Budgets

Budgets

Research

Tracy C. Miller, Megan E. Hansen | Aug 23, 2016
The federal role in highway spending is expected to get smaller because fuel tax revenues are decreasing and Congress is holding off on raising the federal gas tax rate. Meanwhile, states are not getting the most out of their highway spending. Traffic congestion plagues urban areas, and simply investing in highways and transit will not be enough to fix the problem. A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University discusses general principles that can help states maximize the value they get from their highway spending. While no two states are identical, policymakers can still learn from one another by observing what works and using the same general principles to create reforms that work for their states.
Daniel Sutter | Jun 21, 2016
Medicaid was established in 1965 as a joint state and federal program to provide medical insurance to Americans who are poor and have disabilities, and it has grown from 1 percent to 3 percent of GDP. The source of Medicaid’s growth over the past 50 years must inform efforts to reform the program and slow spending. The literature on the political economy of Medicaid provides strong evidence of interest group and political ideological influence, enabled by the open-ended federal match for state spending.
George R. Crowley | May 17, 2016
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examines recent trends in state fiscal policy and details how well these efforts conform to widely accepted “best practices” in tax reform. It examines the tax and the expenditure patterns of five states and finds that, while there is no one correct way to enact economically beneficial tax reform, it is possible to discern some clear trends.
Robert Krol | May 05, 2016
Economist Robert Krol examines the problem of highway congestion, looking at how congestion pricing has been successful in the past and why it could be an attractive option in the future. There is mixed evidence about whether congestion pricing is regressive, but governments implementing congestion pricing could use several policy solutions to help reduce inequity. These include reducing other regressive taxes such as the gasoline tax and giving commuters the option to choose between toll lanes and toll-free lanes.
Marc Joffe, Jesse Martinez | Apr 12, 2016
Puerto Rico is facing a severe fiscal crisis, and new crises will be almost inevitable in the absence of major institutional changes in the commonwealth. History has bequeathed the island inefficient state-run enterprises and a government unable to balance its budget, but Puerto Rico could have a bright future if it undertakes the right reforms.
John A. Dove, Daniel J. Smith | Mar 22, 2016
Alabama currently lags behind its regional neighbors and the nation in economic growth and performance. This study undertakes a comprehensive analysis of Alabama's current fiscal situation as well as the reforms necessary to put Alabama on the road to economic prosperity.

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

Aug 18, 2016

When investment returns aren't enough, who foots the bill? Of the $2.26 billion in TRS revenues in 2015, only a sliver came from investment income while 83 percent came from the pockets of Alabama employees and their employers.
Jul 19, 2016

The economic variation across the U.S. is considerable. Such variation calls into question the usefulness of top-down, federal fiscal policy designed to smooth out recessions.
Jun 22, 2016

As the White House blog says, “America’s capacity for creativity and invention is a major reason why our economy is the strongest and most durable in the world.” This is an accurate statement, but America’s economic success isn’t due to top-down investment in politically favored industries and firms. Instead, America’s ability to innovate is driven by risk-taking entrepreneurs who use their talent and ideas to provide us with new things that improve our lives.
Jun 16, 2016

Between the 2015 and 2016 studies, twenty-two states improved their fiscal standing, twenty-two worsened, and six stayed the same.
Jun 01, 2016

In a new Mercatus Center study that ranks each of the 50 states and Puerto Rico according to their fiscal condition, one common theme among the worst performing states is their drastically under-funded public pension systems.
Jun 01, 2016

The information is right in front of us, but if we don’t pay attention, we risk missing the warning signs of the next state or territorial fiscal crisis.

Charts

In spite of their complaints about federal overreach, state policymakers are addicted to handouts from Washington because it allows them to spend “free” money instead of asking their constituents to come up with funds via higher taxes. Unfortunately, federal money is not “free,” and the consequence of the federal government’s funding what are properly state and local responsibilities is excessive growth of government at all levels.

Experts

Podcasts

Eileen Norcross | June 24, 2016
Eileen Norcross, Director of the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, discussing her 2016 report ranking states’ fiscal solvency. Eileen points to Puerto Rico, Connecticut, and Illinois as cautionary tales and blames profligate state governments for mismanaging debt and unfunded pension liabilities.

Recent Events

Mercatus Center budget scholars will share their academic research and practical knowledge with local thought leaders in a half-day seminar hosted by the Bluegrass Institute in Lexington, Kentucky.

Books

Michael S. Greve | May 22, 2015
This essay examines the sources and the scope of federalism’s failures. It provides a trenchant, constitutionally grounded analysis with profound implications for a range of current policy debates. Federalism’s restoration requires not merely rebalancing the federal-state relationship through decentralization. Rather, we must restore the structure of federalism to competitive federalism—which encourages states to compete to enhance freedom and economic growth—in response to the rise of cartel federalism, which squashes competition between the states and makes states dependent on the federal government.

Media Clippings

Eileen Norcross | Feb 02, 2014
Eileen Norcross cited at The New York Times.
Sarah Arnett | Jan 17, 2014
The Mercatus Center cited at Philly.com.
Sarah Arnett | Jan 16, 2014
The Mercatus Center cited at Investor's Business Daily.
| Jan 16, 2014
Mercatus cited at Union Leader.
Eileen Norcross, Matthew Mitchell, | Jul 23, 2013
Detroit reports an unfunded pension liability of $634 million, but using more accurate accounting methods it's closer to $3.5 billion.
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