Seeking Stimulus: Lobbying Spared from State and Local Budget Cuts

State and local governments may be cutting spending amid the current fiscal crunch, but one place they’re not pulling back on is taxpayer-funded lobbying. In fact, Louise Radnofsky and Leslie Eaton at The Wall Street Journal report today that cash-strapped and spending addicted state and local governments are still spending lobbying services, which was given a boost by cities’ scramble for stimulus dollars:

Towns, cities, counties and states across the country spent a total of $21.4 million on lobbyists between April and June, up 2.7% from the first quarter of the year and in line with spending levels through 2008, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Almost 1,000 different governments reported paying representatives to pursue their agenda. About a quarter reported lobbying specifically about the stimulus package.

The National League of Cities has said its members face their worst fiscal problems since 1985. State revenue dropped more sharply in the first quarter of this year than any time since 1952, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y.

The collapse in tax receipts makes the stimulus package’s $300 billion for state and local government spending all the more important.

The municipal governments paid for lobbyists despite White House attempts to curb those lobbyists’ activities. Registered lobbyists are allowed to submit only in writing their questions to administration staff about competitively awarded stimulus money. Until recently, mayors, governors and other local government officials weren’t subject to this rule. But the White House has changed the ban by broadening it to registered lobbyists and nonlobbyists alike.

Government officials appear to be buying into the notion that you have to spend money to raise money. The problem is that the money spent and the money raised both come from the same source—our wallets.

Rather than spending our tax dollars to chase our tax dollars, state and local leaders should be confronting their spending addictions and focusing on downsizing and reducing the price of government if they hope to have any chance of alleviating their ongoing fiscal crises. As I wrote here, the time is now to plan ahead for the end of the stimulus gravy train.

Ã?” Reason Foundation’s Privatization Research and Commentary