In unusually difficult times like these, one of the most responsible decisions a policymaker can make is to keep all revenue options on the table. Unfortunately for residents of Minnesota and Hawaii, their governors have approached the current crisis with exactly the opposite mentality. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii have clung to the "no new taxes" mantra in recent months, despite the passage of responsible revenue-raising packages by the legislature of each state. Prominent in each of those packages were progressive income tax hikes.
In Hawaii, despite the Governor's veto, as well as her repeated assertions that any tax increase would be economically damaging for the state, the legislature managed to pass the revenue package over the Governor's stubborn opposition. The bill raises income taxes on single Hawaii residents earning over $150,000 per year, and married couples earning over $300,000.
Minnesota thus far has not been so lucky. Less than a week ago, Governor Pawlenty vetoed a tax package (based on the House and Senate bills we described last week) containing progressive income tax increases. So far that veto has held up, as proponents of the bill appear to be just a few votes shy of an override. Deeper cuts in public services or increased borrowing (the preferred solution of the Governor) may be turned to next in order to win wider support for the package.