State Rundown, 9/5: Gun Holiday in Mississippi, Shortfall in Wisconsin, and a Showdown in Washington


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Elmer-fudd-pictures.jpgAdd Mississippi to the list of states adopting shortsighted and impractical sales tax holidays. This week marks the state’s first tax-free weekend for sportsmen, also touted as the “Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday.” Individual sales of ammunition, firearms, archery equipment and rifle scopes, among other hunting gear, will be exempt from the state sales tax, presumably to help working hunters afford basic necessities. In what is surely no coincidence, Mississippi’s tax-free weekend is the same week as that of neighboring state Louisiana. The two states have long used fiscal policy to compete for jobs and economic development.

In an unsurprising development, Wisconsin’s state tax collections fell short of projections by $281 million last year after Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature enacted irresponsible tax cuts. Walker and Republican legislators enacted a $320 million tax cut in July 2013, another $100 million property tax reduction last October, and yet another $500 million tax cut in March of this year. Also unsurprising is that the majority of the tax cuts went to the state’s wealthiest residents. According to Wisconsin Budget Project, Wisconsin workers making $14,000 or less got an average tax cut of $48, while those making above $1.1 million got an average tax cut of $2,518. 

In Kansas, another state run into the ground with ruinous tax cuts, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over the definition of what a tax increase is. Republicans claim that gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (D) wants to raise taxes on low-income families because Davis has proposed freezing income tax rates at current levels to increase school funding, rather than letting the rates fall lower under a plan pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback. The accusation by Republicans is bold, particularly since Brownback actually raised taxes on low-income families when he raised the state sales tax rate, cut the standard deduction, and eliminated several low-income credits (the sales tax rebate was reinstated as non-refundable credit in 2013).

Washington state’s Supreme Court heard arguments from lawyers representing the state’s legislature this week in the ongoing saga over the McCleary school funding case. In 2012, the court ruled in McCleary v. State of Washington that state lawmakers are violating the constitutional rights of schoolchildren by failing to provide them a basic education, as required by the state constitution. The court called for the hearing this past April after legislators failed to craft a funding plan by the end of the legislative session. If the court finds the legislature in contempt, lawmakers could face fines, defunding of non-educational programs, or even the sale of state property. According to ITEP’s Who Pays report, Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the nation, and the need for education funding is severe.

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