Indeed, it is impossible to deny the shift from cooperative federalism to opportunistic federalism in contemporary America. Cooperative federalism is an epitomized ideology that resulted from the notions exemplified in the Kestnbaum Report in 1955. The report focused on persuading the government to foster effectual intergovernmental management and harmonization as the foundation for intergovernmental practices. Based on this idea, cooperative federalism, in general, involved the coordination between federal, state and local actors in pursuing interests that would benefit the majority. However, over the course of years, the view of cooperative federalism has eroded and given way to opportunistic federalism. Opportunistic federalism endorses actors to pursue immediate interests with less regard for combined or institutional outcomes. The shift towards this paradigm influences the analysis of the factors responsible for the erosion of cooperative federalism.
One of the reasons responsible for the shift towards opportunistic federalism involves the propagation of federal mandates (Conlan, 2006). The proliferation of these directives has necessitated a change from dependence on incentives and grant programs. Instead, there has been employment of policy instruments within the relations of federal, state and local actors. For instance, such policy instruments comprise sanctions and preemptions, which restrict the authorities of states and local authorities. In addition, states also impose intrusive and restrictive regulations on local authorities. For example, states impose directives that coerce federal grants to move in their direction in order to accomplish their policy objectives. Further shift is evident based on the introduction of policies meant to co-opt local and state authorities. Such mandates relinquish cooperation by intruding on the responsibilities specifically meant for these sectors.
Another reason for this is the change towards performance management. Such alterations in monitoring intergovernmental practices only co-opt policy agendas in favor of federal actors (Conlan, 2006). In addition, approaches utilized in performance management are seemingly partial. This is because holding federal agencies answerable for the manner of program implementation illustrates that such agencies possess legitimate authority to endorse prerequisites integrated within performance measures. Lastly, the enhancement of instrumental advocacy based on the elimination, disbandment or modification of federal agencies also depicts the shift towards opportunistic federalism. For instance, the eradication of Advisory Commission on International Relations (ACIR) in 1996 illustrates the elimination of intergovernmental analysis and expertise as well as intergovernmental relations (Conlan, 2006). Based on these occurrences, it is still imperative to consider strategies that would be efficient in augmenting intergovernmental fiscal relations among federal, state and local actors.
Foremost, it is strategic to implement intergovernmental jurisdiction-based models. A jurisdiction-based archetype is essential since it provides a platform for state and local actors to associate with representatives from other government levels (McGuire, 2006). This is effectual since it enables the local and state actors to interact with federal representatives in order to design and administer policies that meet the objectives of the jurisdiction via negotiation. Secondly, advocating for further fiscal decentralization in the lower levels of governments is also effective. Encouraging this would enable states and local authorities to carry out expenditure allocation cooperatively under the observation of the federal government. In addition, the federal government may outline clear expenditure responsibilities that will augment accountability and decrease authority duplication, legal challenges and sterile overlap. Thirdly, downsizing fiscal federal programs is also a competent strategy. This will involve the reduction of grants-in-aid, which illustrate the increase of the power assumed by the federal government in states and local authorities. Thus, in order to establish positive fiscal relations, it would be strategic to downsize these grants in other actors.
In conclusion, the erosion of cooperative federalism is an illustration of the continuing disarray between federal, state and local actors in terms of intergovernmental relations. Regardless of the deviation towards opportunistic federalism, several instances illustrate efforts towards augmenting intergovernmental relations. The cooperation between states in the creation of legislations such as the Online Sales Tax laws illustrates the move towards cooperative federalism. In addition, other occurrences such as the inauguration of performance management in multistate environmental policies further indicate cooperation among states and other actors. Conclusively, it is still apparent to assert the existence of cooperative federalism in America.
Conlan, T. (2006). From cooperative to opportunistic federalism: Reflections on the half-century of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Public Administration Review, 663-676.
McGuire, M. (2006). Intergovernmental management: A view from the bottom. Public Administration Review, 677-679.
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