Proliferation of Governments: Meeting Challenges and Segregating Citizens?
Over 40 years ago, it was hard to imagine that the most numerous local governments in the United States would be special districts. They outnumber every other form of government and counted 35,052 in 2002. Special districts emerged in California especially after the 1970s, when cities and urban areas formed new local governments. At the periphery of urban areas, residential development with a low density occurred – this ‘sprawl’ came along with the creation of cookie-cutter suburbs. Special districts were formed to provide a single service for areas, thereby crossing the boundaries of cities and counties. These special authorities played the major role in the proliferation of governments in California which led to fragmentation and decentralization (‘political sprawl’) (Lecture 10/14/09). In the following essay, I will show that this multiplication of governments in regard to special districts is not per se a critical development in urban politics but rather is the separation of citizens in newly formed municipalities from the socioeconomic problems of urban areas. I will first explain the fiscal crisis and role of Proposition 13 in California (1978). Then, I will outline causes and consequences of the proliferation of local governments. With reference to the example of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, I will provide arguments that support my thesis of the important role special districts have. The fiscal conservatism of citizens and its consequences will be the theme underlying my argumentation about the critical points of the multiplication of governments. The brief overview over solutions implemented in California to mitigate the impact of decentralization will lead to my conclusion, in which an outlook on the issue will be given.
The decentralization and fragmentation of local governments in California cannot be understood without the role of Proposition 13. Approved by two thirds of Californian voters in 1978, Proposition 13 reduced the property tax of assessed valuations to one percent using the levels of the fiscal year 1975/76. No more than two percents were allowed as the maximum increase in assessed valuation per year, and no other legislations could be passed to replace the revenues. Proposition 13 and its 63 ‘baby’ legislations diminished the former financial disincentive for districts to incorporate because the maximum property tax increase was the same for new districts as well as for unincorporated ones. All these legislations are underlain by an anti-government mood and a kind of tax revolt by the Californian people which resulted in immense investment decreases in economic and social programs. But the most decisive impact of Proposition 13 was on local governments which lost essential tax revenues because of the ceiling of property tax increases. Local governments have tried to find solutions to this tremendous budget gap by fiscalizing land-use, increasing less progressive taxes (like the sales tax), and investing in complicated derivatives. The bankruptcy of one of the richest counties in California, Orange County, in 1994 is a good example for the culmination of all these problems (Lecture 10/16/09).
- Quote paper
- Renard Teipelke (Author), 2009, Proliferation of Governments, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/141676