ABFM 2021 Curro Award Winner: John Stavick

The 2021 winner of ABFM’s Michael Curro Award for best Graduate Student Paper is John Stavick (Indiana University, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs).

The award is for his paper “Do Budget Maneuvers Contribute to the Long Term Fiscal Imbalance of State Budgets?”, which he will present Friday, Session 9, 3:15-4:30PM in New Challenges and Strategies for Policy Institutions Supporting Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations in Thomas.

I nominated John’s paper, and this is the summary I wrote of its contributions in the nomination letter:

Stavick’s paper is an extremely creative and impressive way of providing evidence to the important question of whether state budgetary “gimmicks” have long-term budgetary consequences. As Stavick deftly reviews in the literature, what generally happens in the literature is that a recession occurs, a bunch of papers (often in a special issue) discuss the various ways in which states responded on the theme of cutback management which condemn the use of the various gimmicks states employ, finishing with a call for long-term follow up to see what the implications are. Then the economy recovers and scholars lose interest and don’t follow up. Well, Stavick is following up by looking at the decade following the largest recession since the Great Depression. To the extent that longer term examinations exist in the literature, they mostly take a look at a state, then trace through its history and find some gimmicks that were employed. However, this does not tell us how often these gimmicks are employed and how often the use of a particular gimmick actually results in the kind of interesting problems that generate case study attention from scholars.

Stavick’s point is that scholars are implying that budget gimmicks employed during a major fiscal stressor (like the Great Recession) are problematic in the long-run because they will be tempting for the state to repeat, or are in some other way short-sighted that will have long term effects on their institutional capacity. Stavick uses recent literature for cataloguing these gimmicks and then creates a unique and novel dataset of their use during the Great Recession. The description of what he found is itself interesting. Some gimmicks are widespread and Stavick provides illustrative cases where they likely have long-term implications, and this descriptive analysis is a good contribution in its own right. But he then draws from the literature on community resiliency to develop a categorization scheme for different types of fiscal shocks, binning them into four different types post-fiscal shock trajectories. Stavick plotted nearly a thousand different spending categories across all states from 2007 to 2018, blinded the figures, and then asked a team of graduate students to identify which resiliency diagram best represented the actual time series data. It turns out the main expenditure category he actually uses (real direct general expenditures) has a high degree of cross-validation among the team categorizing the graphs (over 95%). He then proceeds to use a multinomial logit regression to see if the budget choices made during the Great Recession indeed manage to predict the type of post-shock period that scholars typically warn us of. He does find that states most likely to engage in “human resource related cuts” (mostly furloughs and layoffs) are less likely to find themselves with a “consistent growth” post-period and increases the probability of experiencing a gradual “gradual decline.” States that impose “across the board cuts” and “using the rainy day funds” are less likely to experience a “gradual decline” over the subsequent decade. However, the strategies scholars have identified as “gimmicks” produce no effect on post period recovery whatsoever.

Attend his presentation, and if you meet him please be sure to share your congratulations with him.

ABFM Students on the Job Market

The Annual Meetings of the Association of Public Budgeting & Financial Management occurs this week September 30-October 2 in Washington D.C. at the Georgetown Marriot. In this post I’m continuing my tradition of sharing information about doctoral students on the job market. I eagerly look forward to seeing old colleagues and meeting these new scholars at these meetings.

While by records there are dozens of doctoral students, these are ones about whom I was able to obtain some information about their on-going research, with apologies to those whom I could not find:

Aisha Ahmadu, Mississippi State University, Department of Political Science and Public Administration
Aisha’s dissertation looks at the impact of disasters on government finance. Aisha is presenting “Effect of Disaster Declaration, Disaster Damage, and Jurisdictional Vulnerability on Local Tax Revenue” in Impacts of Disasters on Public Budgets on Saturday, Session 10, 9:15-10:30.

Yoon-Jung Choi, Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Yoon-Jung’s research focuses on fragmentation and overlap in tax, expenditure, and regulatory functions, and her dissertation examines the impact and incidence of property tax. Yoon-Jung is presenting two papers: “The Value of Mandatory Audit: Evidence from Nonprofits” in New Research in Governmental Accounting and Reporting on Friday, West End, 1:45-3:00 and “Tipping toward Fiscal Stress: How Do School Districts Perceive and React to Fiscal Stress Signals?” in New Challenges and Strategies for Policy Institutions Supporting Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations on Friday, Thomas, 3:15-4:30.

Lindsey Interlante, University of Delaware, Joseph R. Biden School of Public Policy & Administration
Linsey’s research interests are in public finance, urban policy, fiscal health, poverty, and government accountability. Linsey is presenting “The Earned Income Tax Credit and Local Fiscal Health” in Spatial Distribution of Fiscal Health on Saturday, Session 10, 9:15-10:30.

Justina Jose, Georgia State University, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
Justina’s research interests are in the municipal bond market, fiscal federalism, debt management and fiscal policy. Her dissertation examines the role of state oversight of local government debt issuance. Justina is presenting “State Oversight of Local Debt & Overlapping Governments: An Analysis of County Governments in The Municipal Bond market in a Time of Economic Instability on Thursday, Session 5, 3:15pm-4:30pm and “Market- Based Subnational Borrowing in India: The Emerging Architecture of State Development Loans” in Research on International Debt Management on Friday, Session 7, 10:45AM- 12:00AM.

Wei-Jie Liao, University of Nebraska-Omaha, School of Public Administration
Wei-Ji Liao’s research is in citizen participation in public budgeting, and his dissertation assesses the use of budget simulations in the United States. Liao is presenting “Citizen Participation in Budgeting in the U.S.: New Mechanisms and Evolving Normative Perspectives” in New Directions in Budget Engagement and Budget Simulation Research on Friday, Session 7, 10:45-12:00.

Scott Langford, University of North Carolina, School of Public Policy
Scott’s research employs econometric techniques to investigate how local finance and public health conditions affect economic development and entrepreneurship. Scott Langford is presenting “We’re Not in Dreamland Anymore: How Local Opioid Use Affects Firm Resources and Industrial Composition” in New Revenues, New Policies: Analyzing Their Impact on Thursday, Session 5, 3:15-4:30.

Sarah Ausmus Smith, University of Kentucky, Martin School of Public Policy and Administration
Sarah’s work is on the impacts of governance arrangements on social outcomes in state and local governments. She is presenting “The Impacts of School District Consolidation on Rural Communities: Evidence from Arkansas Reform” in budgetary Effects of Local Consolidation on Thursday, Session 4, 1:45-3pm.

Ruth Winecoff, Indiana University, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs
Ruth’s work is in the municipal bond market, and her dissertation is focused around a network analysis of private sector financial intermediaries who assist state and local governments in financing capital projects. She is presenting “Financial Intermediation in the Primary Market for Municipal Securities: A Network Perspective” in Current Research on Debt Issuance by State and Local Governments on Thursday, Session 4, 1:45-3:00.

5th Annual Public Finance Consortium Agenda Posted

The virtual conference on May 27-29th is open to registration here. Here is the agenda:

“Politics and Administration in Public Finance”

Virtual
Paul H. O’Neill Graduate Center
School of Public & Environmental Affairs

Virtual Format: All events to be held in Gather.Town

Presentations and Discussions: Keynote Hall (East)
Posters: Poster Hall (North)
Reception Area: Plaza

Thursday, May 27

7:30-9:00         Virtual Reception, BYOB

Friday, May 28

8:30 – 8:40      Welcome from Sian Mooney, Dean of the Paul H. O’Neill School

Session I: Politics & Budgets

8:40 – 9:20      “A Distaste for Deficits: Voter Opinion and Balanced Budget Laws in the U.S. States.”
Carolyn Abott, Assistant Professor, Department of Government & Politics, St. John’s University
Discussant: Dan Smith, Associate Professor, Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware

9:20 – 10:00    “Priority Based Budgeting: An Honest Broker Among Municipal Departments?”
David Mitchell, Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Central Florida
Discussant: Katherine Willoughby, Margaret Hughes and Robert T. Golembiewski Professor of Public Administration and Policy, University of Georgia

10:00 – 10:40   “Tax Now or Tax Never: Political Optionality and the Case for Current-Assessment Reform”
David Gamage, Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University
John R. Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
Discussant: Daniel Shaviro – Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation, NYU School of Law

Session II: Sales Tax Incidence

10:55-11:35     “Using the COVID-19 Pandemic to Understand Local Sales Tax Base and the Question of ‘Who Pays’”
Whitney Afonso, Associate Professor, School of Government, University of North Carolina
Jeremy Moulton, Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina
Discussant: Enda Patrick Hargaden, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

11:35-12:15     “The Inequality Implications of the Local Option Sales Tax”
Felipe A. Lozano-Rojas, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration & Policy, University of Georgia
Michelle L. Lofton, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration & Policy, University of Georgia
Discussant: Mike Pagano, Dean, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs

12:45-1:45       KEYNOTE:

“Vested Interests in Failed Policies”
By Casey Mulligan
University of Chicago

Session III: Fiscal Consequences of Political Structure

2:15 – 2:55      “The Impact of Horizontal Fragmentation on Inter-Municipal Fiscal Equality.”
Robert E. Hines, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs
Discussant: Chris Berry, William J. and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the College.

2:55 – 3:35      “Does Yardstick Competition Exist Among Overlapping Localities? Evidence on the Fiscal Effects of Direct Democracy.”
Yoon-Jung Choi, Doctoral Candidate, Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Discussant: David Brasington, James C. and Caroline Kautz Chair in Political Economy Professor, University of Cincinnati Department of Economics

Session IV: Applied Topics I

3:50 – 4:30       “Decentralization and Firm Performance: Evidence from China”
Denvil Duncan, O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Yongzheng Liu, School of Finance, Renmin University of China
Discussant: Jerry Zhao, Professor, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

4:30 – 5:10      “State Electric Vehicle Tax Credits: An Analysis of Incidence and Equity”
Peter Bluestone, Senior Research Associate, Center for State & Local Government, Georgia State University
Robert Buschman, Georgia State University
Laura Wheeler, Georgia State University
Discussant: Shanthi Ramnath, Policy Economist at Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Saturday, May 29

8:30 – 8:35      “Welcome to the 2nd Day”

Session V: Political Leadership & Public Finances

8:35 – 9:15      “Do Top Business Leaders Make Good Governors: A Regression Discontinuity Design”
Can Chen, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy and Administration, Florida International University
Discussant: Russell Sobel, Professor of Economics & Entrepreneurship, The Citadel

9:15 – 9:55      “Political Party Polarization and US Spending”
Carla Flink, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration & Policy, American University
Soren Jordan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Auburn University
Discussant: Phil Joyce, Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland School of Public Policy

9:55 – 10:35    “Decree or Democracy? State Takeovers and Local Government Financial Outcomes”
Akheil Singla, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Thomas Luke Spreen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
Jason Shumberger, Doctoral Candidate, Arizona State University
Discussant: Peter Calcagno, Professor of Economics, College of Charleston

Session VI: Applied Topics II

10:50 – 11:30   “Property Tax Assessment Appeals in the United States Over Time and Across Space”
Iuliia Shybalkina, Assistant Professor, Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Kentucky
Discussant: William Doerner, Supervisory Economist, Federal Housing Finance Agency

11:30 – 12:10   “State Income Taxes and Entrepreneurship in the Gig Economy”
Bradley J. Heim, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Justin M. Ross, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Angela Brunner, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Discussant: Sally Wallace, Dean and Professor of Andrew Young School of Public Policy, Georgia State University

Call for Papers: Virtual Conference on Politics and Administration in Public Finance

A conference on the theme “Politics and Administration in Public Finance” is occurring virtually on May 28-29, 2021. Proposals are due January 15, 2021 through the conference website here. The keynote speaker is Casey Mulligan, the Chicago economics professor who was Trump’s Chief of the Council of Economic Advisers, and now has an autobiography of that experience. Here is the summary:

The theme of the Fifth Annual Public Finance Consortium is “Politics and Administration in Public Finance.” In the wake of the recent U.S. election, there is enormous interest in political division, polarization, political geography, constitutional protections of political minorities, and public administration. These topics intersect with public fiscal decision making on innumerable dimensions which this conference seeks to address. Illustrative topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • The politics of deficit spending
  • Conducting tax audits of political actors
  • Extracting revenue across the urban-rural divide
  • Trade-offs in different considerations of “Tax Justice”
  • Allocating expenditures in comparative electoral systems
  • Constitutional rights in taxing political minorities
  • Equity concerns in expenditure choices and/or revenue raising alternatives;
  • The administration of fiscal and monetary policy

Call for Submissions C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellowship Program

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy invites applications for the C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellowship Program, which is designed to support doctoral students who are writing dissertations in the fields of valuation and taxation.

This fellowship program, named for the Columbia University economist and longtime member of the Lincoln Institute board, provides an important link between the Lincoln Institute’s educational mission and its research objectives by supporting scholars early in their careers.

Please share this information with your academic department. If you have questions, contact fellowships@lincolninst.edu.

Applications are due by email on or before March 16, 2020, by 6:00 p.m. (EST).

Reflections on Teaching a Doctoral Public Affairs Seminar in Public Finance

This semester I teach my doctoral public affairs seminar in public revenue. When I was a graduate economics student, most of the emphasis in the analogous class I took was on learning how to solve the calculus laid out in theoretical papers and understanding their relationship to structural empirical work. Overall you learn a lot about how to write a paper right now in the field. What are the major questions being asked? How are they being approached? What are the data/methods/literature being cited?

That is a very good way to teach a doctoral seminar, but I’ve drifted away from it. They get some of that, of course, but I feel like in many ways those are some of the easiest things to pick up by attending a conference or skimming recent issues of journals. I also have only so much capability to remain current on those questions for all the variety of topics in any case. What is the best thing to learn in a field when you have a weekly 3-hours conversation for four months? Or perhaps, what can be learned that benefits most from that design?

I have drifted (not yet “arrived”) towards organizing the course around “classics” where for a variety of topics the students read them to see the history of thought. I still need them to be able to pick up and read a contemporary technical paper, but I want them also to be able to read the paper in its place over the long arch of a topic, as part of a multi-decade conversation emerges that they (the students) are going to join. A drawback of figuring out how to jump into a literature “right now” is that it tends to discuss the literature as originating with something like a 1995 Diff-in-Diff. It is definitely true that this is important, but it feels shallow to me compared to the intellectual tradition one joins. Of more current papers, I like the ones that connect to that history.

Public finance, make no mistake, has a intellectually rich history of scholarship that I would consider a tragedy to lose. The oldest ideas relate to problems of state building, competing philosophies of equitable contributions/sacrifice, notions of democratic rights, and individual self-worth. Excess burden is not an obvious welfare statistic, but emerged through arguments of treating individuals as having some piece of the divine in them worthy of respected rights. The history of thought approach, I think, also carries with it the hope that students will potentially be better trained for the questions that we aren’t asking right now and drawing more personal self-worth out of their own research agenda.

For those interested, here are is my reading list and critical reflection questions. As I said, it is drifting and not yet arrived, and would appreciate any suggestions. (E.g. I still don’t have a harmonious way to bring in John Stuart Mill’s writings on “the tax state,” I probably need to add a wealth tax section to do so.)

Here is a sample from the critical reflection questions:

Optimal Taxation

Imagine humans invent a machine that produces a same-age perfectly identical twin. There is a marginal cost to using the machine to make this copy. Offer some perspectives from the readings on how to think about the Optimal Tax Policy in this brave new world. 1 page.

And here are my introductory week readings, a series of “chapter 1’s”:

Public Finance: Introduction

Hillman, Arye L. (2017). “Markets.” Chapter 1 in Public Finance and Public Policy, 3rd Edition. Cambridge Press.

Musgrave, Richard A. and Peggy B. Musgrave.  1980.  Public Finance in Theory and Practice, New York: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 1.

Poterba, James M.  1998.  “Public Finance and Public Choice,” National Tax Journal, 51 (2): 391-396. http://ntj.tax.org

Martin, Isaac William, Ajay K. Mehrotra, Monica Prasad. 2009. “The Thunder of History: The Origins and Development of the New Fiscal Sociology.” Chapter 1 of The New Fiscal Sociology: Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective. Cambrdige Press.

Monson, Andrew and Walter Scheidel. 2015. “Studying Fiscal Regimes.” Chapter 1 of Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States. Cambridge Press.

December issue of the NTJ (2019)

The new issue of the NTJ is now available online:

The Geometry of International Tax Planning After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Riff on Circles, Squares, and Triangles

Michael P. Donohoe, Gary A. McGill, and Edmund Outslay

Macroeconomic Effects of Reducing OASI Benefits: A Comparison of Seven Overlapping-Generations Models

Jaeger Nelson and Kerk Phillips

Rethinking the Green New Deal: Using Climate Policy to Address Inequality

Aparna Mathur

States’ Addiction to Sins: Sin Tax Fallacy

Lucy Dadayan

Taxing Wealth in an Uncertain World

Daniel Hemel

The Barriers Created by Complexity: A State-by-State Analysis of Local Sales Tax Laws in Light of the Wayfair Ruling

Whitney B. Afonso

After Wayfair: What Are State Use Taxes Worth?

John L. Mikesell and Justin M. Ross

Digital Services Taxes: Principle as a Double-Edged Sword

John Vella

The Superiority of the Digital Services Tax Over Significant Digital Presence Proposals

Wei Cui

Superiority of the VAT to Turnover Tax as an Indirect Tax on Digital Services

Karl Russo

Call for Papers: 9th Annual Municipal Finance Conference

13 Jul 2020 – 14 Jul 2020, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The 9th annual Municipal Finance Conference (https://www.brookings.edu/municipal-finance-conference/) is to be held July 13-14, 2019 at the Brookings Institution. The conference is sponsored by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, the Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance at Brandeis International Business School, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

The Municipal Finance Conference aims to bring together academics, practitioners, and state and local government officials to discuss recent research on municipal finance and economic and fiscal issues affecting state and local governments more broadly. In recent years, paper topics have included changing rules for advance refunding, the impact of local newspaper closures on municipal borrowing costs, changes in the municipal advisor market in the post Dodd-Frank era, the risk of fiscal collapse in coal-reliant communities, the sustainability of state and local government pensions, the evolution of insurance value in municipal markets, and an analysis of highway construction costs.

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE:
– We are seeking proposals on a broad variety of topics related to state and local fiscal policy and public finance.
– Papers do not have to be original to this conference. We welcome papers that have been presented elsewhere.
– Deadline for proposals is February 21, 2020. Selection decisions will be made by March 20, and drafts of selected papers will be due by May 22.
– Please send your proposal or abstract to Haowen Chen (hnchen@brookings.edu).

The agenda for last year’s conference is posted here: https://www.brookings.edu/events/8th-annual-municipal-finance-conference/