a serious conversation about the need to restore the principles of federalism in the budget process. It is in the best interest of all to promote policies that reduce the federal imprint on state and local governments and encourage these institutions to address an increasing number of our nation’s domestic policy concerns. One-size-fits-all policies from bureaucrats sitting here in Washington do little to solve problems or address needs in Arkansas’ Third Congressional District or any other location far outside the Beltway.

Today’s hearing also provides us yet another opportunity to discuss the fact that the current congressional budget process is not working. Congress has frequently relied on continuing resolutions to fund the federal government. The dysfunction and uncertainty in the federal budget process not only negatively impact state and local governments, but it also causes significant damage to our national defense efforts.

The way we’re doing business is irresponsible. While under Republican control, this Committee reported a budget resolution every year. On the other hand, the Democrat Majority failed to do a budget resolution last year, and it is my understanding that they do not plan to write one this year either.

In order to truly capitalize on this historic moment of economic prosperity for the benefit of state and local governments and all Americans, we must finally come together to put our nation’s finances on a sustainable path.

As a former mayor, I look forward to hearing from the hard working and dedicated state officials here with us today. Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.