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Three essays on fiscal federalism

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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This dissertation consists of three essays on fiscal federalism. The first essay takes a political economy approach to fiscal centralization, through federation formation. I analyze a simple two region model of federalism with interregional policy spillovers. Departing from a state of independence with decentralized provision of public policy we analyze the proposed formation of a federation to internalize the spillovers. A federation forms when the centralized outcomes satisfy participation constraints. With this restriction to rational federalism we then consider equilibrium allocations under alternative institutional environments involving; simple majority voting, restriction of uniform taxation, and regional bargaining through a bicameral legislature. The analysis illustrates the importance of these institutions on the allocation of policy authority in federations that form. The model produces clear results with regards to the feasible set of equilibrium centralization and the allocations of publicly provided goods therein. In the second essay local governments compete over a mobile business property tax base by adjusting their tax rates. This paper estimates the effect of neighboring tax rates on a local government's tax rate. This tax setting best response function is estimated with a difference-in-differences model. Endogeneity of neighboring tax rates is avoided by using election outcomes as an instrumental variable. The model is estimated using data from the municipalities of British Columbia, Canada. The findings indicate that tax competition is a determining factor of tax setting behavior. The results are discussed with reference to the local government institutions and the rising property values. The third essay studies intergovernmental transfers. Many intergovernmental transfers are said to serve political purposes. I augment a standard model of political career concerns allowing for multilevel governance, to investigate this assertion. When elections are staggered, an equilibrium exists with positive transfers. These transfers are motivated by two factors; sabotaging challengers and rent smoothing. These transfers are non-partisan and an artifact of the electoral dynamics as prescribed by an electoral calendar and politicians' career concerns. These results are discussed with reference to the growing literature on the partisan basis of intergovernmental transfers.
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