Taming Leviathan: Do tax and expenditure limits work?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.



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For many years, US states and localities have confronted pressures for ever-greater spending. In pursuit of enhanced fiscal discipline, 30 states since 1978 have enacted formal limitations on taxes, budgets, or outlays. Current fiscal pressures, driven largely by pension and health care costs, have renewed policymakers’ interest in such tax and expenditure limits (TELs).

Despite the substantial time, resources, and effort that have been devoted to the enactment of TELs, new research conducted by AEI’s Benjamin Zycher finds that the fiscal outcomes stemming from such tools have largely failed to live up to their promises.

Exactly how effective have TELs been in constraining state and local spending, and how can state and local officials curb budget growth more effectively? Why have TELs failed to live up to their expectations? And what lessons might these findings hold for policymakers at the national level?

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