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  1. Explaining City Performance: How Important is State Policy?, Working Paper 020 [Download]

    Title: Explaining City Performance: How Important is State Policy?, Working Paper 020
    Author: Blumenthal, Pamela
    Description: Some cities are successful, attracting businesses and residents, while others struggle unsuccessfully with declining industries and diminishing population. In this paper, we identify cities that over- or under-performed on certain indicators of well-being during the period from 1990 to 2000, compared to their predicted performance according to models we developed. Selecting certain states and their cities, we conducted case studies to examine why a city did particularly well (or poorly) compared to our prediction with respect to the income, population, or housing affordability indicators and what the role of state policy was, if any, in the city’s deviation from expected performance. We then discuss initial findings for a subset of the cities and indicators. The empirical results indicate that state policy can impact city performance, but it is only one of many factors and its influence may be quite small at times.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/16/2015
  2. 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
  3. Active Living and Biking: Tracing the Evolution of a Biking System in Arlington, Virginia, Working Paper 024 [Download]

    Title: Active Living and Biking: Tracing the Evolution of a Biking System in Arlington, Virginia, Working Paper 024
    Author: Young, Garry
    Description: When it came to biking in the early 1970s, Arlington County, Virginia largely resembled the rest of the Washington, D.C. area and other urban areas along the East Coast. Biking was a neighborhood-based activity for kids. Bike trails were not a major component of parks or recreational planning and programming. Bikeways were not part of transportation planning and development. Bike commuting was limited to a few daring riders who were regarded as a menace by most drivers. A steady evolutionary change in biking policy during the last three decades has yielded some of the nation’s best biking assets in Arlington. It has a comprehensive, well-connected, highly integrated, well-mapped and signed system of shared-use paved trails, bike lanes, bike routes, and other biking assets such as workplace showers. Recently the League of American Bicyclists designated Arlington County as one of thirteen “Bicycle-Friendly” communities (League of American Bicyclists 2003). In addition, a recent major study by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT 2003) generally cites Arlington as having a superior bikeways and connectivity relative to most other parts of Northern Virginia. In contrast, most other areas in the region lag behind. For example, Arlington and two neighboring counties –Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland– share many attributes and the same pro-bicycling interests – in fact often the same groups and people have actively pursued improved bikeways in each county during the same period. Yet today Fairfax County’s biking system is unmapped, sporadic, and lacks connectivity. Montgomery County does have some very good biking assets, though without Arlington’s level of connectivity and integration.
    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. An Analysis of Fiscal Policies in the Sudan: A Pro-Poor Perspective, Working Paper 017 [Download]

    Title: An Analysis of Fiscal Policies in the Sudan: A Pro-Poor Perspective, Working Paper 017
    Author: Ahmed, Medani M.
    Description:
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/15/2015
  7. Economic Wellbeing and Where We Live: Accounting for Geographic Cost-of-Living Differences, Working Paper 018 [Download]

    Title: Economic Wellbeing and Where We Live: Accounting for Geographic Cost-of-Living Differences, Working Paper 018
    Author: Curran, Leah
    Description: Regional cost-of-living differences affect the quality of life that individuals and families experience in different metropolitan areas. Yet, lack of metropolitan cost-of-living indexes has left analysts without the ability to make accurate cost-of-living adjustments to measures of economic wellbeing. We evaluate seven alternative inter-regional cost-of-living measures based on four criteria: (1) their data collection methodologies, (2) the variables included in cost-of living measurement, (3) their accuracy in measuring the cost-of-living experiences of high-, low and moderate-income populations, and (4) the measures' availability and affordability. We then applied one of the indices for illustrative purposes to various metropolitan area data sets, including median household income, the number of people living in poverty, and family eligibility for the Free and Reduced Price School Lunch and Head Start programs to illustrate some of the policy impacts of adjusting economic indicators of wellbeing for geographic cost-of-living differentials.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/15/2015
  8. Does the Community Reinvestment Act Help Minorities Access Traditionally Inaccessible Neighborhoods?, Working Paper 014 [Download]

    Title: Does the Community Reinvestment Act Help Minorities Access Traditionally Inaccessible Neighborhoods?, Working Paper 014
    Author: Friedman, Samantha
    Description: Recent research has established that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has increased mortgage lending in low-income and minority communities. This study examines the extent to which the CRA has helped racial minorities purchase homes in predominantly white neighborhoods from which they have traditionally been excluded. Using 2000 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act reports (HMDA) and 2000 decennial census data, we find that in metropolitan areas where a relatively high proportion of loans are made by institutions covered by the CRA, blacks and Latinos are more likely to purchase homes in predominantly white neighborhoods than in areas where relatively fewer loans are made by such lenders. This finding holds after controlling for a range of socioeconomic characteristics. The paper concludes with policy recommendations for revising the CRA and its enforcement mechanisms.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/15/2015
  9. 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
  10. All Centers Are Not Equal: An Exploration of the Polycentric Metropolis, Working Paper 015 [Download]

    Title: All Centers Are Not Equal: An Exploration of the Polycentric Metropolis, Working Paper 015
    Author: Sarzynski, Andrea
    Description: There is now widespread recognition among urban researchers that a fundamental shift is underway in the internal structure of American urban areas. Polycentrism is increasingly supplanting monocentrism as the dominant urban form. However, the extent to which this has occurred and the implications of this change in urban form, while widely noted and discussed, have, surprisingly, not been the subject of a large body of carefully conducted and generalizable empirical research. We explore the extent of polycentrism for a sample of fifty U.S. metro areas, using an absolute threshold definition for identifying employment centers. We situate our results within the broader literature on subcenters, and compare our results to previous research on polycentrism. Using cluster analysis, we identify broad types of metros according to the incidence and patterning of centers within our sample. Variables of interest include the number of centers, the relative concentration of jobs within centers, the relative dominance of the core center, and the concentration of employment in major and minor centers. We also explore relationships between types of polycentrism and various metro attributes, such as population size, city age, geographic region, municipal fragmentation, and economic function. Finally, we set out a detailed agenda for future research.
    Keywords: Public policy
    Date Uploaded: 10/15/2015