Our Opinion: Federal funds entangled in strings, inaction

Two wrongs — one federal, one state — do not make a right, but do make haste.

Imperious federal mandates and a languishing state Legislature have prompted lawmakers to move a highway bill to the fast lane.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday heard testimony and advanced legislation — a rare double deed — to comply with federal standards or risk losing millions in federal funding.

One compliance carrot — among many dangled by the federal government — pertains to interstate trucking. States face a loss of federal funding if they fail to require interstate truck drivers to prove their fitness to drive, as attested by a medical professional.

Non-compliance could cost states 5 percent of their highway funds, which translates into about $30 million for Missouri.

Another edict threatens loss of funding for states that fail to mirror federal drunk driving penalties, including standards for limited driving privileges.

As a result of Missouri’s non-compliance, an estimated $20 million in federal funding already has been redirected from road construction to safety efforts.

Regardless of the merits of these requirements, they represent a greater erosion of federalism — the constitutional principle that the powers not delegated to the federal government are “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Missouri lawmakers, however, are not blameless.

Federal strings-attached largesse is not uncommon.

Legislators had plenty of time to act; instead, they procrastinated.

Representatives are elected to make decisions. They must choose to reject these mandates on principle or adopt them on practicality.

Postponing action results in haste, which resolves nothing and inevitably invites error.

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