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Restraining the Leviathan: property tax limitations in Massachusetts

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  • David M. Cutler
  • Douglas W. Elmendorf
  • Richard Zeckhauser

Abstract

We examine the effects of Proposition 2-1/2--a property tax limitation law approved by Massachusetts voters in 1980--and assess voter satisfaction with these effects. We find that the proposition had a smaller effect on local revenues and spending than expected, as a result of both amendments to the law and a strong economy. Voters in 1980 believed there was significant waste in local government, partly because of an inability to monitor local officials. Proposition 2-1/2 curbed these agency losses, but direct local override votes and municipal expenditure patterns imply that the proposition initially reduced spending more than voters wanted.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 1997-47.

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Date of creation: 1997
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:1997-47

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Keywords: Property tax ; Massachusetts;

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References

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  1. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Demographic Structure and the Political Economy of Public Education," NBER Working Papers 5677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Poterba, James M, 1996. "Budget Institutions and Fiscal Policy in the U.S. States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 395-400, May.
  3. Katharine L. Bradbury, 1991. "Can local governments give citizens what they want? Referendum outcomes in Massachusetts," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue May, pages 3-22.
  4. Cutler, David M. & Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1999. "Restraining the Leviathan: property tax limitation in Massachusetts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 313-334, March.
  5. Cutler, David M & Elmendorf, Douglas W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1993. "Demographic Characteristics and the Public Bundle," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 48(Supplemen), pages 178-98.
  6. Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1977. "Voting in a Local School Election: A Micro Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 59(1), pages 30-42, February.
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  8. Rothstein, Paul, 1994. "Learning the preferences of governments and voters from proposed spending and aggregated votes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 361-389, July.
  9. Ronald J. Shadbegian, 1996. "Do Tax And Expenditure Limitations Affect The Size And Growth Of State Government?," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(1), pages 22-35, 01.
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  12. Poterba, James M., 1995. "Capital budgets, borrowing rules, and state capital spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 165-187, February.
  13. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
  14. Downes, Thomas A., 1992. "Evaluating the Impact of School Finance Reform on the Provision of Public Education: The California Case," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(4), pages 405-19, December.
  15. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  16. James M. Poterba, 1993. "State Responses to Fiscal Crisis: The Effects of Budgetary Institutionsand Politics," NBER Working Papers 4375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Olmsted, George M. & Denzau, Arthur T. & Roberts, Judith A., 1993. "We voted for this? : Institutions and educational spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 363-376, October.
  18. Lang, Kevin & Jian, Tianlun, 2004. "Property taxes and property values: evidence from Proposition," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 439-457, May.
  19. Bogart, William T., 1991. "Observable Heterogeneity and the Demand for Local Public Spending," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(2), pages 213-23, June.
  20. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard & Munley, Vincent G., 1992. "Economic incentives and political institutions: Spending and voting in school budget referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 1-33, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Nada Wasi & Michelle J. White, 2005. "Property Tax Limitations and Mobility: The Lock-in Effect of California's Proposition 13," NBER Working Papers 11108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael D. Makowsky & Thomas Stratmann, 2009. "More Tickets, Fewer Accidents: How Cash-Strapped Towns Make for Safer Roads," Working Papers 2009-02, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2009.
  3. David M. Cutler & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Richard Zeckhauser, 1997. "Restraining the Leviathan: property tax limitations in Massachusetts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-47, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. William Stine, 2005. "Do budget maximizing public officials increase the probability of property reassessment?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(20), pages 2395-2405.
  5. Cheung, Ron & Cunningham, Chris, 2011. "Who supports portable assessment caps: The role of lock-in, mobility and tax share," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 173-186, May.
  6. Wallin, Bruce & Zabel, Jeffrey, 2011. "Property tax limitations and local fiscal conditions: The impact of Proposition 2½ in Massachusetts," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 382-393, July.
  7. McGuire, Therese J., 1999. "Proposition 13 and Its Offspring: For Good or for Evil?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 1), pages 129-38, March.
  8. Alm, James & Buschman, Robert D. & Sjoquist, David L., 2011. "Rethinking local government reliance on the property tax," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 320-331, July.
  9. Katharine L. Bradbury & Karl E. Case & Chirstopher J. Mayer, 1998. "School quality and Massachusetts enrollment shifts in the context of tax limitations," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jul, pages 3-20.
  10. Makowsky, Michael & Sanders, Shane, 2013. "Political costs and fiscal benefits: The political economy of residential property value assessment under Proposition 212," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 359-363.
  11. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Institutions on Public Finance: A Survey of the Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 617, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Thomas A. Downes, 2002. "Do state governments matter?: a review of the evidence on the impact on educational outcomes of the changing role of the states in the financing of public education," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 47(Jun), pages 143-180.

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