Avoiding Tax Cut One-upmanship in Maryland


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Maryland has made some notable improvements to its tax system these last few years.  In 2012, lawmakers made the state’s regressive tax system (PDF) somewhat less unfair by limiting personal income tax exemptions and raising tax rates on high-income earners.  Then, in 2013, the state increased and overhauled its unsustainable gasoline tax despite the tough politics that accompany any policy that could lead to higher gas prices.

But with a major state election now less than a year away, the conversation seems to be taking a familiar, and less grown-up, tone.  The Baltimore Sun reports that four of the six candidates for governor have already incorporated “crowd-pleasing” tax cuts into their platforms in an effort to woo voters, and that the speaker of the House and president of the Senate appear interested in following their lead.  Corporate income tax cuts have attracted the most attention so far, and the Sun expects that proponents of a corporate tax cut will get a boost from some business leaders when they unveil their legislative priorities next month.

Rather than stand idly by and risk the election becoming a contest to see who can promise the longest list of tax cuts, some advocates in the state have already begun to do the hard work that’s needed to explain to lawmakers, candidates, and voters the ways in which taxes benefit the state.  The goal is to make the election year tradition of demonizing taxes a little less politically rewarding.

One recent example of such work comes from the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute (MBTPI), who spotlights a recent nonpartisan study that found that a corporate income tax cut could actually result in fewer jobs, less disposable income, and/or slower population growth.  More publicity around these kinds of basic facts will be needed if the candidates whose names will appear on Maryland’s (and other states’) ballot next year are going to be convinced that they should drop their familiar refrain about the job-creating power of tax cuts

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