Professor: Rob Wassmer, Ph.D.



Office: Room 3037, Business Administration Building

Office Phone: 278-6304

Office Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.; and by appointment if necessary

Prerequisite: A grade of B- or higher in PPA 220A.

Required Texts:

(1) State and Local Public Finance, 2nd Edition, Ronald C. Fisher, Irwin;

available for purchase at bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com ;

(2) Causes of Fiscal Stress in California Counties, 1998, Robert W. Wassmer and Charles Anders.

Both of these are available at CSUS Bookstore. There will also be various supplemental readings assigned throughout the semester. These are listed in the schedule below. Copies of these readings are either available directly from the Internet (an electronic link is given below) or I will provide a paper copy. Sources are listed after each supplemental reading.


This course requires that you have an internet account that allows access to the World Wide Web. If you do not have one at home or work, you can get one through CSUS. At my homepage I will post an outline of each meeting and a description of the homework that is due at the following meeting. These will be available at 2 p.m. the day of class. There will also be other handouts posted at this site.


To expose the graduate student of public policy to basic public economics through the study of market failure, public choice, government organization, expenditure, taxation, and specific state and local government applications. The student will be expected to learn some simple economic theory; but keep in mind that always the goal in doing so is to better understand, analyze, and critique existing and proposed government policies.


Pedagogy will focus on in-class meetings and discussions. Students will be required to complete written answers to questions related to the readings and other assignments. These can only be turned in at the meeting they are due and by the student who completed it (my method of attendance). We will go over assignments at the meeting that they are due. There will be three exams throughout the semester. The first two are in-class exams.  The last exam is a take home.  All of them are non-cumulative.


This class will meet a total of 15 times throughout the semester. Each exam will be 90 minutes long. The first exam will be held in the first part of class on March 9. The second exam will be held in the first part of class on April 6. The third exam will be given out on May 18 and be due May 25. The readings for each meeting are given below. A chapter out of Fisher is designated by a "F".

Meeting 1 (Feb. 3)

F1 - Why Study State and Local Government Finance?

F2 - Micro Analysis: Market Efficiency and Failure

Meeting 2 (Feb. 10)

F3 - Public Choice Without Mobility: Voting

F4 - Demand for State and Local Government Services (pp. 80-86)

HANDOUT- "The Road to Reforming Government in California," California Voter, Spring 1998, The League of Women Voters of California.

Meeting 3 (Feb. 17)

F4 - Demand for State and Local Government Services (pp. 87-102)

F5 - Public Choice Through Mobility

INTERNET - "Economic Influences on the Structure of Local Government in U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Journal of Urban Economics 43, Ronald C. Fisher and Robert W. Wassmer, pp. 444-71, 1998.

This paper is in PDF form.  If you do not have on system, download the Adobe Acrobat Reader before accessing.

Meeting 4 (Feb. 24)

F6 - Organization of Subnational Governments

INTERNET - Deep Roots: Local Government Structure in California, Paul G. Lewis, Public Policy Institute of California, 1998.

F7 - Costs and Supply of State and Local Goods and Services (pp. 145-153)

Meeting 5 (March 2)

F7 - Costs and Supply of State and Local Goods and Services (pp. 154-173)

HANDOUT - California Counties: A Look at Program Performance, Elizabeth G. Hill, LAO, May 1998.

INTERNET - "California's Schools and Proposition 26," Budget Brief, California Budget Project

INTERNET - Secretary of State Voter Info on Proposition 26

Meeting 6 (March 9)


F8 - Pricing of Government Goods: User Charges

INTERNET - "Development Fees and New Homes: Paying the Price in California," Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

Meeting 7 (March 16)

F9 - Intergovernmental Grants

F10 - Borrowing and Debt

INTERNET - "The Orange County Bankruptcy: Who's Next," Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

INTERNET - "Fiscal Rules and Bond Yields: Do Tax Limits Raise the State's Borrowing Costs?", Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

Meeting 8 (March 23)

F12 - Principals of Tax Analysis

F13 - The Property Tax: Institution and Structure

INTERNET - "Proposition 13, the Recession, and the Tax Assessor's Dilemma," Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

Meeting 9 (March 30)

F14 - The Property Tax: Economic Analysis and Effects

HANDOUT - Proposition 13: Some Unintended Consequences, Jeffrey I. Chapman, Public Policy Institute of California, September 1998.

INTERNET - "Has Proposition 13 Reduced the California Tax Burden?" Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

Meeting 10 (April 6)

INTERNET - "Should Local Fiscal Authority Be Strengthened?" Research Brief, Public Policy Institute of California.

INTERNET - "A Primer on the Vehicle License Fee," Legislative Analyst's Office.

HANDOUT - Role Play Regarding Local Government Control

BOOKSTORE - Causes of Fiscal Stress in California's Counties, Robert W. Wassmer and Charles Anders, 1998.

Meeting 11 (April 13)


F15 - Sales and Excise Taxes

Meeting 12 (April 27)

INTERNET - California Tax Policy and the Internet, Legislative Analyst's Office

INTERNET - Taxing Internet Sales and Access, California Senate Office of Research

INTERNET - California Cities and the Local Sales Tax, Paul G. Lewis, Public Policy Institute of California, 1999.

F16 - Income Taxes

Meeting 13 (May 4)

F17 - Business Taxes

F18 - Revenue from Government Monopoly and Regulation

INTERNET - California Lottery On-Line

Meeting 14 (May 11)

INTERNET - Greening the Golden State: A Tax Reform for California's Future, Redefining Progress, 1999.

Meeting 15 (May 18)

F19 – Education

INTERNET: K12 Master Plan: Starting the Process, California Legislative Analyst's Office, 1999.


Final Exam Time (May 25)



You will be required each week to complete a one to two-page, double-spaced, typed answer to questions that I will ask that relate to reading assignments out of Fisher and other supplemental readings. This is not required for the first meeting. The answers to these questions will be due on the meeting that they are scheduled to be covered. In addition, a total of 14 homework assignments will be given and collected. These will come out of the questions at the end of Fisher's chapters, and opinion pieces on the supplemental reading.

The written answers to my questions and homework will be looked over and assigned grades ranging from A+ (4.3) to D (1.0), and F (0.0 - for not completing on time). A separate grade for each will be given and a total average derived. You may drop your two lowest total averages (this also allows for the possibility of missing a class meeting). This grade is weighted as 30 percent of your final course grade.  Each exam accounts for 20 percent of your grade. The remaining 10 percent of your grade is based on classroom participation and the completion of the additional required session.  You must take all exams to pass the class.

Additional Required Session -- Choice of Times (See Attached Schedule):

The Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, along with the College of Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies, sponsors a seminar series. Since a goal of this class is for you to learn how to complete a research project, seeing and understanding research that others have done should assist in the learning process. It is suggested, if at all possible, that you attend all seminars. It is required that you attend at least one seminar and by May 25 turn in a two-page, double-spaced, typed description and critique of the seminar you attended. The seminar schedule can be viewed in early February


Percent Correct Letter Grade Number Grade
100-94 A+ 4.3
93-89 A 4.0
88-84 A- 3.7
83-79 B+ 3.3
78-74 B 3.0
73-69 B- 2.7
68-64 C+ 2.3
63-59 C 2.0
58-54 C- 1.7
53-40 D 1.0
<40 F 0.0


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