The Public Beat

Important news about government trends and innovations
• According to the Rockefeller Institute, state revenue growth softened in the second half of 2011. Despite the slow return to pre-recession revenues, some states have actually been considering dramatic cuts in revenue (though often proposed to be phased-in over time). In what may have been unheard of only a few years ago, some state legislatures have been seriously considering proposals to eliminate — yes eliminate — their state income taxes altogether. It now appears that these efforts have stalled in Kansas and Missouri, although Oklahoma is still headed in that direction. Research and field experience has convinced us that reshaping these tax debates to a values-based story of what’s at stake is essential to helping Americans have a more pragmatic perspective on taxes. Unfortunately, from the looks of this recent poll, it looks like there is still some work to be done to convince voters in Oklahoma that doing away with their state income tax will do their state more harm than good.
• Unlike states, which seem to be recovering, albeit at a slow pace, localities are being hit hard by revenue losses thanks to the weak housing market. For a few recent examples of the impacts of this trend check out this piece about some of the drastic measures municipalities are resorting to in order to balance their budgets, and this terrific episode of This American Life which tells the story of the impacts of budget cuts in three communities and asks the question “What kind of country?”
• Finally, Public Works has long advocated for greater public participation in decision-making, particularly when it comes to fiscal matters. To that end, we enjoyed reading this piece about an innovative new approach to involve citizens more directly in the New York budgeting process; and we enjoyed watching this TED Code for America video that spotlights the importance of tapping citizen expertise and energy in accomplishing public tasks.

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