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Local and Urban Politics

E19 - The Politics of Municipal Finance and Revenue

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 110

Chair/Président/Présidente : Jack Lucas (University of Calgary)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Martin Horak (University of Western Ontario)

Local Election Campaign Finance Regimes in Canada: Toward a Research Agenda: Zack Taylor (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: The regulation of election campaign donation, fundraising, expenditure, and advertising is an enduring object of study and reform. Advocates believe that limits on these activities will restrain the corrupting influence of money in politics, make parties and candidates more responsive to electors, and increase the competitiveness of elections. Since the Lortie Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Finance a quarter-century ago, campaign finance regimes have been reformed at the federal level and in several provinces. Virtually no attention has been paid to campaign finance regimes governing Canadian local government elections, however. This is surprising given the urban political economy literature’s focus on business influence on local politics and policy agendas and evidence of corruption in Canadian local government. This paper takes stock of post-1990 local election campaign finance regimes and reforms in Canada. In doing so it reveals (a) considerable variation from one province to the next in regime stringency; (b) evidence of regional patterns in regime content, suggesting horizontal policy diffusion; and (c) inconsistency in the degree to which the campaign finance regimes for local elections aligns with that of the host province. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of campaign finance reform at the local level in light of past Canadian and American research findings. On this basis, it outlines a comprehensive research agenda to investigate it.


Taxing Democracy: Changing Revenue Models and Notions of Citizenship and Accountability in the U.S. State of Georgia: Carrie Manning (Georgia State University)
Abstract: This paper examines how changing policies for revenue generation at state and local levels (counties and municipalities) affect democratic accountability and notions of citizenship. Economists attend to the efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness of tax structures and acknowledge the utility of taxes to incentivize behavior. Political scientists study the role of taxation in building relationships of reciprocal obligation between the state and sectors of society with revenue the state wants to access. This paper argues that both disciplines tend to overlook the impact that tax revenue models have in shaping the social contract between government and citizens. Focusing on state and local revenue models in the U.S. state of Georgia over the last two decades, I trace the origins and consequences – both intended and unintended, both economic and political – of changing state and local revenue models. Statutory constraints on the imposition of new taxes at state and local levels in many states have led to “policy innovations” aimed at raising non-tax revenues. One example is “policing for profit” in which municipal court fines and civil asset forfeiture become part of the revenue base. I argue that behavior-based, rather than broad-based taxes have insidious consequences for citizenship. These models not only shift the burden of taxes to a narrow subset of individuals, they give police and courts discretion over who pays them. The paper uses process-tracing, interviews with state and local politicians, and citizens’ groups to establish an empirical basis for understanding the significance and consequences of revenue models for democracy.