NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The "Right-To-Know" Cost And Benefits Of Federal Rules

April 20, 1999

Since fiscal year (FY) 1997, Congress has required the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report annually on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. There is bipartisan support in Congress to make this report process permanent and strengthen it, says regulatory expert Angela Antonelli.

The Regulatory Right to Know Act of 1999 would require the OMB to report not only aggregate estimates of costs and benefits, but also the costs and benefits of individual rules. The OMB would also be required to develop methods to standardize measures of costs and benefits, and the OMB's regulatory accounting statement would be subject to both peer review and public comment.

Such requirements would help Congress exercise oversight of the vast regulatory bureaucracy.

  • In FY 1998, some 53 federal departments and agencies -- and 126,146 federal employees--spent approximately $17 billion in writing and enforcing federal regulations .
  • Between April 1, 1996, and March 31, 1999, federal regulatory agencies issued more than 12,925 final rules and sent them to Congress for review, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.
  • Of these, 188 were major final rules that each carried an estimated annual cost to the economy of more than $100 million, for a total of at least $18.8 billion in new regulatory taxes in the past three years.
  • And this does not even account for the costs of the remaining 12,737 final rules.

The proposed bill would allow Congress to weigh the economic costs and benefits of specific rules, says Antonelli, so that regulations can be targeted to address the most serious problems first.

Source: Angela Antonelli, "Regulatory Right To Know: Tracking The Costs And Benefits Of Federal Regulation," Backgrounder No. 1274, April 20, 1999, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington D.C. 20002, (202) 546-4400.


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