Frank Shafroth is the director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, where he is also an assistant professor, and is an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Public Policy at George Washington University. He has served as the director of federal policy and intergovernmental relations for the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, was chief of staff for U.S. Rep. James Moran, was director of policy and federal relations for both the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities, and was assistant counsel for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. He is a regular columnist for State Tax Notes and an attorney. He is currently heading a project for the MacArthur Foundation on the topic of severe municipal fiscal stress.

July 25, 2018

The Fiscal Firebomb Looming for Small Cities in Illinois

A state law meant to hold municipalities accountable for pension payments may actually worsen a coming fiscal crisis.
May 18, 2018

Millennials Pose a Major Problem for States

Demographic trends suggest trouble ahead for government revenues.
April 6, 2018

Ransomware: A ‘Soft Nuclear Weapon’ Aimed at Government

We're in a new era of digital extortion. We need to do a lot more to block and mitigate attacks like the one that crippled Atlanta.
March 20, 2018

Localities Want to Make Retiree Bills More Affordable. Why Won’t States Let Them?

The cost of post-retirement benefits is threatening governments’ ability to provide vital services.
January 25, 2018

Who's Slurping the Benefits of Soda Taxes?

Local governments. But they’re not just doing it for the money.
November 6, 2017

The Before and After Effects of Flooding on Property Taxes

Hurricanes can hurt property taxes long before any water damage is done.
September 21, 2017

Stadium Shutout

Local governments are no longer as willing to take on the risky business of building a ballpark.
July 18, 2017

Back in the Black, Without the Feds to Thank

Cities that faced bankruptcy not long ago have made remarkable recoveries -- all on their own.
May 25, 2017

Where a Shopping Mall Used to Be, an Opportunity Arises

The decline of malls in America can mean lost jobs and lower tax revenues for states and municipalities -- but not always.
March 8, 2017

States and Cities May Need Shelter From the Storm Brewing in U.S. Housing Policy

Changes are likely on the way, and they could damage budgets.
January 30, 2017

Breaking Down the Financial Impact of Self-Driving Cars

They would be mostly -- but not all -- good for state and local revenues.
November 2, 2016

Will Clinton or Trump’s Tax Plans Trickle Down?

Both candidates have vowed to reform the tax code. But neither has said how their plans would impact states and localities.
September 20, 2016

Airbnb Creates an Affordable-Housing Dilemma for Cities

Cities are experimenting with ways to meet the goals of affordable housing while still reaping the benefits of the sharing economy.
July 14, 2016

Can the ‘Sharing Economy’ Reduce Income Inequality?

Not that sharing economy though -- the other one.
May 26, 2016

Redefining ‘Special Districts’ Could Have Big Taxing Consequences

If the IRS gets its way, it may be harder for special districts to issue tax-exempt municipal bonds.
March 23, 2016

States Slap Cities With Fiscal Handcuffs

Is anyone trying to balance the fiscal inequities states impose on their localities?
January 1, 2016

Climate Change and Credit Ratings

The growing intensity of natural disasters is a threat to state and local governments’ fiscal stability. How can they protect their finances and the environment?
November 1, 2015

The Always Tricky Reverse-Commuter Tax

When cities try to tax people who work in one place and live in another, things get really complicated really fast.
September 1, 2015

Municipal Bondholders Beware

The recent bankruptcy rulings in California and Michigan protected retirees’ pensions. But at what expense?
July 1, 2015

Municipal Bankruptcy's New Rulemakers

The rules for a city’s return to solvency are no longer being crafted by lawmakers.
May 1, 2015

The Costly Double Whammy of Aging

There are two primary ways retiring baby boomers will impact revenues.
April 2, 2015

Municipal Bankruptcy and the Fiscal Twilight Zone

No one really knows what might happen to San Bernardino if the California city fails to meet a May 30 deadline in its bankruptcy case.
March 9, 2015

The Unfolding Fiscal Disaster That Is Chicago

In many ways, its challenges are more serious than Detroit's, threatening its aspirations to be a global city.
March 1, 2015

The Unforeseen Fiscal Challenges of Uber-Like Services

On-demand services like Uber and Airbnb will force state and local governments to rethink taxes, zoning and retirement.
January 1, 2015

Ebola Scare Highlights the Uncertain Costs of a Pandemic

Questions loom about who will pay for the fallout of a national health crisis and what kind of impact it could have on credit ratings.
November 1, 2014

States Struggle to Contain Firefighting Costs

As fire departments’ costs have increased in recent years, their volunteers have drastically dropped.
September 1, 2014

Fracking's Financial Losers: Local Governments

Localities are forced to deal with much of the problems associated with fracking, while states and the federal government rake in all the revenue.
July 1, 2014

Can Governments Give the People What They Want?

It’s not that governments don’t want to give the public the services they demand, it’s that they increasingly can’t afford to -- even by raising taxes.
June 30, 2014

The Risks States Take for Their Distressed Cities

Wall Street can be hard on a state that moves to keep its local governments solvent or help them through bankruptcy. But it's a chance that some states have decided is worth taking.
May 1, 2014

Why Cities Can’t Go Bankrupt in Canada or Germany

There’s a lot America can learn from these two countries about how to avert municipal bankruptcies.
April 7, 2014

Distressed Localities and the Growing Role of the States

Smart state leaders are recognizing that it costs a lot less to keep a struggling city, county or school district out of trouble in the first place.
March 1, 2014

Double Whammy

Confronting social inequality is harder when a city is struggling.
February 13, 2014

The Daunting Costs of Municipal Bankruptcy

It's always going to be expensive, but getting it right is critical.
February 10, 2014

An Extraordinary Effort to Build a Future for Detroit

The diverse group of people dealing with the city's bankruptcy could teach Washington a lot about collaboration and creativity.
January 16, 2014

Who Will Cover the Costs of an Aging America?

Demographic change and tax policies that favor the elderly mean an ever-widening fiscal gap for state and local governments.
January 1, 2014

Why Paying for Public Colleges Really Pays Off

The disinvestment and reliance on higher student fees and tuition creates significant risks not only for students—but for states, too.
December 23, 2013

The Reality of Secession: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Colorado's county secession movement was sparked by a growing disconnect between rural and urban areas. Rather than forming a new state, it might make more sense to try to deal with that disconnect.
December 12, 2013

Cities' Fiscal Health in the Aftermath of the Great Recession

There are positive signs, but there also is a lot of variation in how they fared through the downturn and beyond.
November 1, 2013

Judges: The True Pension Referees in Bankruptcy Cases

When a city is bankrupt, judges have a big say in whose bills will be paid. For now, all eyes are on Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif.
September 1, 2013

The Secret Tax Explosion

Special districts are growing like weeds—and raising tax burdens as they proliferate.