Kelly Nolan of the Wall Street Journal reported today that property-tax revenues have been off for two consecutive quarters. When you look at the numbers, though, you can see it’s not really off by that much, especially given the state of home prices. Here is the change in the data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau:
It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful name for a state than Minnesota, which comes from a Dakota Sioux word for “sky-tinted water.” Today the state is popularly known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” a nickname that conjures up images of primal forests, deep waterways and lots of summer mosquitoes.
It feels as though American politics has become a war. The battle is not about civil rights or women’s suffrage; it’s a war about how large a role the government should play in the redistribution of income and the support of the people. There is plenty of room to disagree on these issues.
State and local governments earn their “wages” primarily by collecting taxes, although states get significant “flow-throughs” from the federal government for Medicaid and other social entitlements. Every state varies in where they draw tax revenues from. For example, states that are highly dependent on tourism will see substantial revenues from hotel and sales taxes.
If you have been around Washington much, you know that a lot of what happens is often kabuki. What may appear to be a geisha girl coyly teasing a samurai is really a young man with heavy make-up and mincing steps. It’s beautiful deception.
Lisa Pollack of Markit in London sent over some interesting charts of U.S. municipal swaps. I put up this one which shows the market perception that risk is increasing again for some states, particularly Illinois and California. It is important to remember that these markets are thinly traded and that there is a large block of muni CDS written on California that is coming to market from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.
Taxes are the fuel for the government. Without taxation the state withers. Our governments have taken on so many responsibilities but have become starved for fuel. There is much debate on how much we as a country should spend on entitlements and defense, but often these arguments are made on the premise that the United States has higher taxes than other nations.
Attention Muniland! Do you have an idea for a public web or mobile application? Change.org is sponsoring a Hack for Change on June 18th and 19th and is soliciting ideas for their programming competition. Here are some of the ideas that have already been posted: