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Fiscal stringency and fiscal sustainability: Panel evidence from the American state and local governments

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  • Mahdavi, Saeid
  • Westerlund, Joakim

Abstract

Most state (and local) governments in the U.S. operate under formal fiscal rules which limit their ability to run budget deficits and resort to debt financing. A priori, one would expect to find evidence in favor of an intertemporally balanced budget, or fiscal sustainability, for these states, especially those characterized by a relatively high degree of fiscal stringency. We test this hypothesis for a panel of 47 state–local government units (1961–2006) using four budget balance definitions and several subsamples defined based on regional classifications, or presence of certain balanced budget requirements (BBRs). Our results, obtained from panel estimation techniques that allow for general forms of serial and cross-sectional dependence, suggest that a sufficient condition for “strong” sustainability is consistently satisfied for the full sample and all subsamples in relation to balances that include special funds and/or federal grants. However, we find evidence consistent with the “weak” version of sustainability for the full sample and some regional subsamples (particularly Far West dominated by California) in at least one of the two balances that exclude these items. Finally, the BBRs seem to matter only in relation to the sustainability of the more narrowly defined balances. We discuss the implications of these findings for the role of fiscal rules and federal grant policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Mahdavi, Saeid & Westerlund, Joakim, 2011. "Fiscal stringency and fiscal sustainability: Panel evidence from the American state and local governments," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 953-969.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jpolmo:v:33:y:2011:i:6:p:953-969
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpolmod.2011.08.015
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    Cited by:

    1. Funashima, Yoshito & Hiraga, Kazuki, 2016. "Wagner's law, fiscal discipline, and intergovernmental transfer: Empirical evidence at the U.S. and German state levels," MPRA Paper 73551, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Niklas Potrafke & Markus Reischmann, 2012. "Fiscal Equalization Schemes and Fiscal Sustainability," ifo Working Paper Series 141, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    3. Burret, Heiko T. & Feld, Lars P. & Köhler, Ekkehard A., 2016. "(Un-)Sustainability of Public Finances in German Laender: A Panel Time Series Approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 254-265.
    4. Benjamin Larin & Bernd Süssmuth, 2014. "Fiscal Autonomy and Fiscal Sustainability: Subnational Taxation and Public Indebtedness in Contemporary Spain," CESifo Working Paper Series 4726, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Bo Zhao & David Coyne, 2017. "Walking a Tightrope: Are U.S. State and Local Governments on a Fiscally Sustainable Path?," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(3), pages 3-23, September.
    6. Nancy W. Hudspeth & David F. Merriman & Richard F. Dye & Andrew W. Crosby, 2015. "Do Troubled Times Invite Cloudy Budget Reporting? The Determinants of General Fund Expenditure Share in U.S. States," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 68-89, December.
    7. Daniela Monacelli & Maria Grazia Pazienza & Chiara Rapallini, 2016. "Municipality Budget Rules and Debt: Is the Italian Regulation Effective?," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(3), pages 114-140, September.
    8. Köhler, Ekkehard, 2015. "Fiscal Sustainability in Cross-Dependent Panels: Evidence from the German L nder," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113104, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Chen, Shyh-Wei, 2014. "Testing for fiscal sustainability: New evidence from the G-7 and some European countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 1-15.
    10. C. Randall HENNING & Martin KESSLER, 2012. "Fiscal Federalism: US History for Architects of Europe’s Fiscal Union," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 6, pages 1-31.
    11. Heiko T. Burret & Lars P. Feld, 2014. "A Note on Budget Rules and Fiscal Federalism," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(1), pages 03-11, 04.
    12. repec:ces:ifodic:v:12:y:2014:i:1:p:19108838 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Baharumshah, Ahmad Zubaidi & Soon, Siew-Voon & Lau, Evan, 2017. "Fiscal sustainability in an emerging market economy: When does public debt turn bad?," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 99-113.
    14. Niklas Potrafke & Markus Reischmann, 2015. "Fiscal Transfers and Fiscal Sustainability," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 47(5), pages 975-1005, August.
    15. Johann Bröthaler & Michael Getzner & Gottfried Haber, 2015. "Sustainability of local government debt: a case study of Austrian municipalities," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 42(3), pages 521-546, August.
    16. Heiko T. Burret & Lars P. Feld, 2016. "Effects of Fiscal Rules - 85 Years' Experience in Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 6063, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10797-017-9458-z is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Heiko T. Burret & Lars P. Feld & Ekkehard A. Köhler, 2014. "Panel Cointegration Tests on the Fiscal Sustainability of German Laender," CESifo Working Paper Series 4929, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fiscal sustainability; Fiscal stringency; Balance budget rules; State budget; Public finance; Panel cointegration;

    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models

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