Southwest neighbors Arizona and New Mexico may share a common border, but news reports from each state this week make them look worlds apart.
In Arizona, after refusing for months to support Governor Jan Brewer’s call for a temporary increase in the state’s sales tax, leading Republicans have put forward a tax plan of their own. Unfortunately, rather than raising the revenue necessary to address the state’s staggering budget deficit of $4.4 billion (over the next 18 months), their plan would dramatically reduce personal and corporate income taxes, as well as the property taxes paid by businesses.
The backers of the plan claim that it would not worsen the state’s fiscal outlook, as the reductions would be phased in over a number of years. But that is precisely the approach the state followed over the course of the 1990s – a course of action that has put the state in its current predicament. Moreover, while the plan apparently would not take effect until July 2011, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has indicated for quite a while that Arizona's revenues are unlikely to return to their pre-recession levels before that time.
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson recommended raising taxes by $200 million (on a temporary basis) to help close the state's budget gap. However, he appears to have left the details of which taxes to increase to the legislature and the Budget Balancing Task Force he appointed late last year.
While the Task Force has an array of options before it, the best approach – the repeal of New Mexico’s tax break for capital gains income – has already been ruled out by the Governor. (This is no surprise, since Richardson was the break’s chief advocate when it was put into law in 2003.) Still, as ITEP found in its March 2009 report, “A Capital Idea,” capital gains tax breaks “deprive states of millions of dollars in needed funds, benefit almost exclusively the very wealthiest members of society, and fail to promote economic growth in the manner their proponents claim.”