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The Growth of Statewide Planning

Beginning in the late 1960s, the nation began to witness an increase in statewide planning efforts. This development was closely related to growing concern over environmental issues. In general, state planning efforts do not supersede local planning efforts but rather add another layer of control. State planning may address a variety of environmental or growth management goals that, because they transcend municipal boundary lines, cannot be adequately handled at the local level. A number of state planning processes are described in Chapter 14.

Economic Development Planning

In the period immediately after World War II, it was generally thought that the economic function of government was simply to ensure that the national economy functioned well. Specifically, the main problem was to employ suitable fiscal and monetary policies to maintain a high level of employment and a reasonable degree of cyclical stability. To the extent that there was poverty stemming from unemployment, the way out was thought to be economic growth in order to bring more people into the workforce and exert upward pressure on wages.

After a time, however, it became apparent that, prosperous as the nation was, there were parts of the country in which poverty and unemployment were rampant. The first geographic area so recognized was the Appalachian region, sandwiched between the much more prosperous East Coast and the then thriving Midwest. The terms pockets of poverty and structural unemployment came into use.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the federal government began to fund local economic development programs through a series of agencies and programs discussed in Chapter 14. Briefly, its intention was to promote by means of planning and subsidies the flow of capital into distressed areas. Initially, most of the federal effort regarding structural unemployment had a rural and small-town focus, since in the early 1960s that was where the problem was most acute. Gradually, with the urbanization of poverty discussed in Chapter 2, the focus of these efforts became more urban.

For reasons of political ideology, the Reagan administration was opposed to such programs. The federal government largely withdrew from the field during the 1980s and has never returned to it in a major way. However, the states and thousands of local governments still pour much effort and billions of dollars into economic development. The structural unemployment issue is one of the prime motivations for such efforts. The other major motivation is property tax relief. This motive was greatly strengthened in 1978 by the passage of Proposition 13 in California, which greatly limited the ability of local governments to increase property taxes and which was followed by similar actions in a number of other states. For municipal governments trapped between citizen resistance to taxation on the one hand and rising costs of providing services on the other, expansion of the tax base through economic development often seems to be the best way out. If anything, interplace economic competition has grown more intense since the 1980s, and economic development planning is a major area of planning.

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