Category Archives: Intergovernmental Relations

Tensions in State–Local Intergovernmental Response to Emergencies: The Case of COVID-19

Source: Bruce D. McDonald, III, Christopher B. Goodman, Megan E. Hatch, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst Published December 29, 2020
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From the abstract:
The current outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19), has spurred a large governmental response from all levels of the U.S. intergovernmental system. The emergency and disaster response system of the United States is designed to be bottom-up, meaning responses are intended to begin at the local level with state and federal governments stepping in to assist with resources and oversight as needed (Rubin and Barbee 1985; Schneider 1995, 2008). The response to the current outbreak, however, has been something else entirely, as each level of government competes with the others over dwindling resources and the authority to respond to the crisis.

We examine how the U.S. intergovernmental system of emergency response is designed, how state and local governments have responded to the COVID-19 crisis thus far, and how this crisis has further exposed tensions in the state-local intergovernmental system. We use the National League of Cities’ (2020) COVID-19 Local Action Tracker to examine city and state responses to the pandemic. We argue state-local intergovernmental response is associated with many issues related to intergovernmental relations broadly, particularly conflict about the “best” emergency services provider. This leads some states to prefer a local response with state support and other states to prefer a more uniform, state-mandated response enabled by state preemption of local actions. The latter has revealed an often-dormant means of state preemption of local ordinances: the executive order preemption. Accessible through the emergency powers afforded to U.S. governors, this type of preemption is uncommon because it is overshadowed by legislative and judicial preemptions. This article seeks to explore descriptively the prevalence of executive order preemptions and discuss the implications of these preemptions in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These preemptions vary in their content, with some representing policy minimums, others maximums, and some a combination of the two. Yet all types of preemption have substantial effects on what local government administrators can do to respond to their constituency’s needs. Such constraints, when out of alignment with local needs, can be challenging in normal times but are potentially catastrophic in emergencies. Administrators will need to be creative in balancing responsiveness to their constituents within such a limiting policy environment.

Evaluating the Role of Government Collaboration in the Perceived Performance of Community-Based Nonprofits: Three Propositions

Source: José Nederhand, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, December 28, 2020
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From the abstract:
The topic of government-nonprofit collaboration continues to be much-discussed in the literature. However, there has been little consensus on whether and how collaborating with government is beneficial for the performance of community-based nonprofits. This article examines three dominant theoretical interpretations of the relationship between collaboration and performance: collaboration is necessary for the performance of nonprofits; the absence of collaboration is necessary for the performance of nonprofits; and the effect of collaboration is contingent on the nonprofits’ bridging and bonding network ties. Building on the ideas of governance, nonprofit, and social capital in their respective literature, this article uses set-theoretic methods (fsQCA) to conceptualize and test their relationship. Results show the pivotal role of the nonprofit’s network ties in mitigating the effects of either collaborating or abstaining from collaborating with government. Particularly, the political network ties of nonprofits are crucial to explaining the relationship between collaboration and performance. The evidence demonstrates the value of studying collaboration processes in context.

Learning From the Joneses: The Professional Learning Effect of Regional Councils of Government on Municipal Fiscal Slack in Suburban Chicago

Source: David Mitchell, Whitney Davis, Rebecca Hendrick, Public Budgeting and Finance, Advance Articles, First published: October 30, 2020 (subscription required)

From the abstract:
Fiscal slack scholars have sought to identify the primary generators of unreserved fund balance (UFB) within local governments, including economic, organizational, demographic, institutional, and political factors. Guo and Wang (2017) extend this endeavor spatially; however, geography may mask the professional learning impact of subregional councils of governments (COGs). This study examines 265 Chicago suburban municipalities to reveal through a pairing approach that municipalities who belong to the same subregional COG generally have more similar UFB levels, independent of geographical proximity. Policymakers can therefore utilize COGs when making decisions regarding a municipality’s most vital resource for strategic investments and fiscal stress.

Deepening Interlocal Partnerships: The Case of Revenue-sharing Infrastructure Agreements

Source: Stephanie D. Davis, Meghan Z. Gough, State and Local Government Review, Volume 51 Issue 4, December 2019
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From the abstract:
….New partnerships between individuals or organizations tend to form when the risk-adjusted expected benefits of collaboration outweigh the expected transaction costs and other costs of collaborating. How can localities, especially urban and rural areas, create or deepen and expand collaborative relationships? What factors are necessary to change localities’ expected costs and expected benefits to lower transaction costs or to raise mutual trust levels so that they begin to collaborate or deepen and expand an existing collaboration?

In this article, we address those questions via two cases of successful interlocal collaboration in a state where deep and extensive interlocal partnerships, such as revenue-sharing agreements, are not the norm—Virginia. To understand the motivation for localities to collaborate on economic development opportunities, we studied the history and context of intergovernmental relations and conducted in-person interviews with elected officials and the city or county managers in each jurisdiction. In each case, the localities changed their views of expected costs and benefits and availed themselves of a long-standing state policy to establish a new level of cooperation…..

Seeking Patterns in Chaos: Transactional Federalism in the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Cynthia J. Bowling, Jonathan M. Fisk, John C. Morris, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
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From the abstract:
The federal government’s response the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been marked by a series of apparently disjointed, chaotic, and confusing statements and actions on the part of both the White House and federal agencies charged with coordinating the federal response. These actions have left many state governors (and citizens) in a position to address the effects of the pandemic in a haphazard and atomistic manner. In this essay, we contend that the actions of the Trump administration, and its relationships with states and local governments, can best be understood through a lens of what we refer to as “transactional federalism,” in which federalism relationships are governed by a set of exchanges between the president and states, and between states. We conclude by discussing the ramifications of this form of federalism.

It Depends on What You Share: The Elusive Cost Savings from Service Sharing

Source: Austin M Aldag, Mildred E Warner, Germà Bel, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, September 30, 2019

From the abstract:
Intermunicipal cooperation is the most prevalent alternative service delivery method for US local governments. While aspirations for budgetary savings are one motivating factor, increased service quality and regional coordination are also important goals. We use an original 2013 survey of local governments in New York State to assess the level of service sharing and outcomes. We match our survey with 20 years (1996–2016) of service-level costs data to explore the relationships between sharing and costs across 12 common local government services. We contribute to the literature by providing the first multivariate assessment of the effect of cooperation on costs in the United States, and we contribute theoretical insights on the objectives and type of cooperation to explain differences in the effects of cooperation on costs across a variety of services. Our multivariate time series regressions find that service sharing leads to cost reductions in solid waste management, roads and highways, police, library, and sewer services; no difference in costs for economic development, ambulance/EMS, fire, water, and youth recreation; and higher costs in elder services, and planning and zoning. These differences are explained by whether services have characteristics such as asset specificity and the ability to achieve economies of scale on the one hand, or if sharing leads to greater administrative intensity or promotes other objectives such as quality and regional coordination outcomes on the other hand. We also analyze the effect of sharing on service costs over time, and find solid waste, roads and highways, police, and library are the only services where costs show a continued downward trend. These results show the limited role for economies of scale, even in asset specific services. Because cost savings are elusive, public sector reformers should be careful not to assume cost savings from sharing. The theoretical foundations for service sharing extend beyond economies of scale and transaction costs. Scholars should give more attention to organizational form and the broader goals of sharing.

Intergovernmental Costs of Political Gridlock: Local Government Cash Flow Smoothing during State Budgetary Delays

Source: Lang (Kate) Yang, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published October 4, 2019
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From the abstract:
Political gridlock in state legislature often leads to a failure in adopting a budget by the start of a fiscal year. This article examines the intergovernmental implication of late state budgets, specifically the cash management problem faced by localities during the stalemate. Without legislative appropriations, the state government could delay expected transfers and payments to localities. Late intergovernmental transfers may force localities to smooth out cash flow for continued service provision through short-term borrowing. Using municipal bond market data, this article finds that when the state budget is late, the average locality’s likelihood of issuing short-term debt increases by 61 percent among those with end-of-fiscal-year short-term debt outstanding experience, and the amount of debt issuance increases by 76 percent. As short-term debt carries interest costs, state’s political gridlock and policy inactions impose direct costs on local governments.

When Collaboration Is Risky Business: The Influence of Collaboration Risks on Formal and Informal Collaboration

Source: Jessica N. Terman, Richard C. Feiock, Jisun Youm, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, August 8, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the last two decades, local governments have increasingly engaged in energy conservation and sustainability programs and policy. However, the benefits of these policies (i.e., cleaner air, less congestion, etc.) are often perceived as dispersed and costly. As such, localities consider collaborating with one another. However, decisions to collaborate pose considerable risks that can be magnified or mitigated by the mechanisms through which collaboration occurs. We investigate decisions to engage in formal and informal collaboration in the area of energy efficiency and conservation as a response to collaboration risks.

Do Small Local Governments Fare Well? A Survey of Villages in New York

Source: Pengju Zhang, Marc Holzer, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public administration studies have not adequately discussed governance challenges for small local governments. Given that more than 10% of villages have, unprecedentedly, voted on dissolution in New York over the past 10 years, this article exclusively and comprehensively investigates how well villages are faring in New York. Using a representative survey of village governments, coupled with a rich secondary data set, it finds institutional and political tensions between villages and their underlying town(s). It also suggests intergovernmental fiscal factors have threatened the organizational and fiscal health of some village governments. In addition, villages have extensively established service-sharing mechanisms with town(s) to mitigate fiscal stress. The majority of village officials remain skeptical about dissolution as an effective approach to cost savings.

Right Cause, Wrong Method? Examining the Politics of State Takeover in Georgia

Source: Richard O. Welsh, Sheneka Williams, Shafiqua Little, Jerome Graham, Urban Affairs Review, Volume: 55 issue: 3, May 2019
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From the abstract:
A growing number of states are using state-run school districts to take over and improve persistently underperforming schools. This article uses Georgia to examine the politics of state takeover. We analyze the supporting and opposing coalitions as well as the alignment between state takeover and charter schools in the campaign for the constitutional amendment to create a statewide turnaround district. Our findings show that corporate interests, the governor, and nonprofit organizations supported state takeover, whereas educators, parents, and community organizations opposed state takeover. There was bipartisan support across coalitions and a crisscrossing of interests regarding local control and the path to school improvement. There are divergent views on charter schools, with supporters of state takeover favoring charter schools.