Democracy in action in "The Property Tax and Local Autonomy"

Viernes, Abril 9, 2010

For Immediate Release
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (April 9, 2009) – A diminished role for the property tax will profoundly impact the ability of local governments to deliver services, according to a new volume published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The Property Tax and Local Autonomy, edited by Michael E. Bell, David Brunori, and Joan Youngman (2010 / 312 pages / Paper / $30.00 ISBN: 978-1-55844-206-1), examines the consequences of a declining property tax base and the ability of local governments to fulfill the functions preferred by local residents, whether schools, parks, or public works.

The property tax has long been viewed is the most efficient and effective means for raising revenue to fund local government services. No other sources of revenue can ensure local autonomy, a critical factor in American government since the beginning of the republic. Yet the property tax in the United States has been under siege for decades.

The Property Tax and Local Autonomy examines the issues and consequences of a declining property tax base with respect to local government autonomy, as a follow- up to Erosion of the Property Tax Base (2009), which included papers from a property tax policy roundtable co-sponsored by the Lincoln Institute and the George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

The impact on autonomy was important to examine, the editors say, because the American political landscape is dominated by the belief that localities are critical to governance. Local autonomy—the ability of local government to undertake activities that reflect the preferences of local residents—requires a source of locally raised revenue that local government can use as it sees fit. Local autonomy is the underlying premise of the efficiency gains presumably derived from the theory of fiscal federalism. It also stimulates civic engagement and is the basis of local democracy and accountability.

Contributors to the volume examine the consequences of a decline in local property tax base, trends in government decentralization, efforts to measure local autonomy and its variations among the 50 states, school finance reform and the local tax base, and possible replacements for the property tax as a means of financing autonomous local governments.

The essays make clear that understanding the consequences of a diminished property tax system is critical to setting state and local policy in the twenty-first century. If the property tax continues to play a reduced role, local governments will be forced to rely even more heavily on state political institutions. And if that happens, the editors say, the overall system will likely be less efficient and less politically responsive.


Foreword, Gregory K. Ingram and Harold Wolman

1. The Property Tax and Local Autonomy: An Overview, David Brunori and Michael E. Bell

2. Local Government: An Economic Perspective, Wallace E. Oates

Commentary, William A. Fischel

3. The Median Voter and School Finance Reform: How Tax- Base Sharing Undermines the Efficiency of the Property Tax, William A. Fischel

4. Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States, Harold Wolman, Robert McManmon, Michael E. Bell, and David Brunori

Commentary, Carol S. Weissert

5. Are State and Local Finances Becoming More or Less Centralized, and Should We Care?, Katrina D. Connolly, David Brunori, and Michael E. Bell

Commentary, Timothy Conlan

6. An Overview of the Implications of Eliminating the Property Tax: What Do Recent State Debates and Prior State Experience Tell Us?, Ronald C. Fisher, Andrew Bristle, and Anupama Prasad

Commentary, David Sjoquist

7. What Will the Future Property Tax Look Like, and What Will Take Its Place?, Richard F. Dye

Commentary, David Brunori

8. States and the Fiscal Policy Space of Cities, Michael A. Pagano and Christopher W. Hoene

Commentary, Andrew Reschovsky

About the Editors

Michael E. Bell is president of MEB Associates, Inc., and a research professor at George Washington University Institute of Public Policy. His work focuses on state and local finances and intergovernmental relations.

David Brunori is research professor of public policy at George Washington University, and teaches state and local taxation at its law school. He is also a contributing editor for State Tax Notes.

Joan Youngman is senior fellow and chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The Property Tax and Local Autonomy

Edited by Michael E. Bell, David Brunori, and Joan Youngman

2010 / 312 pages / Paper / $30.00

ISBN: 978-1-55844-206-1

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. For review copies please contact

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