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Data reported by the Center for Responsive Politicsindicates that states, localities and their associations collectively spent $71 million in federal lobbying last year. The education sector, primarily colleges and universities, spent another $77 million. When combined, more was spent on those two areas of public-sector lobbying than defense, oil and gas, and some other major industries.
Some governments employ dedicated intergovernmental relations staff, and a select few larger cities maintain personnel in Washington. Many contract with private lobbying firms to give them broader reach. State and national associations further represent governments and groups of officials on a range of issues.“Intergovernmental relations is one of those under-the-radar-activities for any city,” says Jeff Coyle, who heads government affairs for San Antonio. “How a city relates to and is governed by states and the federal government is crucially important to people in the community, whether they realize it or not.”
At the federal level, top priorities of state and local government associations include protecting tax exemption for municipal bonds and seeking the authority to collect sales taxes from online retailers. “Whether it’s education, advocating or lobbying, those who are closest to the people ought to have a seat at the table in informing decisions made by other levels of government,” says Carolyn Coleman, director of federal advocacy for the National League of Cities.