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Unformatted text preview: rland : A Survey of Constitutional Issues, Budget Responsibility and
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September, Québec. 13 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance DECENTRALIZATION IN THE UNITED STATES:
WHERE HAS THE COUNTRY HEADED?
By William F. Fox 1. INTRODUCTION The United States, like many countries, has engaged in an ongoing debate aboutthe appropriate size of government and
the best assignment of expenditures and revenues across levels of government. Answers to these questions surely vary
over time. Early U.S. history was characterized by very decentralized government, and the era during and immediately
following World War II showed evidence of centralization. The issue at hand is whether the centralization pattern has
been reversed. A strong case can be made that government in the U.S. has decentralized in recent years, but the
evidence is certainly mixed.
Decentralization of the U.S. government structure is apparent over the past 50 years in the increasing shares of
expenditures and revenues that are housed at the state/local level. But, the federal revenue share has fallen because of
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