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”

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.

– 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/

Call for Papers: 76th Annual International Institute of Public Finance

The 76th IIPF Conference is August 19-21, 2020 at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

The congress main theme is Public Finance, Natural Resources and Climate Change. In line with this theme, the congress provides a venue for presenting and discussing cutting-edge research in public economics of natural resources. The conference main theme should also accommodate fruitful discussion of the public economics of climate change, both with respect to actions to slow that process and the public economics consequences of climate change.

The Icelandic economy is largely based on harnessing the riches of nature. Iceland is also at the boarder of the Arctic region which stands to be disproportionally affected by climate change. Thus the main theme of the conference and her location are in good harmony. As is traditional at IIPF congresses, next to the main theme the program includes presentations from a wide range of topics in all areas of public economics.

Plenary lectures will be given by keynote speakers Anna Alberini (University of Maryland, USA), Karen Palmer (Resources for the Future, USA), Ottmar Edenhofer (University of Technology Berlin and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany), and Rick van der Ploeg (University of Oxford, UK). There will be about 100 contributed-paper sessions with 300-400 papers that address a wide range of policy-relevant public finance issues using state-of-the art methods. The program features scholars from around the world, and promises to be both stimulating and informative.

Paper Submission Start
December 9, 2019

Registration Start
January 15, 2020

Deadline for Paper Submission
February 15, 2020

Notification of Paper Acceptance
Early April 2020

Deadline for Payment of Membership or Submission Fee to the IIPF
February 15, 2020

Deadline for Registration of Accepted Authors
June 1, 2020

End of Early Registration
June 1, 2020

Standard Registration
Starts June 2, 2020

Deadline for submission to ITAX conference volume
September 15, 2020 (TBC)

*All dates in Greenwich Mean Time

Call for Papers: Symposium on Property Taxation

16 Nov 2020 – 17 Nov 2020, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY, USA 13244)

The Center for Policy Research, located within the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, is hosting a one and a half day symposium on November 16 – 17, 2020. The Center has all necessary facilities and staff support for this event. Additionally, the Sheraton University Hotel is within walking distance to the venue, and the City of Syracuse is easily accessible by air, via a transfer, from anywhere in the world.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Speakers and one presenter from each selected paper will have airfare reimbursed (economy class), hotel (2 nights), and meals. Other participants should expect to cover the cost of their own travel expenses.

SUBMISSION & GUIDELINES: The symposium will focus on the real property tax (RPT) and its administration broadly defined. We welcome paper topics that include, but are not limited to: (1) RPT design and its optimality; (2) RPT incidence, efficiency, adequacy, enforcement, and compliance; (3) size of taxing jurisdictions and cycle of reassessment; (4) exemptions and deductions; (5) successes and failures in using this tax; and (6) lessons to inform policy making and reform practice.

Please submit your PAPER or ABSTRACT (if paper is not yet completed), by June 1, 2020 via email attachment to Laura Walsh at lcwalsh@syr.edu. Acceptance notifications will be sent by July 1, 2020. The full or revised papers are due November 1, 2020 for circulation among participants of the symposium.

RATIONALES AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SYMPOSIUM: The real property tax has been one of the several major taxes in the tax system of most developed countries. Many developing countries and transitional economies also levy this tax. Some countries that have not yet adopted this tax, like China, are considering adopting it. Property tax revenue is among the most important revenue sources for most local governments in the United States. In many European countries, local governments rely heavily on other taxes and intergovernmental transfers, but the property tax remains an essential part of their revenue portfolio.

The real property tax is typically administered by local governments, with wide variation across countries, even across states in the same country. The decentralized nature in the administration of this local tax, in tandem with political and other factors, has staged various scenarios that end up eroding the equity, efficiency, feasibility, transparency, and adequacy of the tax. To some extent, this tax has become inequitable, inefficient, nontransparent, and inadequate so that it can no longer serve its due roles as expected or desired. The call and demand for reform of administration of this tax is real and imminent worldwide.

There exists a rich and increasing academic literature on various aspects of the real property tax; however, this literature has been thin on the administration of this tax, especially in recent decades, such that academia is detached from the practice of this important locus of local public finance. This symposium is a collective effort of several research institutions in the United States, Europe, and Asia that are traditionally strongholds of public finance, as a new round of concerted exploration of the most pressing issues with the real property tax, especially the administration of this tax.

The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University has a long tradition as a stronghold in state and local public finance, with its departments of economics, political science, and public administration (policy) as the tripod in the study of this broad area. The Center for Policy Research in the Maxwell School already has a strong team of established researchers in this area.

This symposium will bring scholars from several major countries (and multiple states inside the United States) for international and comparative studies. The symposium focuses on the examination of problems in various aspects of the real property tax, its evolving role in local public finance, and, in particular, issues in its administration. At the theoretical level, the symposium aims to distill theories via empirical analyses to generate evidence on optimal reassessment cycle, optimal size of property assessing units, appropriate scope and manner of exemptions that balance equity with efficiency, and relevant policies under tax reform.

FURTHER INFORMATION: For specific questions, please contact Professor Yilin Hou, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, at yihou@maxwell.syr.edu or 1-315-443-9072.

The dates of this symposium (November 16-17, 2020) have been strategically selected to ensure that participants of the annual National Tax Association conference (November 19-21, Denver, CO, USA) are able to easily attend both events in one trip.

November 15 (Sunday): Afternoon arrival of participants and check in at hotel
November 16 (Monday): Full day; conference with dinner in the evening
November 17 (Tuesday): Half day; departure in the afternoon/evening