It’s no secret that the federal government has expanded its spending at exponential levels in recent years. Much of this spending has gone to the states in the form of grants and direct payments, while other funding proposals are built into state programs with a combination of state and federal oversight, such as Medicaid.
Granted, there are several key channels that the federal government uses to distribute monies to the states. Many of these channels are perfectly legitimate functions that reflect the normal processes of a federal system of government.
For example, states are not constitutionally expected to provide for their military security independently. In light of this, the federal government provides adequate funding to build military bases and other defense assets.
One could also argue that because the federal government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, it should additionally provide a sizeable portion of the major road infrastructure funding. But what about the myriad of other federal funding mechanisms that trickle down money to states like Mississippi?
According to the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, the Mississippi state government had $10.1 billion in federal funding expenditures for the fiscal year in 2020. To put this into perspective, the total Mississippi general fund receipts for the 2020 fiscal year derived from state-based taxes were approximately $5.6 billion. The influence of federal funding is far-reaching and carries a large portion of the government funds that flow through the state.
Of the billions of dollars and federal funding, much of it is not subject to direct oversight from the state legislature. Instead, most of this money goes through the state bureaucratic system.
Compounded with this, the priorities of the federal grantors are often out-of-touch with the needs and priorities of the state. Though coffers of state bureaucracies could fare nicely from such grants, certain non-mandated federal priorities should not just be accepted so that state agencies can “qualify” for more federal money. For it is essential to recognize that from critical race theory education grants to the funds that come through Medicaid expansion, the potential for damaging federal dollars abound.
All of these facts point to the necessity of state legislative oversight and accountability. All federal grants going to state agencies should be subject to as much legislative and statutory oversight as possible. This is vital so that practically every dollar of federal money coming into Mississippi is accountable to the citizens' elected representatives.
With Washington pumping out policies that are dominated by the priorities of big government, the state legislature must maintain its responsibility to protect Mississippi’s public policy from being polluted by the poisoned wells that dot the landscape of federal funding.