ABFM Doctoral Student Profile: Sian Mughan

In preparation for ABFM’s upcoming conference in Denver, I am doing a series of profiles on the doctoral students on the job market.

Siân Mughan (SPEA-Indiana University) is the winner of ABFM’s Michael Curro Award for best graduate student paper for her work “Budget Deficits and Revenue Extracting Activities in the Criminal Justice System.” Her presentation is in the Saturday session at 8:15. I am chair of her dissertation, which is on a variety of challenges presented by financing government with the criminal justice system.

Through FOIAs of the Indiana Court Administration, Mughan obtains a decade of trial case administrative data. She then reviews how the state’s institutional rules over the local government budget process regulate property tax levies in a way that generates structural deficits and makes non-tax revenues like criminal justice fees more valuable on a dollar-for-dollar basis than tax revenues in the public budget. This sets up key hypotheses over multiple points in the lifecycle of trial cases, starting with law enforcement agencies issuing more tickets, to courts extracting more revenue per case, to judicial changes in sentencing, and finally the aggressiveness of enforcement penalties for defendants who fail to pay their court fees on time. Her results repeatedly reveal that the more valuable criminal justice fee revenue becomes under state rules, the more revenue aggressive the local criminal justice system becomes. I nominated her paper for the Curro award, and I think her work is a contender for the most important paper in public finance this year.

Other chapters of her dissertation explore the effects on politically vulnerable groups and the opening of municipal courts as a revenue generator. In addition to that paper, Siân has several author interesting articles:

  • A solo-authored revise-and-resubmit at Public Administration Review on the topic of local government consolidation.
  • A publication in Economic Development Quarterly which uses the synthetic control method to estimate the impact of Ohio’s repeal of the tangible personal property tax on manufacturing employment.
  • A publication in Public Finance Review on how mass property reappraisals introduce fiscal illusion into local government.
  • A paper under review at Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory on the use of Civil Asset Forfeiture in the states.

You can see Siân’s website here.

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