Published date01 September 2017
Date01 September 2017
Subject MatterArticles
SLG749013 156..169 Article
State and Local Government Review
2017, Vol. 49(3) 156-169
Introduction: The Trump
ª The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permission:
Interlude and the States
DOI: 10.1177/0160323X17749013
of American Federalism
John Kincaid1
American federalism is a highly institutionalized compound of dual, cooperative, and coercive fed-
eralism that are coexisting states as well as historical phases. Contemporary coercive federalism has
several systemic consequences including a shift in federal policy-making from places to persons, long-
term fiscal stress, deceased intergovernmental institutions, rising polarization, a relegitimizing of
states’ rights, and a paradoxical decline of public trust in the federal government coupled with public
dedication to federal policy-making. Trump’s presidency, therefore, will likely be more of an
interlude than a transformative moment in American federalism. Long-term trends highlighted in this
issue will likely outlast Trump, although the trends point toward more centralization and polar-
ization even while states and localities remain independently innovative on many fronts.
intergovernmental relations, polarization, dual federalism, cooperative federalism, coercive federal-
ism, state government, local government, fiscal federalism, social welfare, Donald Trump
Introduction: Trump Federalism
was ignored by Congress; Republicans in Con-
gress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act
This issue of the State and Local Government
(ACA), and Democratic state attorneys general
Review examines key long-term patterns in
filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits to
American federalism and intergovernmental
block Trump’s immigration orders and other
relations at the outset of the Trump administra-
tion that will likely outlast his tenure in office.
For domestic policy, the Trump presidency
Donald Trump is the most rhetorically trans-
will likely be an interlude from politics as usual
gressive president in the U.S. history, but he is
but not a radical departure. Trump’s most
unlikely to be the most transformative because
potent impact on federalism will stem from his
he is the product of a dysfunctional political
order and his rhetorical transgressions weaken
the presidency’s key asset—persuasiveness
1 Robert B. & Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government
(Neustadt 1980). Trump faces a fractious
and Public Service, Lafayette College, Easton, PA, USA
Republican Party and resistant Democratic
Party in Congress, as well as some congressio-
Corresponding Author:
John Kincaid, Meyner Center for the Study of State and
nal Republicans who reject him as their party’s
Local Government, Lafayette College, 002 Kirby Hall of
legitimate leader. Trump’s first budget pro-
Civil Rights, Easton, PA 18042, USA.
posal—a transformative one with deep cuts—

federal-court appointments, especially U.S.
adversely affect taxpayers in high-tax Demo-
Supreme Court appointments if he can replace
cratic states such as Connecticut and New
Justice Anthony Kennedy or a liberal justice.
Jersey much more than taxpayers in lower tax
If Republicans retain their Senate majority in
Republican states (Burns 2017). Elimination
the 2018 elections, they will continue confirm-
would also produce substantial downward
ing Trump’s nominees, most of whom are
political pressure on state and local taxes. In
vetted by the Federalist Society and Heritage
November 2017, House Republicans pledged
Foundation (Savage 2017). However, a five to
to retain the property-tax deduction for
four conservative court will not substantially
middle-income filers, but tax benefits for
alter the court’s federalism jurisprudence that
private-activity bonds and the deduction
has prevailed since the 2005 death of Chief Jus-
for state income and/or sales taxes might not
tice William Rehnquist because, as Trump
survive, especially for high-income taxpayers.
promised during his campaign, his nominees
Like Barack Obama, Trump will use his
mirror Antonin Scalia more than Clarence Tho-
executive powers as fully as possible to accom-
mas (Wolfe 2017). Scalia, with other conserva-
plish what he cannot achieve through Congress
tive justices, voted to incorporate the Second
(Baker 2017) including perhaps a de facto
Amendment (McDonald v. Chicago 2010),
repeal of the ACA via deregulation and defund-
thereby imposing federal limits on states’ rights
ing and retraction of Obama’s Clean Power
to regulate guns. Unlike Thomas, Scalia fre-
Plan. He has launched an ambitious deregula-
quently supported federal preemption of state
tion initiative (Belton, Krutilla, and Graham
laws deemed to violate the commerce clause
2017), which, while not aimed specifically at
(Dickinson 2010).
state and local governments, will relieve those
Like all the 2016 presidential candidates,
governments of many regulations. However,
Trump said little about federalism, but he did
his personnel downsizing may adversely affect
pledge to block-grant Medicaid, limit the state
state and local governments. For example, dur-
and local tax (SALT) deduction for upper
ing the 2017 hurricane season, about a third of
income taxpayers, support states’ rights to lega-
the top positions in the Federal Emergency
lize marijuana, defund sanctuary cities, and
Management Agency (FEMA) were vacant,
expose voter fraud. Block-granting Medicaid
and the Senate had confirmed appointments to
would be transformative, but congressional
only 29 percent of the federal government’s top
Republicans have been unable to do it. Trump’s
610 posts (Washington Post 2017).
support for state marijuana legalization follows
Trump will also use waivers of federal laws
what was already congressional policy (Lank-
to achieve certain policy objectives. As of
tree 2017), litigation has hampered defunding
2015, for example, 33 percent of federal Med-
of sanctuary cities, and most states have
icaid spending (compared to 17 percent in
resisted requests for voting records from
2010) already went to waivers in forty states
Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission
(U.S. Government 2017). Trump promised to
on Election Integrity.
expedite Medicaid waiver requests from states
Eliminating the SALT deduction would be
that copy another state’s waiver program,
transformative because the deduction origi-
permit states to impose work and com-
nated with the Revenue Act of 1862 and was
munity-engagement requirements on Medicaid
reinstated in the Revenue Act of 1913 that cre-
recipients, and approve ten-year rather than
ated today’s federal income tax. A chief ratio-
five-year waivers (Pear 2017), although recent
nale for the SALT was fear that the federal
decisions suggest his administration might not
income tax might cripple the states by monopo-
be so flexible (Mathews 2017). Trump will join
lizing the country’s tax base—a fear first
congressional Republicans to channel federal
addressed by Alexander Hamilton in The Fed-
funds disproportionately to politically friendly
eralist (Liebschutz and Lurie 1986; Kincaid
red states while also cutting spending including
2014). Killing the SALT would, on average,
federal aid. However, he has signaled a

State and Local Government Review 49(3)
willingness to cooperate with state and local
on intergovernmental relations, such as party
officials on certain matters, such as civilian
nationalization fostering centralization, and
drone regulation (Pasztor 2017).
polarization limiting centralization when states
In exercising executive powers, Trump will
counter federal policies.
often be supported by many state officials
Wang and Pagano examine the post-1970s
because, as of late 2017, Republicans con-
decline of federal aid to cities and identify ways
trolled the governorship and legislature in
in which local governments adapt differently
twenty-six states, while Democrats controlled
within the rules of their states to the exogenous
six (increasing to seven in 2018). The other
shocks of changing federal policies and state
eighteen states had divided governments. A few
laws. Federal aid to local governments has been
of the thirty-three Republican governors, espe-
essentially flat since 1989, although there has
cially in states that expanded Medicaid under
been a slight but still plateaued increase since
the ACA, will sometimes buck the president,
2001. The authors focus partly on the Commu-
but party solidarity will mostly prevail so long
nity Development Block Grant, which has
as Trump’s presidency is politically viable.
experienced continually reduced funding since
Democratic states—along with most Demo-
2002 even while Congress has increased the
cratic governors, attorneys general, and other
number of recipient cities. They also highlight
state executives plus Democratic legislative
the potentially adverse revenue effects on cit-
chambers—will join the “resistance” against
ies of eliminating the federal deductibility of
Trump, as will most big-city mayors. Demo-
property taxes and state income and sales
cratic mayors govern 66 of the nation’s 100
taxes and the tax exemption for municipal
largest cities. In this respect, federalism will
bonds. The authors examine Orlando, FL; Bir-
experience more state–federal conflict and
mingham, AL; Boston, MA; Milwaukee, WI;
polarization, but if the resistance drives up
and McAllen, TX, in the contexts of home
Democratic voter turnout enough to change the
rule, taxing authority, state...

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