In the eyes of most fiscal policy experts, there are a few commonly accepted principles for judging tax policy -- neutrality, horizontal and vertical equity, and enforceability, to name a few. Apparently, in the eyes of one Louisiana legislator, "cutesy" now ought to be added to the list.
As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported earlier this week, Sen. Joe McPherson apologized to his colleagues for casting the deciding vote in favor of an amendment to repeal the state's income tax, which currently yields nearly $3 billion per year. It seems that the Senator expected the amendment to lose, but "wanted to be on the record as doing away with income taxes." He later owned up to being "cutesy" with his vote.
The bill that Senator McPherson and his colleagues voted to amend would have repealed yet another element of the 2002 Stelly plan, which substantially improved the fairness of Louisiana's tax system. Just last year, Pelican State lawmakers voted to reinstate the "excess" itemized deductions that had been eliminated as part of the Stelly plan, a move that cost the state more than $150 million in tax revenue annually and that benefits only the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers.
The bill being debated now was intended to raise the income tax brackets that had been lowered under the Stelly plan. It would have (before being amended) reduced state revenue by roughly a quarter of a billion dollars per annum and, despite the claims of proponents, yet again help the most affluent. As the Times-Picayune notes, the bill's proponents portray it as a prototypical "middle-class tax cut", but preliminary estimates from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy indicate that more than 70% of the benefits from changing Louisiana's income tax brackets would accrue to the wealthiest fifth of taxpayers.