The Spectacle Blog

A Very, Very Bad Historic First

By on 5.5.09 | 10:59AM

It's a historic first -- and a very, very bad one at that.

USA Today reports

[...] Uncle Sam has supplanted sales, property and income taxes as the biggest source of revenue for state and local governments.

The shift shows how deeply the recession is cutting. Federal stimulus money aimed at reviving the economy and a sharp drop in tax collections have altered, at least temporarily, the traditional balance of how states, cities, counties and schools pay for their operations.

The sales tax had been the No. 1 source of state and local revenue since the mid-1970s, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Before that, property taxes were the primary source. That changed in the first three months of 2009.

Federal grants - early stimulus money plus conventional federal aid - soared 15% in the first quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $437 billion, eclipsing sales taxes, which fell 2%.

The dominance of federal money is set to expand dramatically this year because tax collections are sinking while the bulk of federal stimulus aid is just starting to arrive. "This money isn't manna from heaven. It comes with a price," says Indiana state Sen. Jim Buck, a Republican. He worries that the federal money will leave states under greater federal control and burden future generations with debt. [...]

And then there's the inflation that is to come.

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