Measuring local discretionary authority Page: 29
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Carolina correspondent wrote that, in functional
areas, local governments "have historically had
broad powers, and have generally exercised them, so
that no recent increases are evident." Table 6,
however, indicates that there has been some increase
in the utilization of each of the four types of local
discretionary powers with the passage of time, with
the greatest increase (26% of responses) being concentrated
in functional areas.
Reduction of Scope of
Asked if the state legislature had reduced the scope
of the constitutional grant of local discretionary
authority, 41% of the respondents answered in the
affirmative and 27% attributed the reduction to
A New Jersey expert on state-local relations
highlighted the constraining relationship between
revenue raising by the state and the amount of local
Prior to 1966, the state government in
New Jersey had no big sources of revenue. It
traditionally, then, allowed municipal and
county governments to do as they pleased"home
rule" was really acceptance of the
local property tax as the mainstay of our
fiscal sytem. Since 1966, we have gone to
both a state sales tax and a state income tax,
and the state budget has burgeoned. One
result has been that functions long left to
municipal or county discretion have been
pulled into the state's maw-land use, solid
waste disposal, sewerage, code enforcement,
public health, administration of justice, to
name a few. The process has been
incremental-a statute here, an executive
order there, a state aid program-but the
results have been dramatic. New Jerseyans
still look to their local governments, but
those levels increasingly find Trenton on
their backs, or looking over their shoulders.
The exercise of local discretionary authority has
been reduced by fiscal restraints in many states.
Thirty-six percent of the respondents attributed a
reduction in the exercise of local discretionary
authority to debt limits, another 35% cited tax limits,
and an additional 29% placed the blame on a lack of
Twenty-eight percent of the respondents described
state tax limits as very restrictive and another 46%7
described them as moderately restrictive. Debt limits
were held to be less restrictive than tax limits, with
21 % of the respondents describing debt limits as very
restrictive and 51o% describing them as moderately
Only 18% of the respondents viewed federal court
decisions as causing a major reduction in the exercise
of local discretionary authority. Fifty-four percent of
INCREASED UTILIZATION OF DISCRETIONARY POWERS WITH PASSAGE OF
TIME, BY TYPE OF POWER AND LOCAL UNIT, 1979
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United States. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Measuring local discretionary authority, book, November 1981; Washington, D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1259/m1/41/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.