Tag archive for city governments

Tax reform and the states and cities

One element of tax reform being debated as part of a deal to prevent going over the fiscal cliff includes taxing at least a portion of municipal bond interest rates. It would have big implications for Blue America. Exempting state and local government bonds from taxation gives investors an incentive to buy them and reduces the borrowing costs of states and cities. It is one of the federal government’s largest tax expenditures, costing about $27 billion a year. In some high tax states, such as California, these bonds are also exempt from local taxation. The main justification for the exemption is that it facilitates the financing of capital projects such as roads and schools.

Don’t cry for me sequestration

According to a proposal leaked last week by Republicans, the Obama administration is now proposing a “deferral of sequester” in fiscal cliff talks. Is this the expression of a line-in-the-sand commitment or a negotiating ploy? 

NJ tells towns, school districts to start sharing costs

When the NJ legislature imposed a property tax cap in 2010, some municipalities complained they couldn’t possibly live within the 2 percent annual growth restriction. Gov. Christie’s response was that municipalities in the state needed to find ways to cut costs by sharing them. Jersey has an unusually large number of towns and cities (565) and school districts (more than 600), including many small government units that rack up big administrative costs with duplicative services. Now the Jersey senate, led by potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sweeney, has passed legislation that would tie municipal aid from the state to cost-cutting consolidations by local governments

Why state and local government?

Under the system known as federalism, the United States grants more authority to state and local governments than do many other Western democracies. Why do it this way? 
First, self-government. There are more opportunities for political participation at the state and local levels than at the national level. Your vote counts for more, you have more access to your state and local officials, and you have a better shot at exercising direct, personal influence, such as through service on boards and commissions, and participation in town meetings. None of this would be the case were federal bureaucrats to assume control over zoning, K-12 public education and public safety.

Another stadium deal turns sour for taxpayers

Like many municipalities, Miami-Dade County has gone through some tough budget times in recent years. Last year the county laid off  1,000 workers, cut salaries and consolidated departments to balance its budget. On top of the steep impact from the country’s fiscal downturn, the citizens of South Florida were also feeling the effects of the rich stadium deal that the county’s previous commissioners and mayor gave to the Miami Marlins to keep them in the area. Now, local citizens, who opposed the stadium subsidies in the first place, polls showed, are feeling betrayed as the team deals its best–and most expensive–players in a wholesale reshuffling that suggests the Marlins are pulling back on the commitment to invest heavily in the franchise in return for the new facility

The Decline of the West

Which cohort recently declared bankruptcy (Chart)? The blue cities, which otherwise seem to be on the way up: Stockton (312% pop. increase, 1950-2010), San Bernardino (233%), and Vallejo (345%). Not Cincinnati (-41%), Rochester (-37%) and South Bend (-24%). The black cities have their struggles, but …

New York’s latest pension pander

Are the New York City officials who run Gotham’s public-sector pension funds interested in competitive returns — or political pandering?

Pensions and The Wire

In the world of The Wire, almost no one above the rank of sergeant is interested in real police work. The Baltimore Police Department’s top officials are portrayed as sadistic, cynical, craven, vindictive, at best careerist operators. “Natural police” not a one.
Except Major Bunny Colvin, a bold urban innovator. To reduce crime in his district, the Western, Colvin creates “Hamsterdam,” a network of three zones within which “drug enforcement [is] not a District priority.”

Charter cities could lead the way to reform

The future health of California cities will not be affected by the veneer of pension reform the governor signed into law. The real issue centers on San Jose’s Measure B, which reduces future benefits for current public employees. San Jose touched pensions for current employees because, officials there explain, as a charter city it is allowed to do so and the city’s charter specifically sanctions pension reforms. In fact, charter cities have much latitude in how they reform public services

California audit says more about politics than pensions

California state auditor Elaine Howle, whose agency works at the behest of state legislative leaders, recently released a report that criticizes San Jose officials for using supposedly misleading pension liability numbers that the auditor believes may have confused voters. Voters didn’t seem confused in June, as they voted by 70 percent to 30 percent to approve groundbreaking pension reform that reduces benefits for current employees going forward. The audit, which I discuss in a recent City Journal California article, is a case-study in nitpicking