State Laws Determine How the Municipal Finance Game is Played

Just like the rules of the board game Monopoly are designed to make it harder and harder to circle the board without losing all your wealth toward the end, the rules of the Pennsylvania Municipal Government game are designed to suck central cities dry of all revenue toward the end.

Yes, there’s a certain amount of room for individual discretion to make a difference at the margins, but the way state municipal finance laws are crafted sets central cities up for failure. It’s no coincidence that 41% of state residents live in a distressed municipality.

It’s important for state governments to have an orderly process for helping municipalities who are in trouble, or who look like they’re about to get into trouble, but it’s much more important for the state laws regulating municipal powers not to systematically push them into harm’s way in the first place.

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