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Government Spending

 

The Issue

Many states face looming fiscal challenges as tax revenues are insufficient to keep pace with growing government spending. Reforming pensions, welfare programs, and other entitlement program is the most promising solution to these fiscal challenges. Those reforms can help states become more competitive, strengthen state economies, and improve the employment outlook for all of a state’s residents.

Some government pension programs have become too generous. State and local government workers routinely are able to retire in their 50s - a decade or more earlier than most people in the private sector can - with pension benefits that exceed the retirement benefits persons in the private sector receive. The burden on taxpayers to fund public-sector retirement programs has been skyrocketing, forcing elected officials to consider raising taxes, more borrowing, cuts in other government services, or a combination of those strategies.

Entitlement programs, too, have become increasingly expensive for taxpayers, and they rarely work well for persons most in need. Most states can improve the effectiveness of their efforts to help those in poverty. Successful welfare reform can save lives and produce positive effects on multiple generations. It can save taxpayers billions of dollars and help address serious social maladies, such as crime, alcoholism, and teenage pregnancy.

Our Stance

In order to stop tax hikes and compel elected officials to control spending, free-market advocates must first prove that lower taxes, privatization of public services, and tax and spending limitations yield stronger economic growth and prosperity. We also must convince elected officials that lowering taxes and reducing government spending is good policy and good politics. Legislators armed with good information can win debates and get their legislation passed, persuade constituents, and mobilize interest groups that benefit from good policy choices.

Featured Subtopics

Man doing a budget with calculator
States are beginning to turn away from baseline budgeting, a method that has proven ineffective in keeping the size of government to a responsible level. They are moving toward zero-based and performance-based budgeting, which has proven effective in cutting deficits.
Cutting a credit card in half
States across the country continue to struggle with balancing their year to year budgets as a result of increasing spending and a lagging economy. Many state legislatures have also accumulated massive amounts of debt which taxpayers will have to pay due to years of overspending combined with state employee pensions and benefits.
Small jar with retirement money
States across the country are continuing to face structural budget deficits as they try to cope with too-generous pension promises made to their employees. Mandatory payments into pension funds divert money away from essential government services and create pressure for tax increases.
A football stadium at night
Sports stadium subsidies are a poor use of taxpayer dollars. They rarely realize the benefits their supporters claim and shift tax revenue away from where it is better utilized. Cities seeking to improve their competitiveness would be better served reducing their taxes or investing in more cost effective improvements like new and improved infrastructure.

Additional Subtopics

  • Deficits
  • Federal
  • Federalism
  • Gambling and Lotteries
  • Local
  • Privatization
  • State
  • Taxes
  • Unfunded Mandates
  • Unions: Public
  • Waste and Pork

Videos

Title: Highlights: An Economic Assessment of the Fair Tax in Illinois
Description: Three famous economists - Arthur B. Laffer, Ph.D., Stephen Moore, and Erwin J. Antoni, Ph.D - present their new paper for The Heartland Institute titled "Will the Last Taxpayer in Illinois Please Turn Out the Lights: An Economic Assessment of the Illinois ‘Fair Tax’." The report: https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/10-28-20%20FairTaxReport.pdf This video is just 15 minutes of highlights of their remarks. See the full 52-minute presentation here: https://youtu.be/81tQdY0mAI8 The economists’ research says passage of the so-called "Fair Tax" ballot initiative, which voters will decide on November 3, would:  hit small businesses with annual profits as low as $250,000;  slow job growth by an estimated 566,000 over the next decade, effectively eliminating about one in 10 current jobs;  result in 1.4 million people leaving Illinois for better economic opportunities, setting outmigration from Illinois at about nine times faster than the current alarming rate;  reduce the state's GDP by $20.5 billion over the next decade;  reduce home value appreciation by about 10.4 percent over the next decade;  make Illinois one of the five highest tax jurisdictions in the world, with only New Jersey and some Third World nations having a higher tax on corporations.

Government Spending Experts Team

The Heartland Institute's experts on government spending are available for legislative testimony, speaking engagements, and media interviews.

Staff & Fellows Policy Experts