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SMI Study Examines Size, Spending of Government Jurisdictions in Missouri

February 6th, 2009 by mopns · No Comments

Does more government always lead to higher spending? Or can a higher number of officials and jurisdictions help to check each other’s power? A new study released yesterday by the Show-Me Institute reveals that while Missouri has a disproportionately high number of governmental entities, it somehow bucks the tendency for higher taxation and inefficiency that is often correlated with such figures in other states.

The study, “Government in Missouri,” was researched and written by Show-Me Institute policy analyst David Stokes, who outlines the various levels of government within the state, including cities, counties, and state government. He also explains their structure, with details about elected officials on the state, county and local levels, as well as independent taxing authorities such as school districts, and how they influence levels of taxation.

Missouri has a total of 3,723 distinct government units, which is the eighth-highest total in the country. The state’s House of Representatives contains the fourth-largest number of officials in the nation (the Senate ranks 34th), and Missouri’s figure of 114 counties ranks fourth. Saint Louis County has the most municipalities per capita, of large counties in the nation, at

91, and the state’s total of 536 school districts is ninth-highest figure in the United States.

Stokes looks at a prevalent theory of public choice economics, which states that government spending will grow as the size of a legislature increases, and that local spending grows in relation to the size of a local council. Surprisingly, however, the Tax Foundation ranks Missouri as 46th in state and local tax burdens. Additionally, the common view of St. Louis city as a heavily taxed and high-spending area is not backed up by the comparative evidence gathered in the Show-Me Institute’s comprehensive report.

The author offers several recommendations for increasing government efficiency and accountability, including Saint Louis city reentering the county, contracting out of services by Jackson County, merging of small counties throughout Missouri, reduction of the Missouri House of Representatives and the Saint Louis Board of Aldermen, and eliminating the township option for Missouri counties.

Also available there is a four-page policy briefing that condenses information from the full study into a more digestible format.

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Tags: David Stokes · Show Me Institute

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