The Effect of Tax and Expenditure Limitations on Revenue Volatility: Evidence from Colorado

Travis St.Clair
Public Budgeting & Finance, 32 (Fall 2012), pp. 61-78.

Much of the research on tax and expenditure limitations (TELs) focuses on the impact that limits have on the size of the public sector or the distribution of expenditures at the state and local levels. While these results shed light on the extent to which TELs succeed in reducing government spending, they do not have much to say about the impact of TELs on government budgeting or financial planning, despite the fact that voters support TELs in the hope of reducing government inefficiency (Courant, Gramlich, and Rubinfeld 1980; Ladd and Wilson 1982). This paper examines the effect of TELs on the stability of government revenues; sound tax policy entails controlling the volatility of revenues in order to plan more effectively for the future. Using panel data from Colorado's Division of Local Government as well as the Census Bureau's Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances, this paper examines the impact of Colorado's 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) on local government finances. Results from difference-in-difference estimation suggest that TELs increase revenue and expenditure volatility.

Wagner Faculty