From urban core to wealthy towns: nonschool fiscal disparities across Connecticut municipalities
Fiscal disparities occur when economic resources and public service needs are unevenly distributed across localities. There are two equity concerns associated with fiscal disparities. First, as Yinger (1986) shows, it is not considered fair to require two otherwise-identical households to pay a different amount of taxes for the same level of public services simply because they live in different towns. Second, fiscal disparities render some towns at a disadvantage in economic competition (Downes and Pogue 1992). These towns must impose a higher tax rate and/or provide a lower level of public ...
Politicians Avoid Tax Increases Around Elections
We use new annual data on gasoline taxes and corporate income taxes from U.S. states to analyze whether politicians avoid tax increases in election years. These data contain 3 useful attributes: (1) when state politicians enact tax laws, (2) when state politicians implement tax laws on consumers and firms, and (3) the size of tax changes. Using a pre-analysis research plan that includes regressions of tax rate changes and tax enactment years on time-to-gubernatorial election year indicators, we find that elections decrease the probability of politicians enacting increases in taxes and reduce ...
Why have revenue-strapped New England school districts been slow to turn to alternative funding sources?
During and even after the Great Recession, numerous popular press stories commented on the apparent growth of non-tax revenues in the face of school district budget deficits. But Downes and Killeen (2014) show that nationally the growth of non-traditional revenues has been far less than these articles may lead the reader to believe. This paper uses data from the New England states to assess the empirical content of some of the possible explanations of this slow growth. In New England, as in the rest of the nation, non-tax revenues per pupil have grown in real terms but have not become a more ...
The fiscal position of the state and local government sector: developments in the 1990s
After a difficult period during the early 1990s, the fiscal position of state and local governments has improved considerably in the past three years. States, as a group, have fared relatively well, although some local governments are still struggling with fiscal difficulties. In addition, the sector as a whole continues to face persistent underlying structural problems. This article first examines the primary budget concepts that are generally used to evaluate the fiscal condition of state and local governments. Then it surveys the status of the various levels of government, and finally, it ...
Regional Consumption Responses and the Aggregate Fiscal Multiplier
We use regional variation in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009-2012) to analyze the effect of government spending on consumer spending. Our consumption data come from household-level retail purchases in the Nielsen scanner data and auto purchases from Equifax credit balances. We estimate that a $1 increase in county-level government spending increases local non-durable consumer spending by $0.29 and local auto spending by $0.09. We translate the regional consumption responses to an aggregate fiscal multiplier using a multi-region, New Keynesian model with heterogeneous agents, ...
Assessment Frequency and Equity of the Real Property Tax: Latest Evidence from Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Actual Value Initiative, adopted in 2013, createsa unique opportunity for us to test whether reassessments at short intervals to true market value and taxing by such values improve equity. Based on a difference-in-differences framework using parcel-level data matched with transactions in Philadelphia and 15 comparable cities, this study finds positive evidence on equity outcomes from more regular revaluations. The quality of assessment, as measured by the coefficient of dispersion, improves substantially after 2014, although the extent of improvement varies across ...
Forecasting the New England States’ Tax Revenues in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic
State governments across the United States face the prospect of sharply declining tax revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They need reliable and up-to-date revenue forecasts to make financially sound policy decisions during this public health and economic crisis. This paper proposes an objective, transparent, simple, and efficient method to forecast state tax revenues in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The model is based on only two input factors: the state unemployment rate and an empirically determined time trend. The predictions from the model closely track the actual values of tax ...
The Assessment Gap: Racial Inequalities in Property Taxation
We use panel data covering 118 million homes in the United States, merged with geolocation detail for 75,000 taxing entities, to document a nationwide "assessment gap" which leads local governments to place a disproportionate fiscal burden on racial and ethnic minorities. We show that holding jurisdictions and property tax rates fixed, black and Hispanic residents nonetheless face a 10-13% higher tax burden for the same bundle of public services. This assessment gap arises through two channels. First, property assessments are less sensitive to neighborhood attributes than market prices are. ...
Saving for a rainy day: estimating the appropriate size of U.S. state budget stabilization funds
Rainy day funds (RDFs) are potentially an important countercyclical tool for states to stabilize their budgets and the overall economy during economic downturns. However, U.S. states have often found themselves exhausting their RDFs and having to raise tax rates or reduce expenditures while still experiencing a downturn. Therefore, how much each state should save in its RDF has become an increasingly important policy question. To address this issue, this paper applies several new methodologies to develop target RDF levels for each U.S. state, based on the estimated short-term revenue ...
COVID-19 Challenges State and Local Government Finances
As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy, state and local governments will not be immune from the pain. In the near term, governments face liquidity challenges, as many tax deadlines have been postponed. In the longer term, governments will experience large revenue declines that may lead to significant budget cuts.