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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 GASB board member and ICMA Retirement Corp. president.

He can be reached at millergirard@yahoo.com. 

Despite predictions that COVID-19 would crush state tax revenues, most of them didn’t need megabillions in pandemic aid to balance their budgets. But for the most part they seem to be spending the money wisely.
Local governments lack the tax base for meaningful income redistribution programs, and they risk losing residents to lower-tax jurisdictions. The economics suggest that it’s a job for higher levels of government.
Labor market shortages and private-sector competition compel states and localities to get creative. Removing a major impediment to filling vacant jobs seems worth a look.
Local governments could turn to special assessment districts to cost-effectively assure safety improvements, bypassing occupants’ foot-dragging and dysfunctional homeowners’ associations.
Congress should rewrite the ground rules to minimize nuisance lawsuits that can cost local taxpayers millions, while focusing civil courts on bad cops and blind-eye departments.
State laws and local practices vary widely, so the impact on budgets will defy generalizations. But it’s unlikely that rising revenues will uniformly cover impending growth in municipal costs.
State and local leaders should prod Washington for the funding that can close the digital divide, protect utilities from cyber criminals, build smart cities and shape incentives for high-tech manufacturing.
The warring camps in Washington are unlikely to find a middle ground on their own. Governors and mayors need to take a seat at the adult tax-policy table.
Much depends on their tax structures, particularly if Prop. 13-style tax caps are in place. But inflation-driven pressure for wage increases could squeeze budgets and crush pension funds.
While Washington politicians argue over the latest White House proposals, governors and local leaders should promote achievable federal plans that would reduce their costs of funding health care.