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Federal Grants, State Decisions

Brian D. Galle

Georgetown University Law Center

FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 251
Boston University Law Review, Vol. 88, p. 875, 2008
FSU College of Law, Law and Economics Paper No. 07-008

The authority to raise and spend money is one of the most expansive and fundamental of all Congress' enumerated powers, particularly when Congress chooses to impose conditions on those who wish to receive its cash. The consensus modern view of this conditional spending is that its unfettered use threatens the diversity and accountability goals of our federalism. As a result, nearly all commentators support either direct or indirect judge-made limits on conditional spending. These claims, I argue, rest on a set of largely unexamined assumptions about the political motivations, budgetary situation, and incentives of the state officials who must decide whether or not to accept federal offers. Thus, this Article attempts to begin a truly in-depth study of the political economy of state decisions to accept federal funds. In particular, I focus on state officials' own incentives to preserve diversity and accountability, albeit for self-interested reasons. For example, I document and model the ways in which opportunities to impose hidden taxes, or to export taxes onto outsiders, may encourage officials to turn down federal grants. I also examine closely the available empirical evidence on the actual fiscal situation of states, concluding that there is no evidence states are in such dire financial straits that they are likely ever obliged to accept federal funds. In sum, I argue that the current consensus is likely mistaken about the need for constraining conditional federal grants.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

Keywords: Spending Clause, Dole, fiscal federalism, grants, conscription, flypaper effect

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Date posted: February 20, 2007 ; Last revised: October 16, 2008

Suggested Citation

Galle, Brian D., Federal Grants, State Decisions. FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 251; Boston University Law Review, Vol. 88, p. 875, 2008; FSU College of Law, Law and Economics Paper No. 07-008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=963915

Contact Information

Brian D. Galle (Contact Author)
Georgetown University Law Center ( email )
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
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