Members of the Kearney City Council weren’t so keen this week about creating a new Storm Water Utility Department, and Councilman Bruce Lear was most vocal about it.
“We’re going to spend about $200,000 per year and only about $50,000 will be used doing things,” Lear said as the City Council grudgingly voted 4-0 to create the new utility and charge $1 per month for residential property and $3 per month for nonresidential property. As Lear said, the fees will raise about $200,000 annually. The money will help protect the urban environment against hazardous materials in storm water, per a mandate from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
None of us wants our aquifer or streams polluted by automobile fluids flushed off large parking lots during downpours, but we should be concerned that the new Storm Water Utility is part of a disturbing trend toward bigger government and more regulations.
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Although it took the council only about 10 minutes to approve the new Storm Water Utility Tuesday, preparations for that vote required more than a year of staff time, correspondence and then more staff time to draft a strategy that satisfies the EPA’s desires.
Going forward, city staff will continue pushing paper and collecting fees to comply with the mandate. We agree that $1 or $3 per month isn’t that much, but the storm water mandate is the tip of a huge regulatory iceberg, according to economists at George Mason University. They calculate that complying with government regulations now costs individuals and businesses about $4 trillion every year.
Before you say, “So what,” let’s break down that number. Spread across everyone in this nation, $4 trillion equals $13,000 per American. It’s money spent keeping records, hiring compliance officers, and dealing with the bureaucrats who promulgate and enforce these regulations — which affect nearly every aspect of daily life, writes William F. Shughart II, the research director of the Independent Institute.
“It’s money not available for families to spend on their own needs. Indeed, it’s money businesses don’t have to invest in buildings, equipment and jobs,” Shughart states. One after another, regulations become a tax on economic activity.
There will be no escape from the $1 and $3 monthly storm water fees for Kearneyites, unless, perhaps, President Donald Trump can make good on an idea from his campaign. He suggested a two-for-one policy. It would require eliminating two existing regulations for every new rule issued.