(Blog) May 2016 Featured Governance Team Member

It’s time for the governance team’s second featured team member! For May 2016, we are profiling:
 Judith I.  Stallmann, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Judy Stallman
What is your current research?
Motivations for my research
I am very interested in the relationships between levels of government for several reasons:
1)While local government is close to the people and can respond to the local needs and desires it cannot effectively address broader societal issues, so that it needs to relate both horizontally to similar levels of government and vertically to higher levels of government.  Some of these relationships will be formal , mandated by law, but many are informal, that is there are governance issues between governments.  I often hear governance talked about in terms of how individuals relate and I take a slightly different angle.
2)Higher levels of government, perhaps in an effort to treat everyone the same, design one-size-fits-all programs.  By their very design they will fit some better than others, creating a bias in policy.  Because of their populations, urban areas have more votes at the higher levels of government in a representative government. Thus, the policies often have an urban bias (intentional or unintentional) and do not fit rural areas as well.  This makes it difficult for rural areas to use the programs, or the impacts may fall more heavily on rural areas.  It also has the potential to create widening gaps between rural and urban areas on a wide variety of outcomes.
Current research
With the above in mind I am working on some laws in the US, which vary by state, called tax and expenditure limitations (TELs). For those not in the US you may have heard of California’s Proposition 13 or Colorado’s Tax Payers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR).  These were passed based on several arguments about government making government more efficient and cutting the size of government so the more resources are left in the private sector and this will increase economic growth.  The literature in general does not find evidence for these arguments and there may be evidence to the contrary. I have published about 10 papers with colleagues examining these questions at both the state and local level.  Because of differences by state we developed an index ranking the restrictiveness of these laws.  Our index has been adopted by other researchers.  This is about vertical relationships as the laws are state laws for the state and for local governments in the state.  The variation across states, while holding the federal context constant allows for an “easier” comparison than when doing comparative research across countries.
I am interested in the horizontal relationships between similar levels of government, using the public economics and public finance frameworks to address them.  Just as individuals can have positive or negative impacts on others (externalities), so can governments.  One area of interest is applying the idea of common pool resources to the tax bases created by footloose firms.  Communities compete for this common pool resource by giving incentives and the resource is “depleted” by communities giving incentives up to (or in some cases beyond) the benefits that they would receive from the firm.  This is a big issue in the US and one I want to delve into more deeply using this framework.
Why did you choose to study rural issues? (Why is rural important to you?)
I grew up on a farm in very rural Iowa (6.5 miles from the nearest town of 600 people) and left because I wanted more opportunities.  After college I served in Peace Corps and ended up in a rural area in Honduras, very different from where I grew up, but I started to see some of the same issues.  That is what got me interested in rural.  I also realized that my experience living in two very different rural areas gave me an advantage in thinking about rural issues and helping me generate research questions.  I am sure that without the experience of Honduras I would not have begun to think about comparisons of context, policies and outcomes.
What are you interested in working on in the future?
I want to continue to address issues that arise because of tax and expenditure limitations.  I want to explore the use of economic development incentives as a way to circumvent revenue limits.  I also want to investigate whether states have sanctioned new types of districts that can enact taxes without a vote of the people as a way to circumvent TELs.
As noted above, I want to continue working in the area of horizontal competition between levels of government particularly as it relates to competition for firms through the use of economic development incentives.
I am interested in working on issues concerning the process of decentralization (or devolution, what it is called depends on the country).  Which things are best decentralized first, what are the trade-offs of decentralizing versus centralizing a given service or activity?  How can governance between levels accentuate the positive and address the negatives of these trade-offs?
What do you see as the value of the RPLC?
It has introduced me to many more researchers.
You can reach Judy at: stallmannj@missouri.edu

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