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  1. Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States, Working Paper 035 [Download]

    Title: Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States, Working Paper 035
    Author: Wolman, Hal
    Description: Local autonomy is a term that is frequently employed in both academic and popular discussions of local government, but it is rarely defined conceptually in a careful way or operationalized and subject to empirical research. In this paper we present a working definition of “local government autonomy” based on dimensions fundamental to the concept, identify variables to operationalize those dimensions, utilize factor analysis to combine those variables into underlying component factors, and create an overall Local Government Autonomy index that can be used as a variable in future research. We also use cluster analysis to create a classification scheme for different forms of local government autonomy. Finally, by using our local government autonomy index and factors as independent variables in a regression model we find they are highly useful for predicating the consequences of related local finance research questions.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  2. Local Democratic Governance: What Is It and How We Manage It?, Working Paper 031 [Download]

    Title: Local Democratic Governance: What Is It and How We Manage It?, Working Paper 031
    Author: Bell, Michael
    Description: The purpose of this paper is twofold. The first task is to develop a conceptual framework for thinking about local democratic governance. Once that framework is developed, specific indicators will be proposed to monitor the quality of key features or characteristics of a process of local democratic governance. The indicators will be “actionable” and can be used to guide CDD operations and track progress in strengthening local democratic governance. In order to address these topics, the next section discusses the meaning of local democratic governance. That is followed by a discussion of why local democratic governance is important. The following section then turns to a discussion of the formal and informal arrangements which combine to produce a vibrant process of local democratic governance. The final section proposes actionable indicators for measuring different dimensions of the process of local democratic governance.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  3. The Property Tax: Its Role and Significance in Funding State and Local Government Services, Working Paper 027 [Download]

    Title: The Property Tax: Its Role and Significance in Funding State and Local Government Services, Working Paper 027
    Author: Brunori, David
    Description: This report, produced by the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, focuses on the incidence of the property tax and its significance in funding state and local government services. The purpose of the study is to help policy makers, researchers, and others interested in local government finance to better understanding the role of the property tax. An overview of the historical and current role of the property tax as an important source of revenue, including a discussion of trends, demonstrates how entrenched the property tax is, and explains the circumstances and conditions that contribute to the current property tax environment. The second section of the report outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the property tax today, while the subsequent section addresses the prevailing views and current debates among public finance analysts. The final section describes the variation in use of the property tax, and how the political process gave rise to much of that variation.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  4. Intrametropolitan Area Revenue Raising Disparities and Equities, Working Paper 019 [Download]

    Title: Intrametropolitan Area Revenue Raising Disparities and Equities, Working Paper 019
    Author: Atkins, Patricia
    Description: The purpose of this study is to assess the extent of variations in the revenue capacity and effort of local governments in six metropolitan areas – Baltimore, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, Richmond, and San Francisco. Our approach is to use the Representative Revenue System developed by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to calculate revenue capacity and effort measures for local governments within each metropolitan area. Revenue capacity is the amount of revenue a local government can potentially raise from its own sources if it applies average tax rates to each tax base, while revenue effort is what it actually does raise dependent upon revenue bases and rates. Measures of revenue raising capacity and revenue raising effort, including indices, rankings, and disparity scores, are presented. General policy recommendations are offered based upon our analysis of revenue raising disparities relative to jurisdictional dependence on particular revenue sources, to sensitivity tests, and to city-suburban disparities or equities. The research results reveal that there are substantial differences in revenue raising capacity and effort between jurisdictions within metropolitan areas – not only among core and suburban jurisdictions, but also among suburban jurisdictions. Additionally, per capita income is not a satisfactory substitute for per capita hypothetical capacity when determining revenue raising disparity through use of coefficients of variation. We achieved high correlation coefficients between the two alternative measures in only three of our six case studies and only when applied to the crudest of our case study analyses, that which included only counties, county equivalents, and municipalities over 25,000.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  5. State and Local Infrastructure Financing, Working Paper 028 [Download]

    Title: State and Local Infrastructure Financing, Working Paper 028
    Author: Bell, Michael
    Description: Our recent report to the National Association of Realtors, State and Local Fiscal Trends and Future Threats, documents the fiscal challenges faced by state and local governments. With a fiscal system designed 70 or 80 years ago and important trends which are typically beyond the control of state and local policy makers, state and local governments find it increasingly difficult to raise the revenues required to provide the level and quality of services demanded. At the same time, demographic and economic trends are increasing the demand for goods and services provided by state and local governments. In this fiscal environment, spending on state and local infrastructure is most vulnerable – particularly spending on operations and maintenance, which is less visible than spending on new capital projects. Infrastructure spending should rank as a high priority for state and local governments. As the National Council on Public Works Improvement concluded in their final report Fragile Foundations, “We must ensure that our highways and subways can move us swiftly and safely; that our homes, farms, and industries are supplied with ample clean water; that we reduce and safely dispose of the increasing volume of poisonous wastes our society generates; and that we provide the structural underpinning for a robust and competitive economy.” State and local governments are the providers of the key infrastructure that keeps our economy competitive and our society functioning and healthy. The purpose of this project is to present a reconnaissance of current state and local infrastructure trends and practices. The project consists of two phases. The first phase presents an overview of state and local infrastructure spending, general financing mechanisms and traditional policy tools for setting spending priorities. The second phase will look at various case studies to provide a more in depth picture of how specific financing mechanisms and management tools are actually implemented by state and local governments. Phase 1 of the project has four distinct sections. The first section reviews actual spending by state and local governments on infrastructure networks. These data come from the Census of Governments published by the U.S. Census Bureau every five years. For the purposes of this study we focus on infrastructure systems important for a strong economy and safe environment. Specifically, we look at seven infrastructure categories: (1) Highways, streets, roads and bridges (2) Air transportation (3) Transit (4) Ports and waterways (5) Solid waste management (6) Sewerage (7) Drinking water. We do not include in this analysis other public infrastructure facilities like hospitals, schools, courts, jails, and other public buildings that are generally regarded as social infrastructure, rather than economic infrastructure. In addition, we also exclude from our definition telecommunications and energy production and distribution networks because they are primarily provided by the private sector, albeit they are regulated by the public sector. While there is always some subjectivity in developing such a definition, our definition of infrastructure follows general practices in this field and is appropriate for our purposes. The second section then reviews recent federal grants to state and local governments for infrastructure purposes. A section that reviews traditional infrastructure financing mechanisms follows that. The next section then summarizes traditional approaches to setting spending priorities for infrastructure projects. The final section summarizes what has been learned from this initial reconnaissance and discusses next steps for Phase 2 of this project.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  6. State and Local Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth and Development, Working Paper 026 [Download]

    Title: State and Local Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth and Development, Working Paper 026
    Author: Bell, Michael
    Description: The purpose of this report is to address three fundamental questions: 1. What factors determine and drive local economic growth and development? 2. How do state and local tax and expenditure policies influence economic growth and development? 3. Is there a balanced system of taxation that supports economic growth and development while not unduly burdening any particular industry or segment of the economy? We approach the project with a clear recognition that the primary engine for strong state and local economies is a strong private sector. The purpose of this report is to identify those state and local fiscal policies that facilitate and support growth in the private sector. Such state and local policies fall into two general categories: 1. traditional economic development policies primarily targeted at external sources of growth through attracting new firms or firm relocations; and 2. policies which recognize that the engine for economic growth is typically the small firm and, therefore, focus on promoting internal growth by supporting entrepreneurship and creating an environment conducive to private economic activity. To address these issues, the report is broken into six sections following this introductory section. The next section discusses what is meant by local economic growth and development. That is followed by a section, which lays out the general theoretical framework for thinking about local economic growth and development. This section is followed by a general discussion of why some metropolitan areas grow and some do not. The next section discusses the literature on which factors affect firm location and economic growth. That is followed by a discussion of the specific impact of state and local fiscal policies on local economic growth and development. The final section then discusses the notion of a balanced tax system, which promotes local economic growth and development, but does not unduly burden any individual sector of the economy.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/15/2015