While frequently used to explain the origin and development of fiscal structures, the concept of “fiscal illusion” has proven remarkably soft when use for purposes that go beyond the most general interpretations of fiscal politics. This results in part because of the lack of any agreement on precisely which revenue mechanisms are illusionary; nearly all of the revenue sources available to state and local governments have been identified as illusionary in one way or another. If all or nearly all revenue sources are used as tools of fiscal illusion, then the concept is of little use in explaining interstate variation in fiscal structures. This article attempts to assess which, if any, of 11 revenue mechanisms or characteristics of the tax system as a whole are used as tools of fiscal illusion by testing the hypothesis that use of illusionary mechanisms is positively related to the level of “electoral stress” in a state. That is, if politicians under electoral pressure do manipulate fiscal instruments in order to generate fiscal illusions, we would expect greater reliance on illusionary mechanisms under conditions of more extreme electoral pressure than under conditions of minimal electoral pressure. The hypothesis is tested with state revenue and electoral data for 46 continental states for the periods 1960 to 1977 and 1977 to 1982.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science