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Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts

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

Abstract

Proposition 2.5, a ballot initiative approved by Massachusetts voters in 1980 sharply reduced local property taxes and restricted their future growth. We examine the effects of Proposition 2.5 on municipal finances and assess voter satisfaction with these effects. We find that Proposition 2.5 had a smaller impact on local revenues and spending than expected; amendments to the law and a strong economy combined to boost both property tax revenue and state aid above forecasted amounts. Proposition 2.5 did reduce local revenues substantially during the recession of the early 1990s. There were two reasons for voter discontent with the pre-Proposition 2.5 financing system: agency losses from inability to monitor government were perceived to be high, and individuals viewed government as inefficient because their own tax burden was high. Through override votes, voters approved substantial amounts of taxes above the limits imposed by the Proposition.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6196.

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Date of creation: Sep 1997
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Publication status: published as Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 71, no. 3 (March 1999): 313-334.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6196

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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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. James Alm & Robert D. Buschman & David L. Sjoquist, 2012. "Rethinking Local Government Reliance on the Property Tax," Working Papers 1215, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. David M. Cutler & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1997. "Restraining the Leviathan: Property Tax Limitation in Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 6196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.

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