VERMONT & GEORGIA: This Time, Use a Wooden Stake


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If nothing else, 2009 certainly saw its share of movies featuring the undead – New Moon, Zombieland, and Daywalkers all spring to mind.  Now, that trend seems to be infecting state legislative debates, as tax policies or tax policy proposals thought to be dead seem to be springing back to life to terrorize unsuspecting citizenries.  

In Georgia last May, Governor Sonny Perdue rightly vetoed a measure that would have cut in half the taxes businesses and individuals pay on long-term capital gains, costing the state as much as $400 million per year, largely to the benefit of the most affluent of Georgians.  This past week, though, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle announced his intention to resurrect the measure in an attempt to spur economic growth.  

The undead are also threatening Vermont.  As part of its FY 2010 budget agreement, the Vermont Legislature enacted a variety of tax changes, including a reduction in the state’s capital gains exclusion from 40 percent of such income to an exclusion capped at $5,000.  While the Legislature was forced to enact such changes over the veto of Governor Jim Douglas, it’s worth noting that, as recently as 2008, the Governor had backed repealing the deduction outright and using the influx of revenue to reduce marginal tax rates, which the legislature did, to some degree, via the FY10 budget agreement.  Yet, in his State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Douglas proposed restoring that 40 percent exclusion to life.

Given the nation’s economic woes, it’s only natural for elected officials to seek ways to boost employment and to foster economic development.  Still, capital gains tax cuts are not the elixir of life for state economies.  As ITEP observed in its examination of state capital gains preferences last year, “extensive economic research demonstrates that there is little connection between lower taxes on capital gains and higher levels of economic growth, in either the short-run or the long-run.”

For more on tax and budget debates in Georgia and Vermont, visit the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and the Public Assets Institute.

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