From the Hill
Federal regulations and red tape

By U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., Chairman,
House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

The rapid explosion of rules, regulations and red tape that has taken place over the last several years has become a serious problem for our country.

In 2005, a study by the Small Business Administration found that businesses spent approximately $1.1 trillion to comply with federal rules. Confirming that, another study in 2009 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the cost for federal regulatory compliance had reached $1.2 trillion for businesses.

Nearly 60,000 federal rules have been issued since 1995, and regulatory agencies issued more than 3,500 final rules in 2009 alone.

Today’s Code of Federal Regulations contains an astounding 157,974 pages. They haven’t designed a computer that can keep up with all of that, much less a human being. 

According to another study by the SBA in 2010, federal rules and regulations now cost the average family more than $15,000 a year.  That amount is an increase of more than $4,000 just in the past five years.

George Mason University put out a report earlier this year that said U.S. regulations “are now more onerous than those in other countries, particularly countries that offer similar property rights and infrastructure,’’ and that “the United States risks losing investment capital and jobs.”

Speaking more specifically about the Transportation Committee, according to a GAO report it now takes between nine and 19 years to plan, gain approval of, and construct a new major federally funded highway project.

As recently as February, Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, testified before the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, which I chair, that the average federal highway project takes 13 years from conception to completion.

Let me give you two examples. Several years ago when I chaired the Aviation Subcommittee, we held a hearing in which officials said construction of the main runway at Atlanta’s airport at the time took 14 years from conception to completion because of all of the environmental rulings, regulations and red tape. But construction took only 99 workdays.

In fact, they were so happy to get all the final approvals, workers finished the project in 33 actual days working 24-hour shifts.

Four years ago, we held another hearing in the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, and officials testified that a nine-mile highway project in Southern California took 17 years from conception to completion, from 1990 until 2007.

We now take on average three times as long and incur three times the cost of any other developed nation to complete transportation infrastructure projects.

Excessive rules and regulations hurt the poor, lower-income, and working people of this country most by destroying jobs and driving up prices.

When you delay for years the widening and improving of highways in order to make them safer, excessive regulation also costs lives.

Limiting excessive regulations is a critical step in supporting the efforts of our small-business truckers. It has long been high on my priority list for working Americans. As chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, I believe limiting bureaucratic red tape is imperative in order to make progress. LL


About Congressman Duncan: United States Congressman John J. Duncan Jr., of Tennessee, was elected to Congress in 1988. Before that, he was a state trial judge.

Congressman Duncan currently serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Natural Resources, which retains jurisdiction over national parks and natural resources.