Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 4, 2014

MICHAEL HICKS: The tale of three states

Balance of state, local gov't results in different outcomes

Having lived and worked in three different states over the past decade, I have had occasion to watch the way local government operates. In particular, I am interested in how state policy influences the goodness or badness of local government. I start in West Virginia, where I lived a decade ago.

The Mountain State decided in the 1930s to make most budget decisions at the state level. All but a tiny share of property taxes are collected by the legislature and distributed back to local governments using an opaque formula. The legislature, in its munificence, holds about a quarter of total tax revenue in a single large fund it carefully doles out in special earmarks. Successful county or municipal elected officials in West Virginia spend no time at all on such mundane matters as improving schools or paving roads. Instead, they lobby the legislature for earmarks.

The results of this practice are a catastrophic deficit of local amenities, ubiquitously bad schools and a lagging economy. Local leadership is all about securing earmarks, not good governance. Tellingly, it is this political environment on which the young Robert C. Byrd learned his craft. In 2004, I left for Ohio.

In contrast, the Buckeyes have a much more decentralized local government. Mayors, county and township officials, school boards and special taxing authorities make their case for higher taxes directly to voters. Rates are set by referendum, and local governments collect and spend taxes. Here they can observe firsthand the ill effects of raising taxes and the beneficial effects of good public services. Most local leaders seek a comfortable balance. Not surprisingly, in this environment local elected leaders tend to all know how to read a balance sheet and how to think about investing public funds.

Ohio is not a utopia, but in the three years I lived in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the Midwest, my township twice voted overwhelmingly to raise our taxes to build new schools and to install AstroTurf on a high school football field. To Hoosier ears that sounds implausible, but the local school board provided voters a break-even analysis on the investments. Then I moved to Indiana.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Let's put lethal injection to sleep

    It was only a matter of time before this happened again; and I’m sad to say I’m not surprised at all.
    On July 22, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the killing of Arizona death row inmate James R. Wood III, who had filed suit requesting a delay until the state revealed the details of the drugs that would be used to end his life.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • ANDREA NEAL: Fleeting canal era had lasting impact on state Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016. In 1825, the Erie Canal was completed to great fanfare. Cannon fire, parades, balls and speeches celebrated the speed and ski

    July 30, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Pence, Bayh crowd field with questions In the 2016 political landscape, a pair of the state's political big dogs -- Republican Gov. Mike Pence and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh -- have potential candidates holding their breath and waiting on them. Until Pence says otherwise, he's

    July 29, 2014

  • JEFFREY McCALL: All things Hillary are not news, just distractions This column has nothing to do with who should or will win the presidential election in 2016. It has nothing to do with partisan politics of any flavor. This column does, however, assess how television is oversaturating the "news" agenda with countles

    July 29, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: World is rising up to meet Putin's thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 28, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 28, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Happy marriages do not just happen My wife, Marylu, and I met through a mutual friend. My wife had been involved with Campus Crusade at her university, where my friend, Norman, also attended. One Christmas break, Norman invited his friends from church (including me) to a party — along

    July 27, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Truth about inflation Almost nothing in economics seems to confuse people as much as monetary inflation. That confusion leaves an intellectual void into which some of the least credible ideas of the modern world crawl.Goods and services typically have a price dictated in

    July 27, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller