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This report lays out a set of policy and political interventions that cities, regions, and states can make to increase municipal revenue and to make their collections more progressive. Cities have historically suffered enormous budget shortfalls and after the Great Recession, available funds depleted even more drastically. There is a desperate need for more municipal tax revenue and for a more just system for collecting it, instead of the current practice of cities collecting their revenue in regressive ways. Across the United States, there are major political obstacles to raising any kind of revenue. And yet, although different, the obstacles at the municipal level are in some ways even greater than they are at the state and federal levels. Nevertheless, there are meaningful strategies that cities and counties can adopt. And there are political strategies that may be effective at generating state-level reform. This report lays these out in detail, discussing the political and policy strengths and weaknesses of each.
PILOTs are voluntary payments made by tax-exempt nonprofits as a substitute for property taxes. These payments typically result from negotiations between local government officials and individual nonprofits, but the exact arrangements vary widely. PILOTs can be formal, long-term contracts, routine annual payments, or irregular one-time payments. The payments can go into a municipality's general fund, or be directed to a specific project or program. PILOTs are most frequently made by hospitals, colleges, and universities, but also by nonprofit retirement homes, low-income housing facilities, cultural institutions, fitness centers, and churches. Some such payments are not even called PILOTs, but are known as "voluntary contributions" or "service fees."
A list of possible user fee taxes local governments could use to raise revenue prepared by the Illinois Municipal Treasures Asocciation.
The property tax is the oldest major revenue source for state and local governments. At the beginning of the twentieth century, property taxes represented more than eighty percent of state and local tax revenue. While this share has diminished over time as states have introduced sales and income taxes, the property tax remains an important mechanism for funding education and other local services. But property taxes are regressive, and because these taxes are usually collected at the local level, the unequal distribution of wealth between rich and poor school districts can lead to inequitable school funding.
Most U.S. cities and counties do not impose a local income tax, but they are imposed by 4,943 jurisdictions in 17 states, encompassing over 23 million Americans. Varying from minute amounts in several states to an average 1.55 percent in Maryland (see Table 1), these taxes provide a long-standing and significant source of revenue to many cities in \"Rust Belt\" states in the northeastern United States. All counties in Indiana and Maryland impose a local income tax (see Table 2). In Ohio, 593 municipalities and 181 school districts have such a tax. 2,469 municipalities and 469 school districts in Pennsylvania impose local income or wage taxes. Many cities and school districts in Iowa and Michigan also have these taxes.
Sales and excise taxes, or consumption taxes, are an important revenue source, comprising close to half of all state tax revenues in 2010. But these taxes are inevitably regressive, falling far more heavily on low- and middle income taxpayers than on the wealthy. Consumption taxes also face structural problems that threaten their future viability. This chapter looks at how these taxes work, and outlines options for making consumption taxes somewhat less unfair and more sustainable.
Americans are becoming increasingly overweight and obese. During the past four decades, the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled, and more than tripled for adolescents. The negative consequences of obesity, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, make it a major public health problem. Approximately $79 billion is spent each year for over-weight and obesity, with about one-half of these costs paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
America's current economic crisis is not only a national crisis. It is also a metropolitan crisis, and it will soon become a local government fiscal crisis. Coping with the worst economic downturn in 50 years, U.S. cities face sizable budget shortfalls for 2009 that are expected to grow much more severe and widespread in 2010 and 2011. With the pace of recovery still sluggish, local government budget tightening and spending cuts over the next two years could well impose a significant drag on the nation's economic performance just as the extraordinary interventions of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) trail off. It could be that a deepening local government fiscal crisis - less remarked upon than the one challenging state governments - could hobble the nation's incipient recovery with several years of layoffs, cancelled contracts with vendors, and reduced services. This report surveys the current state of U.S. cities' finances, reviews city leaders' responses to those conditions, and places these developments in the context of efforts aimed at securing the nation's recovery from the current severe slump.
Houston is one of the most inequitable cities in the United States. Households with incomes in the top 5% earn nearly 10 times more than households in the bottom 20th percentile. Thus, it is not surprising that while Houston ranks as the second-most prosperous city in the United States and the fifth fastest-growing, it only ranks 64th on a list of most economically inclusive cities. This staggering contrast between general wealth and individual welfare in our city creates both an enormous challenge and a great opportunity to improve lives through effective public policy. Mayor Turner is the best-situated elected leader in the South to embrace equity as a driving principle of his administration. He has an opportunity to demonstrate a model for the region that advances transformative policy shifts, which could impact millions of lives. Mayor Turner launched the Complete Communities initiative earlier this year, a program focused on transforming historically under-resourced communities by developing solutions in partnership with residents and leaders that are tailored to each neighborhood. The goal is to expand access to quality affordable homes, jobs, parks, improved streets and sidewalks, grocery and retail stores, good schools, and transit options. To build on this effort, Mayor Turner created the Mayoral Task Force on Equity, charging it with developing actionable policy recommendations to make Houston a more equitable city.
This report details the impact on workers of the hotel industry in LA refusing to comply with the City's Living Wage Ordinance