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Restraining the Leviathan: property tax limitation in Massachusetts

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

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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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:71:y:1999:i:3:p:313-334
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Coate, 2014. "Optimal Fiscal Limits," NBER Working Papers 20643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Michael D. Makowsky & Thomas Stratmann, 2011. "More Tickets, Fewer Accidents: How Cash-Strapped Towns Make for Safer Roads," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 863-888.
    3. repec:eee:regeco:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:46-56 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jeffrey Zabel, 2014. "Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Proposition 2½ Overrides on School Segregation in Massachusetts," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 9(4), pages 481-514, October.
    5. Gebhard Kirchgassner, 2002. "The effects of fiscal institutions on public finance: a survey of the empirical evidence," Chapters,in: Political Economy and Public Finance, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Bradbury, Katharine L. & Mayer, Christopher J. & Case, Karl E., 2001. "Property tax limits, local fiscal behavior, and property values: evidence from Massachusetts under Proposition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 287-311, May.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Vigdor, Jacob L, 2004. "Other People's Taxes: Nonresident Voters and Statewide Limitation of Local Government," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 453-476, October.
    11. 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.
    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.
    13. 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.
    14. Hawley, Zackary & Rork, Jonathan C., 2015. "Competition and property tax limit overrides: Revisiting Massachusetts' Proposition 2½," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 93-107.
    15. Alm, James & Buschman, Robert D. & Sjoquist, David L., 2014. "Foreclosures and local government revenues from the property tax: The case of Georgia school districts," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-11.
    16. Douglas D. Roscoe, 2014. "Yes, Raise My Taxes: Property Tax Cap Override Elections," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 95(1), pages 145-164, March.
    17. 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.
    18. Figlio, David N & O'Sullivan, Arthur, 2001. "The Local Response to Tax Limitation Measures: Do Local Governments Manipulate Voters to Increase Revenues?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 233-257, April.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. Steven Deller & Judith I. Stallmann & Lindsay Amiel, 2012. "The Impact of State and Local Tax and Expenditure Limitations on State Economic Growth," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 56-84, March.
    23. 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.

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