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Supporting Fiscal Health at the State and Local Levels

The Government Finance Research Center contributes to improving the way in which government works by informing public policy and scholarly discourse through its community-engaged interdisciplinary research, by providing reports and informed analyses, delivering educational opportunities and technical training, and offering the most inclusive and up-to-date forums and workshops for national and local discussions on today’s most important fiscal and governance issues. Studies have helped policymakers and administrators at the state and local levels better navigate the ways to finance, manage, and plan for important public services delivered to residents on a daily basis. Specialized research that combines primary data with existing sources has provided innovative solutions to the most pressing concerns affecting the fiscal health of state and local governments in the greater Chicago area, throughout Illinois, and across America.

Since the GFRC was founded in 2018, staff and affiliated faculty have conducted nationally recognized research that provides effective policy solutions to fiscal challenges in areas like property taxation, urban economic development, public pensions, tax deductibility, and financial condition.

Through its approach of bottom-up research and policy leadership, the GFRC aims to be the nationally recognized center of informed fiscal policy and scholarly discourse, thereby shaping the debate on state, municipal, and regional governance and public finance.

Today, the GFRC concentrates its research into the following clusters:

  • Tax Policy and Administration. As the mainstay of state and local public finance, taxation provides the foundation for financing essential public services but also reflects policy choices about how the costs of service delivery get distributed throughout the community. GFRC researchers have studied the impact of individual state and local tax (SALT) deduction limitations on municipalities across Illinois, how large U.S. cities use taxes and fees to regulate new transportation network companies, and the ways in which their tax structures and economic bases affect the fiscal capacity and adaptability of cities across the nation.
  • Fiscal Policy and Financial Position. Fiscal health is a perpetual concern amid budgetary uncertainty, mandates and financial restrictions, and evolving intergovernmental relations. GFRC researchers have offered reports on the fiscal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for state and local governments, the ways in which several states provide cities with general revenue and have allocated federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, and analyzed the financial condition over time of cities across the nation.
  • Debt and Long-Term Obligations. Healthy fiscal planning and financial management involves the important functions of investment and financing through capital markets, managing short-term and long-term assets, maintaining financial judiciary responsibilities, and accounting for public funds. GFRC researchers have examined the funding levels and liquidity risk of Illinois’ police and firefighter pension funds, the fiscal condition of all five state pension systems in Illinois, state intervention in municipal pension funding, and the effect of the Affordable Care Act on hospitals’ borrowing costs.
  • Energy and Water Policy. Some of the key challenges facing the U.S. and the world revolve around energy and water. GFRC researchers have investigated the economic, workforce, and fiscal impacts of the unfolding energy transition. In addition, they have investigated how municipalities and water districts establish rates, what factors influence rate adjustments, and the extent to which State or local policies drive cost increases or variations in rate-settings, as well as issues of affordability and equity.