We can’t be the only ones left scratching our heads after reading a recent New York Times story headlined Second Year In, Republican Governors Moderate Tone. After all, on the very same day an Associated Press story ran with the headline Emboldened GOP wants to abolish state income taxes.
So which is it? Moderate, or ready to abolish what’s left of fair tax structures in the states?
When it comes to taxes it’s the latter; governors across the country are looking to make state tax systems – already uniquely regressive – even worse.
Politicians are generally reluctant to ruffle voters’ feathers in years that include contests to elect a president, fill 33 U.S. Senate seats, all 435 offices in the U.S. House, and numerous statewide offices, so this might explain the conciliatory tone the New York Times detects. But in spite of that general reluctance, some governors’ plans for their states’ tax systems are anything but moderate.
The AP story covers some ground we’ve written about here and here. In South Carolina, Republican Governor Nikki Haley wants to eliminate the corporate income tax and cut personal income taxes by collapsing the state’s current six tax brackets to three.
In Oklahoma, a legislative task force report states that the governor and legislators should be able to make Oklahoma a “no income tax state” in seven to 10 years. Governor Mary Fallin is poised to act on this recommendation and will likely support a reduction in the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates this year.
And in Kansas, under Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s radical tax proposal, Kansans earning less than $25,000 a year would pay an average of $156 more in income taxes while those making more than $250,000 would see an average cut of $5,200 a year. And here’s the kicker – these findings are actually from Brownback’s own Kansas Department of Revenue!
In fact, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that when you look at all the components of the Kansas governor’s plan, the bottom 80 percent of the state’s income distribution would collectively see a tax hike under the Brownback plan, while the best off 20 percent of Kansans would see substantial tax cuts.
All of these measures take tax systems that are already unfair and make them even worse. All of these measures do further harm to those who have little while further stuffing the pockets of those who have plenty. All of these measures erase revenues that help to pay for essential public services for each and every resident of the state.
None of these ideas are “moderate,” and all of these measures should fail.