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Sep 2017 | Tax & Spend

Letter from the Editor
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief


Social media in politics, changing demographics, and the rise of populist movements are just a few of the mega trends contributing to the swell of anti-government spending rhetoric around the world. Calls for tax cuts and reducing wasteful government expenditures are amplified by Twitter and by boisterous world (and local) leaders.

Balancing fiscal prudence with strategic public investments is an important endeavour – one that is buoyed by the ongoing constructive debate between the “right” and the “left.” Unfortunately, this discussion is often soured by the simplification of public service delivery as the “spending” of taxpayer money. The statement “tax & spend” leads one to believe that the purpose of taxation is solely to provide governments with the ability to buy things – staff time, tangible capital assets and so on. Really, the purpose of taxation (along with other forms of government revenue generation) should be to pool resources for strategic long-term public investment: Tax & Invest. After all, the goal of public service delivery is not to spend money, but rather to invest in outcomes.

For public servants operating at all levels of government, navigating the murky waters of partisan politics, limited capacity, and constrained fiscal resources makes strategic financial management that much more elusive. This issue of the Public Sector Digest features case studies, best practices and insights meant to facilitate long-term financial decision-making in the public sector, despite the many impediments.    

For the municipal finance manager of a small community – trying to keep up with legislative requirements while meeting the demands of city council – Trevor Pinn of the Town of Parry Sound offers tangible recommendations in his piece: Municipal Financial Policies Aren’t Just for the Big Guys. For the finance officer of a major state or provincial government – looking for innovative solutions to the intractable challenges of a fiscally-strapped government – I recommend the latest editorial submission from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) entitled A New Approach to Financial Sustainability. Finally, for those hoping for a brighter future in municipal finance, Trent University’s Harry Kitchen and PSD’s Stefanie Fisher both explore current debates and opportunities in introducing new sources of revenue for local government.

As we approach elections in 2018 across several jurisdictions and levels of government, it will be imperative that government finance officers lay a foundation now for sound fiscal management. Regardless of whether incoming elected representatives campaign on tightening up government expenditures or making strategic investments in new programming, a strong framework for long-term financial planning will help build continuity and sustainability in public sector organizations. 

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest