GWIPP HOME

GWIPP Research: State and Local Fiscal Policy


Title: National Grants System and Cities During the Great Recessions: Drawing Lessons from a Cross-National Analysis

Funding: German Marshall Fund of the United States

Researcher(s): Hal Wolman

Start Date: June 2012

Status: Current

Category: International and Comparative Policy, State and Local Fiscal Policy

Summary: The project examines the ways in which national grant systems have met the needs of city governments in the United States and developed Western nations during the Great Recession.  It tracks changes in national and intermediate level grants to local governments over the course of the recession in OECD countries and focuses particularly on national grant systems and their effects on local governments in the US, Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, and Canada.  The comparison will provide useful and important lessons to national governments about the effects of grant systems on city governments.


Title: Understanding New Jersey's State and Local Tax System

Researcher(s): Mike Bell, David Brunori

Funding: NEA

Start Date: June 2009

Status: Current

Summary: This project is a study of the New Jersey state and local taxation system. The study will be made up of two segments. The first segment will describe what are generally thought to be the components of an ideal state and local tax structure, examining various models used to describe the ideal mix of taxes and non-tax revenue. The study will review an extensive body of literature to describe the optimal structure of particular taxes and present what is generally thought to be the best way to structure 1) individual income taxes, 2) corporate income taxes, 3) sales taxes, and 4) property taxes. New Jersey’s tax system will be compared with these widely accepted notions of sound tax policy. The second segment of the study will examine particular aspects of the New Jersey tax system, including relative reliance on different types of taxes and non-tax revenue, relative tax levels, the mix of business and household taxes, as well as how New Jersey compares with states in the surrounding area with respect to tax rates.


Title: Iowa Property Tax Study

Researcher: David Brunori

Funding: Iowa Legislative Property Tax Study Committee, Legislative Services Agency

Start Date: July 2008

Status: Current

Summary: This project involves research on four areas of local public finance. We will identify and review methods used by states to value agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial properties for purposes of property taxation. We will identify efforts by states to alleviate property tax burdens through intergovernmental aid and user fees.
We will identify major categories of local government expenditure and the composition of local government revenue sources. And we will identify state statutes that use property taxes to provide incentives for smart growth and in fill development.


Title: Feasibility Study of Restoring the Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism Publication for the Property Tax and its Fiscal Environment and Structure

Researcher(s): Michael Bell, David Brunori, Joe Cordes, Hal Wolman, Nancy Augustine, Pat Atkins, Lori Metcalf, Bing Yuan.

Funding: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Start Date: August 2007

Status: Completed

Summary: A pilot project to explore the feasibility of a new annual publication, patterned after ACIR’s Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism, that would, at least partially, fill the void since it ceased publication. Prior to its demise in the mid-1990s, the US Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) published a widely used and acclaimed two volume annual report entitled Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism. The report was largely a compilation and organization of data on federal, state, and local revenues and expenditures, the institutional structure through which these fiscal flows occurred, and important changes in them. Significant Features has been sorely missed by both researchers and practitioners. No other publication has taken its place. If deemed feasible, the George Washington Institute of Public Policy (GWIPP) would then prepare a proposal for an annual version of such a report, to be funded and published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and disseminated jointly by Lincoln and GWIPP.


Title: Significant Features of the Property Tax

Researcher(s): Pat Atkins, Charlotte Kirschner, Kristin Broughton, Dan Coogan, Matt Darst, Dillon Kiel, Lisa Lowry, Daniel Ramsey (GWIPP)

Funding: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Start Date: June 2006

Status: Current

Summary: This multi-year undertaking between the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and GWIPP aims to provide a rich compendium of data and information for policymakers, practitioners, elected officials, researchers, and journalists on the local property tax in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  It is inspired by and meant to replace, at least partially, the Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism report that the US Advisory Commission of Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) published annually before the Commission was disbanded in 1996.  The online database makes it easy to compare features of the property tax across states or to learn about the property tax in detail for one or more specific states. Access to the database is available at no cost at: http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/significant-features-property-tax/. The database currently provides features of the property tax as they were in calendar year 2006. These data will be updated annually, with 2007 and 2008 data expected to be released during the spring and summer 2010. 

GWIPP and Lincoln have held two property tax roundtables during the course of the project. The first round table brought property tax scholars from across the country to Washington, DC in October 2007 to discuss the erosion of the property tax base. The second roundtable, held in February 2009, examined the impacts of changes in the property tax on local autonomy.   GWIPP staff presented research papers at both roundtables. An edited volume from the first roundtable, “Erosion of the Property Tax Base: Trends, Causes, and Consequences,” was published in May 2009 and is available at http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/1570_erosion-property-tax-base. The edited volume from the second roundtable is forthcoming.

Products:

Erosion of the Property Tax Base: Trends, Causes, and Consequences. Nancy Y. Augustine, Michael Bell, David Brunori, and Joan M. Youngman, 2009.

The Property Tax and Local Autonomy. Michael Bell, David Brunori, and Joan Youngman, editors, forthcoming.

Bell, Michael E. and Charlotte Kirschner. 2009. "A Reconnaissance of Alternative Measures of Effective Property Tax Rates." Public Budgeting and Finance 29(2): 111-136.

Working Paper 035 - Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States. By Hal Wolman, Robert McManmon, Michael Bell, and David Brunori.


Title: Fiscal Disparities among Local Governments in Metropolitan Areas: Their Extent and Causes

Researcher(s): Michael Bell, Pat Atkins, Hal Wolman, Leah Curran (GWIPP)

Funding: US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Start Date: August 2004

Status: Completed

Summary: The project explores the extent to which fiscal disparities exist among local jurisdictions within different kinds of metropolitan areas and why these disparities exist. We are particularly interested in the extent of fiscal disparities among suburban jurisdictions as well as between suburban jurisdictions and central cities. We calculate disparities among local governments in a small, regionally representative set of metropolitan areas. We also explore the characteristics of metropolitan areas that are associated with greater fiscal disparities. Finally, we will discuss the policy implications of these findings.

Products:

Working Paper 019 - Intrametropolitan Area Revenue Raising Disparities and Equities. By Patricia Atkins, Leah Curran, Michael Bell, Harold Wolman, and Joseph Cordes, 2005.

Working Paper 035 - Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States. By Hal Wolman, Robert McManmon, Michael Bell, and David Brunori.

Bell, M.E., *Lindsay C. Clark, Joseph J. Cordes and Harold Wolman, “Intra-metropolitan Area Fiscal Capacity Disparities and the Property Tax,” State Tax Notes, Volume 33, Number 3, July 19, 2004, pp. 195-211.


Title: Incidence of the Property Tax

Researcher(s): David Brunori, Michael Bell, Hal Wolman, Richard Green, Pat Atkins

Funding: National Center for Real Estate Research

Start Date: August 2004

Status: Current

Summary: Using census data and other information GWIPP will produce a report that focuses on the incidence of the property tax and its role and significance in funding state and local government services. It will also examine how the role and significance of the property tax varies, both regionally and among various types of local governments (e.g., municipalities, counties, townships, school districts, and other special districts).

Product:

Working Paper 027 - The Property Tax: Its Role and Significance in Funding State and Local Government Services. By David Brunori, Richard Green, Michael Bell, Chanyung Choi, and Bing Yuan, 2006.


Title: The Effect of State and Local Fiscal Policy on Local Economic Development

Researcher(s): David Brunori, Michael Bell, Hal Wolman (GWIPP), Joe Cordes, and Richard Green, School of Business (now at Lusk Center for Real Estate)

Funding: National Center for Real Estate Research

Start Date: August 2004

Status: Completed

Summary: Provide a synthesis and critique of current knowledge and research on 1) the factors driving local economic growth and development and 2) the effects of state and local fiscal policy upon local economic growth and development. The report will make clear where there is clear consensus, where there is disagreement, and where research is currently lacking.

Product:

Working Paper 026 - State and Local Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth and Development. Michael Bell, David Brunori, Richard Green, Hal Wolman, Joe Cordes, and Tanya Qadir, August 2005.


Title: State Corporate Income Tax: Can (and Should) it be Saved?

Researcher(s): David Brunori and Joe Cordes

Funding: American Tax Policy Institute

Start Date: March 2003

Status: Current

Summary: This project focuses on several questions relevant to assessing the role of the corporate income tax in the system of state finance. The research documents the trends in state corporate tax to quantify the extent of the decline in corporate tax receipts. The Researcher(s) have assembled panel data on state finances for each of the fifty states spanning the period from 1981 to 2001. The panel data has allowed evaluations of the effects of different policies on corporate tax receipts. The panel has also allowed comparisons of how the state corporate tax fares in manufacturing versus non-manufacturing states.


Title: State and Local Infrastructure Financing

Researcher(s): David Brunori, Michael Bell, Royce Hanson, Changyong Choi, Lori Metcalf, and Bing Yuan

Funding source: National Center for Real Estate Research, National Association of Realtors

Start Date:

Status: Completed

Summary: The report consists of four parts: The first part presents data on aggregate state and local infrastructure spending – for the nation and for the 50 individual states. For this purposes we define infrastructure to include highways (including streets and bridges), mass transit, air transportation, water transportation, water supply and sewerage. We collect and report spending trends for each category of infrastructure, including total spending by category and capital spending by category, for the most recent year available (2002). The second part examines recent trends in federal intergovernmental assistance to state and local governments for infrastructure purposes. The third part is a literature review in order to develop a general understanding of the various financing mechanism used by state and local governments to finance infrastructure spending. The concluding part is an extensive literature review of the mechanisms available to state and local governments to undertake prioritization of infrastructure needs.

Product:

Working Paper 028 - State and Local Infrastructure Financing. By Michael Bell, David Brunori, Royce Hanson, Chanyong Choi, Lori Metcalf, and Bing Yuan, 2005.


Title: State and Local Fiscal Systems Face the Future

Researcher(s): David Brunori, Michael Bell, Hal Wolman, Joe Cordes, and Pat Atkins.

Funding: National Center for Real Estate Research

Start Date: August 2004

Status: Completed

Summary: The project will examine recent trends in state and local revenues and expenditures and the current condition of state and local finances. In particular, it will assess the likely impact of foreseeable or potential future economic, social, political and technological changes on state and local revenues and expenditures.

Product:

Working Paper 025 - State and Local Fiscal Trends and Future Threats. By David Brunori, Michael E. Bell, Harold Wolman, Patricia Atkins, Joseph J. Cordes, and Bing Yuan, 2005.


Title: Intra-Metropolitan Area Fiscal Capacity Disparities and the Property Tax: The Washington DC Region

Researcher(s): Michael Bell, Lindsay Clark, Joe Cordes, Hal Wolman (GWIPP)

Funding: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Start Date:

Status: Completed

Summary: The study adapts a methodology developed by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, to calculate disparities in the revenue capacity of local governments in the Washington,DC area. It then estimates the effect a shift to a real property tax on land only would have on these disparities. We found that the major disparities were between suburban jurisdictions; Washington D.C., the core center city in the metropolitan area, had an average revenue capacity. When revenue capacity was recalculated assuming a real property tax on land only, we found this had a slight positive effect on ameliorating differences in revenue-rising ability.


Title: An Evaluation of State Tax Incentives for Economic Development

Researcher: David Brunori

Funding: Pew Center on the States

Status: Completed

Summary: Provide an in-depth description and evaluation of state tax incentive programs designed to foster economic development. The project identifies all state tax incentive programs for economic development and evaluates the programs using the following criteria: 1) whether the state audits tax incentive programs, 2) whether the state imposes penalties for non-compliance with program requirements, 3) whether the state publishes the names of beneficiaries and the amount of incentive received by each, and 4 whether the state prepares tax expenditure budgets.