What’s the “Price of Local Government” in Your County?

Opinions about the claim governments are making on citizens and the economy are the bedrock for debates every legislative session. It’s the reason why policymakers directed Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) to publish its “Price of Government” report as a transparency tool and a way to track and communicate trends on this issue at the state level. But in a time when legislative agendas are likely to be influenced as much by geography as political affiliation and property taxes remain under the microscope, getting a handle on the “Price of Local Government” in Minnesota seems no less important.

Our new issue brief, “Comparing Minnesota’s Prices of Local Government,” examines this topic and calculates the Price of Local Government (POLG) for all 87 counties in five different ways. Each approach captures a different but important perspective on the claim local governments within a county collectively have on residents and the local economy:

  • a "traditional" Price of Local Government calculation (total own source revenues / personal income) replicating the methodology MMB uses in developing the state's official "Price of Government" report;
  • a per capita POLG which measures the dollar burden imposed for local benefits and services delivered;
  • a money income POLG based only on the earnings and related income that can actually be used to pay taxes and fees to government;
  • a POLG estimate net of the ability of local governments to export some of their local tax burdens to non-county residents; and,
  • a local effort property tax POLG focusing solely on the total property tax price paid by resident businesses and individuals to all local governments within a county.

The table below ranks all 87 Minnesota counties on these different POLG measures. As the rankings show, a county's relative “Price of Local Government” depends heavily on which measure is used. That’s something worth keeping in mind as the legislative session unfolds – there is always more to the story.