Letting the nation’s roads and bridges deteriorate may worsen traffic congestion and add to our commuting woes, but when water and sewer systems begin to fail our very civilization is at risk. That is the message of a recent story in The Washington Post drawing attention to the alarming state of the nation’s water and sewer infrastructure. The story looks at the Washington D.C. system as a poster child for neglected and dilapidated municipal utilities. The average age of the District water pipes is 77 years and a great many were laid in the 19th century, notes the Post article. read more »
During my college days, I had the opportunity to interview a local government official tasked with conducting various disaster response programs. North Dakota had, at the time, been dealing with severe flood issues for nearly a decade, and the interviewee had vast experience dealing with the ins and outs of working within the system to find mitigation solutions. Asked about the challenges of having to deal with a multitude of state and federal agencies, he informed me that the most vital contacts he had were at the federal level. read more »
On November 18, President Obama signed into law a bundle of appropriation bills for FY 2012 including appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The measure had been passed earlier in the House by a vote of 298-121 and in the Senate by a vote of 70-30. read more »
The Martin Prosperity Institute recently released the map below, which compares the GDP of several US metropolitan areas to the size of national economies. For instance, the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan statistical area (MSA) has a GDP of $311.3 billion dollars. If it were a country, it would be the 40th biggest national economy on earth, ahead of countries such as Denmark ($310.1) and Greece ($303.4). read more »
Credit Sesame has created an interactive map showing property tax rates for all 50 states. Based on data from the Tax Foundation, the graphic also shows property tax rates as a share of home value and as a share of median income of homeowners. It's important to note that property taxes can vary regionally within states, and property taxes are only one part of overall state and local tax burden. read more »
As this is written, we do not know the exact level of funding the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will propose in its draft legislation, to be unveiled in the first week of July and marked up the following week. Nor do we know what level of funding the Senate Finance Committee will come up with. But we do know that both Houses will be obliged to propose far less funding than is contained in the current (FY 2010) surface transportation budget of $52 billion ($41 billion for highways, $11 billion for transit). read more »
Local government consolidations are often proposed by a wide range of interests, often out of the belief that they will produce more efficient (less costly) governments. Much of the academic literature supports this view. However, the evidence indicates that material savings routinely fail to occur from such amalgamations. The claimed $300 million annual savings in Toronto's megacity quickly became higher costs and a larger bureaucracy. read more »
One of the most enduring myths in public policy is that local government consolidations save money. The idea seems to make sense, and most of the academic studies support the proposition. However, rarely, if ever, does the promised reduction in public expenditures or taxes actually take place. read more »
Set aside for a minute whether high-speed rail (HSR) makes sense or not on a cost-benefit basis. Regardless of whether it does or not (and some smart people are arguing not), I'd like to make the argument that federal funding has no place in HSR. Instead, it should be left to individual states or regional state coalitions.
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Nebraska was the 37th State to join the Union, is home to the “Cornhuskers,” and currently has a $3.5 billion budget and a $563 million cash reserve.
In this time of economic hardship, the Cornhusker state has no debt, shunning all long-term financial commitments including retirement benefits.
A recent USA Today survey of state financial reports found that the other 49 states combined “have an unfunded obligation of $445 billion” owed for the medical care of retired government workers. read more »