Cities and counties are constructs of their respective states. Counties are almost always created by state constitutional decree. Cities are municipal corporations created by state legislative action. Regardless of the method of creation, states exercise significant control over what cities and counties can and cannot do. From the taxes levied to debt issuances to services that can or cannot be provided, the state determines the role of local governments within its borders. States have been pre-empting local policies at an increasing rate. The National League of Cities has documented a number of these actions. Popular targets are restrictions locally imposed minimum wages (24 states), paid leave (18 states), and public provision of broadband internet (17 states). Of these three, North Carolina is included in all. There are many other areas where states have been pre-empting local actions. This top-down view suggests that local governments have little ability to chart their own course. However, this isn’t quite right. There are many ways that cities and counties push back against state policy. In the news now, Sanctuary Cities in Texas are pushing back against new laws restricting their actions. This is a highly visible example; however, cities and counties often have other options that are less visible.
Have you ever used the County and Municipal Fiscal Analysis tool that is housed on Treasurer’s website? It allows municipalities and counties in the state to see how they are doing with regard to financial condition and compare their performance to peers. It has recently become the focus of new research coming from colleagues at the University of South Dakota and Indiana University. Ed Gerrish and Luke Spreen presented their research on our benchmarking tool earlier this month at the Public Management Research Conference and it is forthcoming at the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. In this Research Review I am going to discuss their research and pull a few findings that are especially notable for those of you that work in budgeting and finance.
Research Review is a place for me to bring you academic research that I think might be of interest or relevant to you all. It is not necessarily the Cliff notes of the paper, but it will present some key findings or insights from the paper.
Benjamin Frankin, (1706-1790) , North American printer, publisher, writer, scientist, inventor and statesman. Source: Wkipedia
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789