Regressive Tax Cut Vetoed in Georgia


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Governor Concedes Supply-Side Tax Cuts Are Not Workable, But Still Insists He Likes Them

Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue ended a month of speculation this week when he decided to veto a capital gains tax cut -- but seemed to equivocate on the outrageous claim that capital gains tax cuts can actually result in increased revenue.

As reported here, the Georgia legislature in early April passed a budget for fiscal year 2010 that included a major tax cut for the wealthy (an exclusion for long-term capital gains income). The proposal was roundly criticized by opinion leaders in the state, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Macon Telegraph, because the vast majority of the benefits would go to the richest state residents and because of its potential revenue impact during a state budget crisis.

Uncertainty surrounded the outcome because it was unclear what Governor Perdue, a proponent of "supply-side" tax cuts, would decide. Supply-side economics is a school of thought associated with conservative politicians (but not many mainstream economists) that tax cuts for investment or for those who invest can yield huge increases in economic growth. Most incredibly of all, this resulting economic growth is often argued to result in so much new tax revenue that the tax cut can be cost-free or can even lead to increased revenues. Proponents of this idea believe that cuts in the capital gains tax are especially likely to lead to increased revenues.

On Monday, the Governor issued a veto statement saying that, "While some argue these tax reductions will ultimately generate more revenue, the constitutional restraint of a balanced budget prevents policymakers the luxury of time to allow that growth to overcome the short-term loss of revenue." In other words, the Governor seemed to imply that cutting taxes on capital gains income could actually result in increased revenue, but the increased revenue simply would not come soon enough to meet the requirement that the state budget be balanced each year. To make clear that he was not opposed to such tax cuts in principle he added, "Should the General Assembly choose to enact a budget next session that incorporates the estimated revenue reductions caused by large tax cuts, I would entertain such cuts at that time."

The Governor should be thanked for vetoing a regressive and irresponsible tax cut in the middle of a budget crisis, but he should be called to task for entertaining the absurd idea that tax cuts (of any sort) can actually lead to increased revenues.

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