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Girard Miller

Girard Miller

Finance Columnist

Girard Miller is the finance columnist for Governing. He is a retired investment and public finance professional and the author of “Enlightened Public Finance” (2019). Miller brings 30 years of experience in public finance and investments as a former Governmental Accounting Standards Board member and ICMA Retirement Corp. president.

Miller writes Governing's bi-weekly newsletter on public finance, which you can sign up for here.

He can be reached at millergirard@yahoo.com. 

With most public retirement systems seeing improved actuarial funding levels, there’s an opportunity to offer options that could make government compensation more competitive. But any impetus for change should come from pragmatic public employers, not partisans or lobbyists.
Hundreds of billions of state and local dollars are sitting stagnant in bank accounts earning almost nothing — balances that have tripled in recent years. It’s not clear why this is happening, but it’s far too much foregone income.
States are beginning to use artificial intelligence to multiply the power of their audit teams. But the tax collectors risk political blowback unless they can convince the public that it’s just the artful tax dodgers they’re after.
While they enjoy today’s high tide in the money markets, state and local treasurers should also promote the case for expanded and targeted federal insurance for public deposits.
Proposals to eliminate them usually ignore the basic facts of life in state and local revenue management. Successful changes will be focused and surgical, and there is an intriguing opportunity to apply AI to local tax relief.
Congress could enable cities to employ tax-exempt bonds to help stabilize their office tax bases in a way that’s friendly to both taxpayers and the IRS. There might already be opportunities for brave mayors and crafty public financiers.
Today’s interest rates may tempt public financiers to try to play the spread between tax-exempt and taxable bond yields. That invites heightened federal scrutiny, but there are some strategies likely to avoid the bite of the IRS.
Billions of dollars in tax-sheltered municipal bonds are sold to fund stadiums and arenas that enrich team owners while fueling federal deficits. Local politicians can’t say no, but Congress should.
The Georgists advocated shifting the tax burden from buildings to land. Today that would face major political hurdles, but there might be variations on the concept that could spur housing development and discourage land speculators.
Long-term financial incentives for investment success are commonplace in the private sector, but tricky to design in public retirement plans. The implementation challenges are structural, operational, methodological and, yes, political.