College of Social Sciences

Synopsis of Collins Institute Florida State-Local Research Project

I. Description of the Work

State-local relationships in Florida are often tense and combative but have become even more problematic in recent years as the state has shifted more and more responsibility on local governments while substantially limiting their ability to raise revenues through property taxes. State officials argue that local governments are awash in revenues from property taxes; locals claim they are severely strapped and forced to cut vital services. Non-biased, comprehensive research on the trends, impacts and future scenarios in state-local relationships in Florida is sorely needed to help inform the debate over governmental roles. We want to examine spending and revenues across the state's counties and municipalities and the effect of state laws and constitutional provisions on that spending and on revenues over time. We also want to compare Florida with other states, particularly large Southern states, and to assess trends in that context. Dissemination of the research and recommendations vetted by the Collins Institute Board, will be extensive.

II. Research

Like Tough Choices: Shaping Florida’s Future, this project will be in two phases: research and outreach. The research will have these components:

a. Overall aggregate study of trends in spending and taxing by local governments in the state will include analysis of changes in the reliance of revenue sources (i.e. property taxes and a variety of user fees), of changes in the state/local shares of revenues, and the impact of these changes on citizens (for example, has the revenue system become more regressive over the years). This study will also recognize and highlight the differing impacts over time on individual counties, especially those with varying growth, income and size. We will compile an electronic comprehensive data set of all local spending and revenues from 1972 to 2008 that we will make available to other researchers and the public. Lead researchers: Robert Eger and David Matkin, Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, FSU.

b. Study of the impact of state legislation and constitutional amendments on local revenue and spending will include the impact of 2007 and 2008 policy changes as well as the original Save Our Homes amendment and the state unfunded mandates. The longitudinal study will give us a perspective that will be valuable in pointing out to elected officials the consequences of their actions. Lead Researchers: Carol Weissert and Lance DeHaven Smith, Askew School.

c. The role of demographic changes on local revenues and spending. Of key concern to us in this study are such issues as in and out migration (both domestic and international), where has the population moved over time (suburbs), are the middle class leaving the high-tax counties, what are the intra-state differences across regions and counties? Lead Researcher: Melanie Simmons FSU Center for Demography and Population Health.

d.Inter-local cooperation among local governments. One of the most poorly understood components of state-local relationships is the informal networks that local officials, state officials and non-profits form to work “under the political radar screen.” This research will involve a statewide survey of local governments to assess the ways formal and informal cooperation occurs. Rick Feiock, Askew School.

III. Dissemination

The outreach component will involve collaborations with interest groups, non-profits, and governmental entities to hold forums, make presentations at conferences, produce joint products and will include meetings with newspaper editorial boards to highlight the research and its implications for the state. We are working with the Institute of Government on a two-day conference for county and municipal officials in Fall 2009 to highlight the research. The Florida League of Cities has contributed $10,000 toward dissemination of the research and we expect to present early findings at their August 2009 annual meeting. Similar presentations will take place at the Florida Association of Counties and Florida City and County Management Association. The work will be published on the Collins Institute web site and will be publicized as appropriate via op ed pieces. We will also meet with the staff of the Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, and members of the House Committee on Urban and Local Affairs and the Senate Government Operations Committee to inform them on progress of the study. We will also disseminate the findings through short research briefs highlighting the primary findings of components of the study and the Collins Institute board recommendations. This information will be supplemented with tabular material and background available on the FSU website. Finally we will sponsor a two-day seminar for scholars in state-local governance and finance in February 2010. This seminar will be sponsored by the DeVoe Moore Center at FSU.

PowerPoint Presentations