Both Republicans and Democrats are featuring governors at their national nominating conventions. Because convention speakers are chosen as the parties’ ambassadors to new audiences during these TV spectacles, the state policy team at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy are providing quick sketches of current governors from both parties who have been leaders – for better and for worse – in state tax policy. Below are profiles of more of Tuesday night’s prime time speakers.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin: Governor Mary Fallin led an unsuccessful (hooray!) attempt this year to wreak havoc on Oklahoma’s tax system which included eventual elimination of the Sooner State’s personal income tax. To pay for the preliminary rate cuts, Fallin wanted to eliminate the personal exemption, Earned Income Tax Credit, and other credits - all tax provisions that overwhelmingly benefit low and moderate income Oklahomans. The legislature generally supported her plan and introduced about a dozen versions of tax reform. Every plan had one common feature: they would have raised taxes on a majority of Oklahoman families while cutting them – dramatically - for the richest.
Fortunately, despite strong legislative support to deliver a large tax cut package (and the expertise of Fallin’s supply-side consultant, Arthur Laffer), all efforts stalled this year. But the fight to preserve Oklahoma’s personal income tax and protect the state’s poorest residents is far from over. Governor Fallin recently vowed, “[w]e are going to get that tax cut done next year."
Ohio Governor John Kasich: When he was running for office, candidate Kasich supported eliminating the state’s personal income tax altogether. And though he later softened his radical stance, citing the inability of the state to afford such a massive change, it is clear that cutting the personal income tax has been on his agenda ever since. As governor, he first advocated paying for income tax rate cuts with revenue from a new fracking tax, but that failed. Now, he’s exploring eliminating some tax exemptions to pay for income tax reductions. Clearly, Kasich has it out for the income tax even though he already succeeded in eliminating Ohio’s estate tax and pushing through a tax credit that benefits investors.
Governor Brian Sandoval: Of all the GOP governors across the country, Brian Sandoval stands out as the one most likely to put his constituents over politics. Working with Republicans and Democrats, Sandoval extended $620 million in temporary taxes first in 2011 and again this year to avoid deep cuts to education spending. Significantly, Sandoval even abandoned on Grover Norquist’s “no-tax pledge” after taking a careful look at the fiscal conditions in Nevada.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: Governor Walker’s tax policy positions make him no friend to low income working families. The budget he signed reduced the value of the state’s earned income tax credit and froze the state’s circuit breaker (for low income property owners). The Governor’s budget also includes $2.3 billion in tax breaks over the next decade in the form of a domestic production activities credit (a needless business tax giveaway), two different capital gains tax breaks (that benefit the most affluent), and a variety of new sales tax exemptions.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: Governor Haley’s tax policy position is clear – she’s on the side of corporations and businesses rather than working South Carolina families. Governor Haley has long supported eliminating the state’s corporate income tax.