State Rundown News


State Rundown 2/23: Regressive Tax Proposals Multiplying


| | Bookmark and Share

This week saw a nearly successful attempt to right the fiscal ship in Kansas; regressive tax proposals introduced in West Virginia, Georgia, and Missouri; ongoing gas tax fights in Indiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee; and further tax and budget wrangling in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and beyond.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe  

  • Both Chambers of the Kansas legislature approved a tax bill that would repeal the exemption for business pass-through income, restore a third income tax bracket at a higher rate, and remove haircuts to itemized deductions for medical expenses. After the governor's veto of the bill, the House voted to override the veto but the Senate vote to override fell three votes short.
  • Senate Bill 335, proposed last week, would create a general consumption tax in West Virginia (a broader, higher sales tax), eliminate the state’s personal and corporate income taxes and sales and use tax, and reduce the state’s severance tax. The result of such a dramatic shift would result in low- and middle-income West Virginians paying more while wealthy earners benefit. Read more on how this misguided policy would impact West Virginia families.
  • All the while, for the third time this past year, West Virginia braces for another credit downgrade. This week Gov. Jim Justice announced Moody’s decision to downgrade the state’s general obligation debt. The state’s growing structural imbalance between revenue and expenditures was cited as a main concern.
  • A regressive proposal in Georgia would flatten the state's income tax to a single 5.4% rate, eliminate the deduction for state income taxes, and create a small non-refundable Earned Income Tax Credit at 10% of the federal credit.
  • A proposal has been floated in a Missouri Senate committee to amend the state constitution to slowly eliminate the state's income tax, which brings in more than 60 percent of general revenues, and place a cap on state spending.
  • A proposal to eliminate the personal income tax over several decades has died in the Michigan House, which is now fast-tracking alternative legislation to cut the personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9% over four years.
  • Representatives of 16 Nebraska agriculture and education groups joined to push back against attempts by Gov. Ricketts and others to cut income taxes, arguing that property taxes and school funding issues are higher priorities.
  • The Indiana House passed a bill that would raise fuel taxes by 10 cents and increase vehicle registration fees to fund improvement to the state's infrastructure. The bill now moves to the Senate, which may require smaller increases to ensure passage.
  • Proposals to raise Tennessee's gas tax while cutting other taxes, or instead divert sales tax revenue to infrastructure needs, will be on hold for a week after a procedural maneuver.
  • South Carolina business leaders are coming together to advocate for a gas tax increase to improve funding for the state's roads and bridges, warning of job losses if the state doesn't act.
  • Louisiana lawmakers reached a budget agreement for closing the mid-year deficit of $304 million, through a combination of agreed cuts, use of rainy day funds, and shifting around other revenue. The special session ended Wednesday.
  • Delaware's revenue shortfall is now a $350 million gap.
  • Lawmakers in New Mexico are considering a bill that would eliminate exemptions to the gross receipts tax and enact a flat rate for both personal and corporate income taxes. Democratic House members are wary of the inclusion of food and drugs in the proposed base expansions. 
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s tax plan, which included proposals to expand the state’s sales tax base, eliminate the state sales tax on groceries, eliminate the corporate income tax, and increase cigarette and gas taxes, has been faced with strong opposition. Raising any revenue at all has been described as the last resort for a number of Oklahoma Legislators.
  • The Utah Senate has approved a bill to require more businesses to collect sales taxes for online purchases. In the neighboring chamber, lawmakers have proposed a plan for tax reform without much time for debate or analysis.
  • Following up on a promise from his State of the State address, Alabama's Gov. Bentley has launched a task force to study potentially eliminating the state's sales tax on groceries. He has no plans to replace the revenue.

Budget Watch

  • For his proposed budget to balance, Illinois Gov. Rauner needs $4.6 billion from a "grand bargain" still being worked out in the Senate. But the governor doesn't support major components of the latest iteration of the plan, such as taxing food and drugs at the general sales tax rate. He also is calling for a permanent property tax freeze in exchange for any increase in the income tax rates.  

Governors' State of the State Addresses

  • Most governors have now given their addresses for the year. The next scheduled address is Gov. Scott of Florida on March 7, followed by Gov. Kasich of Ohio on April 4, with Gov. Carney of Delaware and Gov. Cooper of North Carolina's speech dates still to be announced.

What We're Reading...  

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 2/15: Tax Overhauls Debated Around the Country


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are following a number of significant proposals being debated or introduced including reinstating the income tax in Alaska and eliminating the tax in West Virginia, establishing a regressive tax-cut trigger in Nebraska, restructuring the Illinois sales tax, moving New Mexico to a flat income tax and broader gross receipts tax, and updating gas taxes in Indiana and Tennessee.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • Introduced last week, Alaska HB 115 would reinstate an income tax for the first time since 1980, setting the income tax rate at 15 percent of federal tax liability. It would also draw from the state’s Permanent Fund and change the structure of the yearly dividends provided to Alaskans.
  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice echoed the sentiment of the state’s Senate President, who is leading a select committee to examine taxes, to eliminate the state’s personal income tax. The governor said his goal is to “… be the eighth state in the country to have no income tax.” However, given the state has a revenue shortfall, the governor’s budget proposes to use spending cuts and tax increases to close the gap this year, potentially putting the income tax elimination plan on hold for now. Tax increases in his budget proposal include a sales tax increase and base broadening, a gasoline tax increase, and the creation of a commercial activities tax.
  • Nebraska lawmakers sent $137 million in budget cuts to the governor's desk in an effort to help close the state's $900 million budget gap. Also this week, the state's Revenue Committee will hear testimony on a trigger-based tax cut for wealthy Nebraskans that would worsen the budget gap in future years.
  • The latest tax plan out of the Illinois Senate would reduce the general sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5.75 percent while taxing food, drugs, and medical supplies at a higher rate and newly taxing services including repair and maintenance, laundry, landscaping, cable, and satellite.
  • Proposals to increase fuel taxes to better fund infrastructure improvement are dead in Idaho but still under consideration in Indiana and Tennessee. In Tennessee, variations on Gov. Haslam's attempt to combine the needed gas tax update with other tax cuts are proliferating, including one that would divert sales tax revenues from their intended purposes rather than update the gas tax, and a more responsible alternative that would update the gas tax and other fees without slashing other taxes.
  • Kansas revenue committees in both chambers are seeing their share of tax reform proposals. A House bill that increases income taxes, eliminates the LLC exemption, and restores itemized deductions for medical expenses advanced by a wide margin today, and could receive a final vote on Thursday. The latest in the Senate—eliminating the exemption for LLC income and restoring pre-Brownback standard and itemized deductions and a third income tax bracket at 6.45 percent--is expected to go to a vote to the full floor tomorrow.
  • A major tax bill has been introduced in the New Mexico House. House Bill 412 would restructure the state's gross receipts tax and proposes a flat personal income tax.
  • Despite higher energy prices, Wyoming’s economy remains flat while job and revenue growth continue to lag.
  • In Oklahoma, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed a bill that would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50/pack. The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.
  • Pennsylvania’s state supreme court refused to hear the Philadelphia soda tax appeal, arguing that the pending litigation is stopping the tax from funding programs it was created to fund.
  • An Arkansas bill to collect taxes from online retailers passed the Senate but stalled in House committee. However, Amazon will start collecting and remitting sales taxes in the state this March. A bill to require tax collections for online sales from large retailers is still under consideration in Idaho.
  • Another poll shows Iowa voters support paying more in sales taxes in exchange for investments in the state's water quality and parks system.
  • Efforts to help fill some of the state's $1.8 billion budget deficit with increased revenue contributions from corporations are underway in Oregon.
  • Nevada lawmakers heard a detailed presentation from an economic consultant explaining issues caused by the state's property tax cap that has held property taxes down but undermined funding for schools and other local services.

Budget Watch 

  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will be delivering his third budget address today. The state has not had a regular budget since FY 2015 due to an ongoing impasse between the governor and a democratic majority legislature.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal includes a proposed $600 million in additional tax cuts—including elimination of the state's property tax levy, reducing income tax rates, and restoring the EITC for families with one child. Senate leadership has suggested the more realistic target for tax cuts this session is $100 million.
  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal, released last week, includes a mix of budget cuts, new revenue and shifts of state pension obligations onto municipalities. Elimination of the state’s property tax credit and a cut to the state EITC are among the new revenue sources.

Governors' State of the State Addresses 

  • In the past week, Governors Bevin of Kentucky, Sununu of New Hampshire, and Justice of West Virginia delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • There are no states with addresses scheduled through the end of next week.

What We're Reading...

  • A new paper out of the Wharton Business School looks at the relationship between "sin taxes" and consumer behavior, as well as ways to offset the more regressive impacts of these consumption taxes on low-income taxpayers.
  • A study on government pension funds shows combined costs for most jurisdictions appear manageable. Concern is for those outlier states with highest pension burdens—Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware.
  • The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy issued a brief showing that shifting from income taxes to sales taxes is a poor strategy for growing the state’s economy.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 2/8: Lessons of Kansas Tax-Cut Disaster Taking Hold in Kansas, Still Lost on Some in Other States


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we bring news of Kansas lawmakers attempting to fix ill-advised tax cuts that have wreaked havoc on the state's budget and schools, while their counterparts in Nebraska and Idaho debate bills that would create similar problems for their own states, as well as tax cuts in Arkansas that were proven unaffordable within one day of being signed into law. Meanwhile, debates over online sales taxes, Earned Income Tax Credits, and gas tax updates to fund transportation needs continue around the country.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • Kansas lawmakers in both chambers are considering bills this week to roll back Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts primarily via reforming the personal income tax, including repealing the exemption for business pass-through income and raising personal income tax rates in the Senate and a more comprehensive tax reform plan in the House.
  • Nebraska's Revenue Committee will conduct a hearing on Gov. Rickett's proposal to use a trigger mechanism to cut income taxes for the state's wealthiest residents this week. Last week, the committee was presented with two alternatives to slashing taxes on the rich by instead increasing the state's Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Idaho lawmakers in the House passed bills cutting the corporate and top personal income tax rates and raising the exemption levels for the business personal property tax. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
  • Alabama lawmakers joined the list of states looking to cut income taxes this year.   
  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed his $50.5 million tax cut  into law last Wednesday. The following day, the governor told several agencies to prepare contingency plans for budget cuts as the latest revenue reports came in $57 million behind forecast.
  • The Mississippi House has advanced a bill to enforce sales tax collection on online sales and divvy up the revenue with 70 percent going to state roads and other needs, 15 percent to counties, and 15 percent to cities. The need for such a fix is highlighted by the fact that even though Amazon is now collecting sales taxes on its own transactions in the state, many transactions hosted by the site are still not covered. Meanwhile, Tennessee's rule to require such collections has been challenged, adding to the pressure for a new court ruling on the matter.
  • Michigan lawmakers are considering bills to eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed increasing the state's Earned Income Tax Credit for families with one child. Walker decreased the credit six years ago.
  • Wyoming lawmakers are faced with the need to diversify their tax base. Some have already begun considering revenue options: the House recently passed a cigarette tax increase that would increase a pack of cigarettes from $0.60/pack to $0.90/pack.
  • State legislators in both New York and Pennsylvania are pushing back against recent local tax initiatives: the New York City bag tax and the Philadelphia soda tax.
  • A proposal to update the South Carolina gas tax, raising $600 million per year for the state's transportation needs through a 10-cent per gallon increase and other fee changes, has advanced from the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • Tennessee Gov. Haslam's proposal to raise the state's gas tax while slashing other taxes has received criticism lately, as has an alternative plan to divert sales tax revenues away from general fund needs to plug the hole in the transportation fund.
  • Missouri private school advocates are pushing a bill to circumvent the state's prohibition on state money funding religious schools by creating a tax credit for donations to private schools. Read about how these programs are costly and frequently abused in our report here.

Governors’ Budget Watch

  • Faced with an $868 million shortfall, Oklahoma's Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her state of the state address this week. Proposed tax changes include replacing the state corporate income tax with increases in fuel, tobacco, and sales taxes. While details of the sales tax base broadening have not been released, Fallin has called for elimination of the state sales tax on groceries.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released his budget proposal this week. As he promised, it was void of any broad-based tax increases. Rather, state spending cuts and a proposal to tax natural-gas drilling are among the ways in which he plans to fill the state's $3 billion shortfall.
  • Today Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is scheduled to unveil his two-year budget proposal. Faced with a $1.7 billion deficit, the plan will likely include a call to eliminate the state's $200 property tax credit and a requirement for cities and towns to pay a third of the annual cost for teacher pensions.
  • Alabama Gov. Bentley proposed studying and ultimately eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, increasing prison construction to deal with overcrowding, and increasing the state's investment in pre-K education in his address this week.

Governors' State of the State Addresses

  • In the past week, Governors Bentley of Alabama, LePage of Maine, Fallin of Oklahoma, and Wolf of Pennsylvania delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • States with addresses scheduled through the end of next week are: Kentucky and West Virginia, both scheduled for today.

What We're Reading...

  • As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) details in two new reports, state lawmakers are increasingly turning to tax cut phase-ins and triggers as ways to take credit for cutting taxes without having to face the full consequences for years, decades, or in the case of term-limited lawmakers, maybe never.
  • A new report by Ohio Policy Matters uses ITEP research to dig into Gov. John Kasich's tax plan, finding that it would, once again, shift taxes and worsen inequality.
  • Pew Trusts explores the various reasons behind declining state populations in recent years.
  • The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy released a report that provides an overview on how refugees and immigrants are important to the state's economy.
  • The Georgia Budget and Policy Center released two reports showing the importance of immigrants to Georgia's state and local economies and budgets.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 2/1: 2017 State Tax Debates Getting Real


| | Bookmark and Share

This week's Rundown brings news of tax cuts passed in Arkansas and advanced in Idaho, proposals to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes in Nevada and Michigan, revenue shortfalls forcing tough choices in Louisiana and Maine, and more governors' state of the state addresses and budget proposals setting the stage for yet more tax and budget debates to come.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • Arkansas lawmakers passed Gov. Hutchinson's $50 million tax cut bill. While sold as a tax cut for workers earning less than $21,000 per year, ITEP analysis found that just under half of the value of the tax cut would benefit taxpayers in the top 40 percent (with the other half going to the bottom 60 percent as advertised). Lawmakers also passed a tax cut for military veterans, exempting retirement benefits—along with a tax break for the soda industry paid for by expanding the sales tax to manufactured housing, some digital goods, soft drinks, and candy.
  • Louisiana lawmakers will meet in special session Feb. 13 to 23 to address a midyear deficit of more than $314 million. With tax increases off the table, expect cuts, rainy day fund spending, shifting costs to next year, and possible fee increases to balance the budget. Lawmakers will debate tax measures, such as those recommended in the recently released final report of The Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy, during the regular legislative session starting in April.
  • Nevada's ongoing debate over its property tax cap demonstrates how unhelpful and shortsighted such caps can be. To reduce property tax increases during the mid-2000s housing boom, the state installed property tax caps that now are now causing major problems for schools and other local governments, whose funding "won't reach pre-recession levels for a generation" if something isn't done.
  • Nevada lawmakers will also consider proposals to create sales tax exemptions for feminine hygiene products and diapers. Lawmakers in Michigan also have introduced similar legislation.
  • Idaho lawmakers are advancing two tax cut proposals—cutting the top personal income tax and corporate income tax rates, as well as increasing the exemption on the businesses personal property tax. An ITEP analysis of the bills found that the top 5 percent of taxpayers would receive two-thirds of the benefit.
  • Nebraska lawmakers have a proposal to require online retailers to collect sales taxes due on purchases in the state, though one legislator is hoping to co-opt the idea by using the revenue to fund a tax cut for the wealthy.
  • Efforts to enforce tax collection for online sales are also advancing in South Carolina, Minnesota, and Indiana. Utah lawmakers will take up the issue again this year, with the threat of competing tax initiatives to fund public education creating higher pressure for action.
  • Several legislators in Maryland are attempting to make it the next state to legalize and tax marijuana.
  • Oregon lawmakers face stark choices with a $1.8 billion deficit demanding drastic cuts or significant tax increases. The latter faces an uphill battle given supermajority legislative requirements, Republican demands for cutting public employee retirement benefits, and potential challenge via referendum.
  • Florida Gov. Scott's tax cut package this year includes an expansion of the state's back-to-school sales tax holiday, which, as we've written here, is a nice-sounding but not-very-effective way of helping working families.

Budget Watch

  • Ohio's Gov. John Kasich released his final two-year budget this week, which includes a proposal to shift a significant amount of tax revenue away from personal income taxes and onto consumption taxes.  His personal income tax plan would flatten the personal income tax (reducing the number of brackets), cut rates, and increase the personal exemption for low- and moderate-income taxpayers at a full cost of well more than $1 billion annually.  But, he would raise almost an equivalent amount in revenue from sales, cigarette, alcohol, and severance taxes. Ohio Policy Matters take is that the proposed budget focuses on a tax shift, shortchanging key programs. 
  • Tennessee Gov. Haslam released the final budget proposal of his term Monday. With revenues performing strongly but infrastructure needs growing, the budget includes funding increases for basic education, teacher and state employee pay increases, higher education building maintenance and construction, and a proposal to raise the state's outdated gas tax but offset the increase with tax cuts for wealthy Tennesseans.
  • Florida Gov. Scott unveiled details of his budget proposal Tuesday. His spending plan includes public-safety pay increases but budget cuts to public defenders, and relies on expected property value increases to improve school funding. It includes a tax-cut package, similar to a failed proposal last year, composed mostly of business tax cuts and sales tax holidays.

Governors' State of the State Addresses

  • In the past week, Governors Rauner of Illinois, Hogan of Maryland, Haslam of Tennessee, Abbott of Texas, and Herbert of Utah delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • States with addresses scheduled through the end of next week are: Oklahoma on Monday; Alabama, Maine, and Pennsylvania on Tuesday; and Kentucky on Wednesday.

What We're Reading...

  • Governing reviews the fiscal pros and cons of self-driving cars, which are expected to be a net benefit to state and local budgets once accounting for reduced spending on things like road maintenance and traffic stops, increased property tax revenue thanks to less need for parking garages, and reduced revenues from fuel taxes, registration and license fees, and parking and speeding fines -- not to mention reduced traffic injuries and deaths.
  • The troubled "Kansas experiment" goes to Washington.
  • Governors and legislatures are attempting to nullify voter-approved referenda on a host of issues from ethics reforms in South Dakota to minimum wage increases in Arizona and Maine.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 1/25: Revenue Shortfalls and How to Avoid Them


| | Bookmark and Share

This week brings more news of states facing budget crunches, a new state looking to eliminate income taxes, and plans to raise gas taxes to fund transportation projects.  Be sure to check out the What We’re Reading section for a look at how repealing federal health reform could add to those crunches and a review of what's going right in the few states that are on sound fiscal footing (spoiler alert: they resisted tax-cut efforts and put money aside for rainy days).

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe  

  • This week, the West Virginia Senate created a select committee to examine state taxes. According to the committee's chairman, elimination of the state's personal income tax is under serious consideration. With a projected deficit nearing $500 million, reductions in revenue are a curious course of action.
  • Tennessee Gov. Haslam has proposed the latest in a troubling trend of states using their need for a gas tax increase as an excuse to cut other taxes to benefit wealthier families, in this case calling for increases in fuel taxes and vehicle fees combined with cuts to the state's progressive Hall Tax on investment income and a small reduction in the grocery tax.
  • In South Carolina, in contrast to Tennessee, legislators have put forward a straightforward gas tax increase that raises the state's second-lowest-in-the-nation gas tax 10 cents over 5 years and raises the maximum tax on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500, without giving in to pressure to combine it with tax cuts for the wealthy. The proposal may have a better chance at succeeding now that Gov. Haley, who had opposed this approach in the past, is moving into the Trump administration.
  • Iowa's $110 million shortfall in its current budget is largely due to a 2013 tax cut for commercial buildings and other properties that costs the state $300 - $400 million each year.
  • Wyoming lawmakers are again discussing spending cuts as the only means of addressing the state’s revenue woes. The state's Senate president announced that he will oppose any new taxes this session despite a $400 million annual school funding shortfall and proposals by House members to fill the gap with new revenue.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Baker voiced his opposition to a broad-based tax increase to address the state’s revenue shortfall.
  • Another year, another massive tax-cut proposal from Florida Gov. Scott, despite $1 to $2 billion in budget cuts anticipated. This year's version is similar to last year's failed proposal -- predominantly business tax cuts and sales tax holidays.
  • North Dakota lawmakers considering a property tax levy cap might want to take a look at the trouble such a cap is causing in Nevada, as we reported in this space last week.

Budget Watch

  • Maryland Gov. Hogan claimed his plan to close the state's $750 million revenue shortfall included "no serious cuts," but the proposed budget includes a slew of funding cuts and freezes to crucial services such as after-school programs, scholarships, parks, adult education, hospitals, care for the developmentally disabled, and pension funding. A state budget analyst has shown these cuts don't solve the recurring structural issues in the budget, saying deficits will continue unless leaders "make harder choices." 

Governors' State of the State Addresses

  • In the past week, Governors Walker of Alaska, Brown of California, Ige of Hawaii, Baker of Massachusetts, Dayton of Minnesota, and Bullock of Montana delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • States with addresses scheduled through the end of next week are: Illinois and Utah today; Tennessee Monday; Texas Tuesday; and Maryland Wednesday. 

What We're Reading...

  • With so many states facing budget shortfalls right now, Pew asks what do the few states with surpluses have in common? The answer: policymakers in these states "have put themselves on a solid fiscal footing by avoiding deep tax cuts, enacting targeted tax increases, and diverting some surplus money into 'rainy day' funds to be tapped in leaner times."
  • The Sycamore Institute, a new data-based budget and tax organization in Tennessee, put out an infographic on roads funding in the state as background for the gas tax debates sure to take center stage there this year.
  • Governing reports that local public employment is still below pre-recession levels in most states and down 3.5% nationwide, with non-sworn public safety employees, highways, and health among the largest cuts.
  • Governing also comments on the state-level ramifications of potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a major but uncertain contingency that states have not been budgeting for.
  • Support for raising taxes on Massachusetts's millionaires is strong in a new poll by WBUR/MassINC Polling Group. Seventy-seven percent support increasing the state's tax on incomes over $1 million.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 1/18: Revenue Woes Piling Up Faster Than Solutions


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we continue to track revenue shortfalls, governors' budget proposals, and other tax news around the country, finding most proposals to be focused on slashing taxes and reducing public investments despite public opinion and economic research showing the benefits of well-funded state services and progressive tax policies.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

 

Revenue Shortfalls Abound...

  • Missouri joins the growing list of states staring down major revenue shortfalls – in this case a $456 million gap in the upcoming budget and $146 million of cuts just announced to balance the current budget, largely through higher education cuts. The state may be in better shape than others to handle the issue though, thanks to a tax study commission that heard helpful suggestions throughout the summer and a menu of options provided by the Missouri Budget Project.
  • In Oklahoma revenue receipts miss targets again, marking the ninth month of missed goals in 2016. Will the state consider a higher gas tax?
  • As West Virginia lawmakers wait to hear details of the Governor's plan to address the state's budget woes, they consider the idea of increasing their tax on sugary drinks.
  • With an eye on the state's growing pension debt, S&P reduced Kentucky's credit outlook from "stable" to "negative", increasing the chance of a rating downgrade over the next two years.
  • The Illinois Senate is working to push through a two-year stalemate that has left the state without a regular budget, advancing legislation for an income tax increase among other measures known collectively as the "grand bargain." Whether the measures will pass muster with House Speaker Mike Madigan or Gov. Rauner remains to be seen.
  • The Louisiana Legislature is expected to be called into another special session to address a mid-year budget deficit of $313 million. There is talk of a constitutional convention if lawmakers are unable to address the state's ongoing fiscal challenges this legislative session. 

As Some States Consider Tax Proposals...

  • A recent poll conducted in Maryland confirms that Marylanders support investments in education and “closing corporate loopholes and raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners” to make that possible.
  • A Wyoming lawmaker is proposing legislation that would prohibit lawmakers from covering more than half of any budget shortfall with the use of reserve funds. The state is currently one of two without rules in place to govern how savings are spent.
  • Rhode Island's Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed cutting the state's car tax. Her proposal would cost $55 million rather than the $215 million elimination over five years proposed by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.
  • Nevada lawmakers are considering ending or fixing the state’s property tax cap, put in place 2005 to slow property tax growth but now causing big issues for local budgets.
  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated a willingness to reconsider the LLC exemption, suggesting he may be open to a partial repeal.
  • Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson has dropped some of the competition to his $50 million tax cut with the promise of a Blue Ribbon Panel on Tax Reform.
  • The debate over state solutions to untaxed online purchases is heating up around the nation, most recently in Mississippi and South Carolina.
  • An Arizona lawmaker pitched a dime a gallon gas tax increase for the 2018 ballot. The tax would increase the state's current 18 cent per gallon gas tax that was last increased over 25 years ago. 

Budget Watch

  • Nebraska Gov. Ricketts released details of his budget and tax-cut proposal along with his State of the State address. His proposal holds back state school aid growth and makes cuts to higher education and health funding while focusing spending growth on the state's overcrowded prisons. He also proposed changing the way agricultural land is valued and instituting a flawed tax-cut "trigger" that will guarantee income tax cuts for the highest-income Nebraskans.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo's state budget would, among other things, extend New York's millionaires' tax surcharge on the wealthy and continue with a "middle-class" tax cut enacted last year.
  • Nevada Gov. Sandoval released the last budget proposal of his term this week. The mixed-bag proposal includes increased investments in higher education, $60 million for a private school voucher program, and a 10-percent excise tax on marijuana, which voters legalized for recreational use in November. 

Governors' State of the State Addresses

  • In the past week, Governors Hickenlooper of Colorado, Deal of Georgia, Holcomb of Indiana, Snyder of Michigan, Bryant of Mississippi, Greitens of Missouri, Ricketts of Nebraska, Sandoval of Nevada, Martinez of New Mexico, Raimando of Rhode Island, Haley of South Carolina, McAuliffe of Virginia, Inslee of Washington, Justice of West Virginia, and Mead of Wyoming delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • States with addresses scheduled through the end of next week are: Alaska today; Hawaii and Minnesota Monday; and Massachusetts and Montana Tuesday. 

What We're Reading...

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 1/11: State Legislative Sessions Kick Off Amid Uncertainty


| | Bookmark and Share

This week brings still more states looking for solutions to revenue shortfalls, multiple governors' State of The State addresses, important reading on counter-transparency and local-preemption efforts, and more. 

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • A Nebraska legislator this week diagnosed the state's $900 million revenue shortfall in plain terms, describing it as "self-inflicted misery" brought on mostly by repeated tax cuts in recent years, and adding that further tax cuts in this context would amount to "visionless activity."
  • Hawaii's tax revenue growth is down, resulting in $155 million less than expected for the upcoming legislative session. The state's Council on Revenues predicts that low visitor spending and an increase in online shopping could be contributing to the shortfall.
  • Ohio again this month saw tax revenues fall short of estimates. Legislators are gearing up for a difficult budget situation.
  • North Dakota's 2016 budget woes will continue into the new year, as a new forecast has reduced projected revenues 7 percent just since the last forecast in December.
  • New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed expanding the state's child care tax credit. The proposal, another attempt to provide breaks to the middle-class, would benefit 200,000 families making between $50,000 and $150,000 and would cost $42 million.
  • South Carolina lawmakers are putting forth a range of bills to address the state's need for funding to improve roads and bridges. Unfortunately, as we saw in New Jersey last year, one of these ideas is to use the state's infrastructure issues as an opportunity to force through regressive income tax cuts.
  • Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Wolf, again this session, is proposing a natural gas severance tax. This will be the governor's third attempt to tax the industry since coming into office.

Budget Watch 

  • Gov. Paul LePage's budget would, among other things, cut 500 state jobs, broaden the sales tax base, and shift Maine to a flat tax by 2020, effectively rolling back the state's recent referendum for an education tax surcharge on high-income Mainers.
  • On the heels of his State of the State Address, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is expected to release his budget proposal this week.  Based on his speech, don’t expect to see an expansion of Medicaid or elimination of his state’s costly pass through business income exemption in the proposal.  He will seek in his words “modest, targeted” tax increases including another hike in the state’s cigarette tax to help address a $342 million revenue shortfall. 

Governors' State of the State Addresses 

  • In the past week, Governors Ducey of Arizona, Hutchinson of Arkansas, Malloy of Connecticut, Otter of Idaho, Branstad of Iowa, Brownback of Kansas, Christie of New Jersey, Burgum of North Dakota, Daugaard of South Dakota, Scott of Vermont, and Walker of Wisconsin delivered their State of the State addresses.
  • States with addresses scheduled through the end of next week are: Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming today; Colorado and Nebraska on the 12th; West Virginia on the 16th; and Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island on the 17th. 

What We're Reading...

  • The Hill looks at a likely trend of Republican-led state governments passing "preemption" laws to reduce the flexibility of democratically dominated cities in areas such as local minimum wage laws, environmental regulations, and soda taxes.
  • The Missouri Budget Project has created a Policy Framework for Building a Prosperous Missouri and a Strong Middle Class, which includes important tax reforms: creating a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, better evaluating tax credits going forward, and rolling back dangerous tax-cut triggers enacted in 2014.
  • Governing reports on a troubling trend of states reducing transparency to avoid shining light on the negative consequences of their own short-sighted tax policies.
  • At the kickoff of the Arizona Center for Economic Policy, Kansans offer a cautionary tale of the negative impacts of deep tax cuts.
  • In a recent report citing ITEP data, Ohio Policy Matters finds that that a move toward a flat tax would mean more taxes for most Ohioans.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 1/4: Revenue Shortfalls, Gas Tax Changes Dominate Early Debates


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we bring you updates on major revenue shortfalls looming in Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, as well as gas tax changes taking effect in some states and being debated in others.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • Oklahoma lawmakers are weighing options to close the state's $870 million shortfall. Up for discussion are tobacco and gas tax increases, expanding the sales tax to a range of services, and enacting a soda tax. At the same time, there's discussion among lawmakers and a push from the state Auditor to repeal the tax cut trigger that has been chipping away at the state's personal income tax.
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers are turning their attention toward the state's budget deficit. However, steps to address it are unclear as Republicans renewed their pledge to avoid tax increases and Gov. Tom Wolf says he will not seek major tax increases to balance the budget.
  • A new coalition in Nebraska is pushing for a shift from sales to property taxes, but most lawmakers remain focused on the state's $900 million budget gap.
  • Mississippi is in dire need of revenue to repair and maintain its crumbling roads and bridges, but there are doubts that the legislature can come to agreement on a fix despite two obvious options: raising the state's outdated gas tax, or repealing last year's misguided tax cuts.
  • South Carolina continues to debate gas tax increases as well, with proposals that include  a slowly phased in 10-cent increase and an authorization of county-level gas tax increases.
  • Several states saw increases in their gas taxes starting Jan. 1, including large increases in Pennsylvania and Michigan and smaller adjustments in Nebraska, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and Florida.
  • Amazon began collecting sales tax on purchases made by residents of Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Utah on Jan.1.
  • Californians saw a 0.25 percent sales tax cut take effect on Jan. 1 with the expiration of the temporary tax increase approved by voters as part of Proposition 30 four years ago.
  • With Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback advocating that his failed tax policies should be adopted at the national level, federal lawmakers would be wise to follow the lead of Kansas lawmakers, the Kansas electorate, and pundits in not buying it.

 

What We're Reading...


If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 12/21: Last Minute (Sales tax free) Shopping Online May Be Coming to an End and Other News From Around the States


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you good cheer about several states taking the taxation of online sales into their own hands, budget tidings from Oklahoma, Alaska, and Virginia, and the gift of new taxes in Philadelphia and DC.

Enjoy the Rundown? Please consider supporting ITEP’s work with a donation.

- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • States have long been waiting for Congress to act on the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow them to collect sales taxes that are already legally due on online purchases from multi-state retailers such as Amazon.com. With no progress on that front, states such as Colorado have attempted to take action by requiring retailers to collect and remit – or at least report to the consumer – taxes due. These state-based efforts received a boost recently when the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to hear a challenge to Colorado's law. The momentum may continue to grow. A rule in Tennessee is moving closer to implementation; Virginia's Gov. McAuliffe is pushing for such a measure to help plug that state's revenue shortfall, and Alabama is looking to mimick the Colorado approach. Other states, including Nebraska and South Dakota, may follow suit as revenue experts identify uncollected online sales taxes as a contributing factor to those state's revenue woes as well.
  • Oklahoma's state finance secretary announced that the state did not experience enough revenue growth to trigger another income tax rate cut (this time from 5 to 4.85 percent). The possibility of triggering yet another rate cut, despite a projected budget gap exceeding half a billion dollars, rightly worried many Oklahomans.

  • Alaska Gov. Bill Walker released his FY 2018 budget without any broad-based revenue options. Rather, it includes a gas tax increase, suggested restructuring of the state's Permanent Fund, and an $890 million revenue gap. Walker anticipates working with the legislature to fill the remaining revenue shortfall.

  • Virginia Gov. McAuliffe's budget amendments use a variety of means to start addressing the state's $1.5 billion shortfall but rely heavily on the state's rainy day fund, which could put the state in a worse bind when the next recession hits.

  • Soda purchasers in Philadelphia, Penn., will ring in the New Year with a new tax. A city judge dismissed the beverage industry's attempt to block the city's planned tax on sugary and sweetened beverages, despite claims that the tax is unconstitutional on the grounds of duplicate taxation.

  • An audit of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) projects in Nebraska is strengthening calls for reform of how localities are using the tax break, which is intended to spur local economic development but is carried out with “remarkably little monitoring and oversight” and can push property taxes upward.

  • The push continues, largely from conservation groups, to raise Iowa's state sales tax 3/8ths of a cent to support water quality improvements.

  • One legislator in Tennessee is advocating for diverting sales tax revenue to local governments to help them deal with budget woes. The state could consider instead cancelling its decision from earlier this year to phase out the Hall Tax on dividend and interest income for high-income Tennesseans, which is shared with local governments and is one of the few progressive pieces of the state's tax code.

  • The District of Columbia City Council has passed a paid family and medical leave policy that allows all workers in the district access to time off for illness, child-bearing, and assistance with family medical issues. The system will be funded much like unemployment insurance, via a payroll tax that goes into a district-wide pool.

What We're Reading...

  • CBPP's new report, How State Tax Policies Can Stop Increasing Inequality and Start Reducing It, explains how income disparity has reduced opportunity and weakened the overall economy, and the steps policymakers can take to reverse that trend.

  • In a new report the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center proposes a "Fair Share Tax Plan" that explores ways in which the state can raise revenue while sparing most Pennsylvanians.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 12/15: An Upheld "Amazon tax" Law and an Emphasis on Revenue


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Colorado's "Amazon tax" law, another look at a VMT tax in Massachusetts, possible tax reform proposals in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and emphasis on the need for tax revenue in Arizona, Ohio, and Wyoming.

If you appreciate the news we bring you each week, please consider a year-end donation to ITEP.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe 

  • Colorado's "Amazon tax," which requires out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes for internet purchases or complete more paperwork and remind purchasers that they owe taxes, stands after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case challenging the law. Don't be surprised if other states begin to follow suit.

  • Despite setbacks, a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax remains on the table in Massachusetts as a potential long-run funding source for the state.

  • New Hampshire's upcoming legislative session will likely see additional business tax cuts and an income tax proposal coupled with property tax elimination and business tax changes.

  • Some think that property tax reform will be readdressed in Pennsylvania this session. A collection of activist groups are pushing to increase sales and income taxes while completely eliminating the state's property tax.

  • In Arizona, town hall participants agreed that the bias in favor of tax cuts has gone too far, so much so that it has hurt the state's economic future. They also concurred that the state could do a better job investing in Arizonans.

  • Editorial boards point to the value of tax revenue: Ohio Beacon Journal's editorial board connects the dots between the state's financial woes and history of excessive tax cuts. And Wyoming's Casper Star Tribune encourages lawmakers to revisit the recommendations for revenue raising and structural tax reform.

What We're Reading...

  • A recent report from NASBO shows that half of the states have experienced revenue shortfalls in the first months of this fiscal year, shaking up plans for upcoming legislative sessions and putting increased pressure on states that have been struggling with budget deficits for some time.

  • With illustrations from Kansas, Texas, and California, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why the theory of low taxes, low regulations, and low wages doesn't work.
  • Oklahoma Policy Institute's David Blatt warns that the Legislature may be setting themselves up for another ill-timed income tax cut.

  • A new report by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy examines the state's chronic poverty and provides recommendations to address it. 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.

And, don’t forget your favorite tax wonks at ITEP in your year-end giving.  Consider supporting our work with a donation  this year.

 


State Rundown 12/7: New income taxes, funds for transportation, and revenue shortfalls


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about states seeking revenue–Alaska, South Dakota, and Utah all weigh the creation of or increases to state personal income taxes; the need, and in some cases the will, for transportation funding in West Virginia, Indiana, Montana, and Louisiana; and revenue shortfalls in Florida, Ohio, Oregon, and Kansas.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • As Alaska legislators are gearing up for a challenging session, Gov. Bill Walker works to steer the discussion away from oil taxes and more toward a structural fix that includes broad-based taxes. The Walker administration is working to develop an income tax system less closely linked to the federal tax.
  • South Dakota's heavy reliance on the sales tax threatens to inhibit the state's ability to invest in vital state services, as revenues from that tax continue to struggle and other revenue options are limited. One leading businessman is proposing that it is "long past time" to discuss creating an income tax in the state to better diversify its revenue sources.
  • A coalition in Utah has announced its plans to pursue a personal income tax increase to fund education on the ballot in 2018.
  • West Virginia’s Road Fund is down $49 million over three years due to the state’s annual recalculation of the average wholesale gas price. The latest trigger comes amidst mid-year cuts to K-12 education and a shortfall expected to exceed $400 million.
  • Speaking of funding for transportation... it is a top legislative priority for Indiana lawmakers. There is less consensus around the source of new funds. Ideas being considered include new tolls, increasing the cigarette tax, raising the gas tax and indexing to inflation, and reallocating existing state resources. Gas tax increases are also being considered in Montana and Louisiana.
  • Revenue shortfalls: Economists in Florida are now projecting a budget shortfall for the upcoming budget cycle that could hit $1 billion. In Ohio, state revenues continue to lag behind estimates. Gov. John Kasich warns that the state is on the verge of a recession.
  • With the failure of ballot measure 97, Oregon faces a daunting $1.7 billion deficit. Gov. Kate Brown's budget released last week relies on deep cuts, funds withheld from many social services and universities, and some new revenue through increased taxes on tobacco, liquor, hospitals, insurers, and some corporation owner's incomes.
  • After revising revenue forecasting in the state, Kansas revenues in November met projections for the first time in months. However, they didn't make a dent in the $350 million budget gap that still remains.

What We're Reading...

  • The Lincoln Land Institute has a new-and-improved interactive website to learn about Significant Features of The Property Tax in your state and how they compare to other states and the U.S. generally.
  • New analysis from economists Piketty, Saez, and Zucman's shows how an expanding U.S. economy over the past 3.5 decades has left half of all Americans behind.

State Rundown 11/30: Hitting the Road... or at Least Determining How to Fund It


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about transportation and infrastructure funding in Indiana, California, and South Carolina, next steps for New York's millionaire's tax, moves toward comprehensive tax expenditure review in Ohio, continuation of the income tax reciprocity agreement between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and efforts for tax change in Nebraska and Arkansas.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • Lawmakers in Indiana have identified transportation funding as a top priority for the 2017 legislative session. While there is not yet consensus on the sources for this funding, new taxes are expected to be in the mix.  Lawmakers have expressed support for indexing the gasoline tax to inflation, reallocating existing state resources, and imposing new user fees.
  • In South Carolina, where a gas tax update failed earlier this year, support for raising the tax next year to fund needed infrastructure improvements remains strong.
  • California lawmakers ended a special session on transportation funding last week without a vote on a resolution. The session has dragged out since June 2015, leaving many frustrated with lawmakers.
  • Expect New York's millionaire's tax to be a major topic of discussion come January as lawmakers head back into session. With lower than expected tax collections and a $3.5 billion budget shortfall, expiration of the  tax would worsen the state's budget woes and make low- and middle-income New Yorkers pay more.
  • Ohio lawmakers have put forth a bill that would formalize a tax expenditure review process. It would task a bipartisan review committee with the review of the state's $8 billion in tax breaks once every eight years.
  • New Jersey Gov. Christie won't end the state's income tax reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania after all.
  • Nebraska joins the growing list of states where brick-and-mortar retailers will be making a concerted push to enact laws to tax online sales at sites such as Amazon.com.
  • With recent voter approval of a constitutional amendment for dispensing medical marijuana, Arkansas lawmakers are assembling legislation to modify and flesh out the details of implementing its new dispensary program. Among them is a bill proposed by Senator Hester to reallocate some of the new revenues to pay for a tax cut. (Senator Hester released a tax cut plan earlier this fall, which ITEP estimates would cost the state $152 million with 64% of the tax cut going to the top 20% of taxpayers).

What We're Reading... 

  • The latest state revenue update from the Rockefeller Institute reports weak tax revenue performance around the nation, and warns that this effect could be amplified as wealthy Americans push their income out of 2016 into 2017 when taxes may be lower due to a new federal administration.
  • Kentucky Center for Economic Policy's executive director, Jason Bailey, makes the case for a tax plan that will be fair for all Kentuckians. He argues against elimination of the inheritance tax, shifts away from the state personal income tax, and corporate tax cuts in the name of economic development. 

State Rundown 11/16: Art Laffer is Back; Progressive Tax Changes Headed to Montana? More Revenue Problems Emerging


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about the unfortunate similarities between the failed tax cut experiment in Kansas and the president-elect’s tax proposal, the potential for another Laffer-led tax overhaul (this time in Kentucky), a promising progressive tax proposal out of Montana, and more dire budget news out of Oklahoma, New York and Pennsylvania.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • An article in the Wichita Eagle this week explains the similarities between President-elect Donald Trump’s tax plan and the disastrous tax changes enacted in the state under Gov.Sam Brownback. In particular, Brownback’s tax changes and Trump’s proposal largely benefit wealthy households and are justified by “trickle-down” economics, a worn out and disproven ideology pushed by Arthur Laffer that tax cuts will pay for themselves.  This has certainly not been the case in Kansas.  In fact, a growing number of Kansas lawmakers plan to undo the Brownback tax cuts next year.
  • Arthur Laffer is pushing a “new agenda” in Kentucky. He and associates contributed heavily to the state’s key House races this month. The new majority has emboldened Gov. Matt Bevin’s commitment to tax reform in 2017. Kentuckians cannot afford to go down the road of Kansas' failed experiment with Laffer-backed supply-side and trickle-down tax cuts.
  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to ask lawmakers to enact a $50 million tax cut that would focus on lower- and higher-income brackets. Details of the proposed cut will be released in advance of the 2017 legislative session. The state is $23 million behind forecasted revenue for the current fiscal year.
  • Newly re-elected Montana Gov. Steve Bullock released his budget plan yesterday, which included several revenue measures such as adding a new top bracket for incomes over $500,000; limiting the capital gains tax credit; enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and taxing medical marijuana. The new revenues are intended to help bolster lagging energy revenues, fund an infrastructure package, shore up the rainy day fund, and fund job training and preschool initiatives.
  • Four Mississippi state senators are mounting an attempt to repeal the destructive tax cut passed there earlier this year. Their plan would devote the revenue to roads and infrastructure. They may have a hard time building support for that effort, considering members of the legislative committee formed to study the state's tax code support the cuts and experts informing the work have suggested speeding up their implementation.

  • Oklahoma lawmakers admitted today that the recent funding cuts to higher education, down nearly 16 percent from the previous year, were done in anticipation of a ballot measure to fund education initiatives. State question 779, that would have increased the sales tax by one percent, was defeated at the polls, leaving the state's education system to pay.

  • In its mid-year budget analysis, New York's Budget Division reports that the state's personal income tax collections "continued to be disappointing," resulting in budget gaps in this and coming years. Projected gaps are due in part to the planned elimination of the state's top personal income tax rate and the recent multi-year "middle-class" income tax cuts for joint filers making up to $300,000.

  • Pennsylvania's Independent Fiscal Office reports a $1.7 billion structural deficit for the coming fiscal year that is expected to continue to grow. It is yet to be seen whether state lawmakers will raise necessary revenue through sustainable broad-based changes, or continue to kick the can down the road by relying on gimmicks, one-time fixes, and spending cuts.

  • S&P downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating this week, the third of the three major ratings agencies to do so recently in response to the state putting a massive hole in its budget this year with a harmful, regressive package of tax cuts. This marks the tenth time the state’s ratings have been downgraded under Gov. Christie, the most for any governor in history.

What We're Reading...

  • National Council of La Raza released a fact sheet on how EITC expansion will benefit Latinos.

  • The Economic Policy Institute released a new report this week on the need for progressive revenue increases to help meet the nation’s fiscal challenges.

  • The Council of State Governments has a new report out looking at the impact of the aging population on state revenues.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 11/2: State Revenue Shortfalls Keep on Growing and Growing


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news on Alabama joining the rank of states requiring Amazon.com to collect and remit sales taxes, and another round of sobering revenue shortfall updates in states including Nebraska, Maryland, Kansas and Louisiana. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • Amazon.com begins collecting sales taxes on orders from Alabama on November 1st, which is expected to bring in $30-$50 million in currently uncollected tax revenues this year alone.  This brings the number of states where Amazon is collecting sales taxes to 29.
  • The Rockefeller Institute recently presented some "sober news" to the National Association of Budget Officers, calling the current situation "not an ebullient time for revenue," as FY17 revenues are running behind projections that were relatively low to begin with.
  • Nebraska's revenue forecast was revised sharply downward last Friday, bringing the state's projected shortfall for the upcoming two-year budget cycle to $910 million. This was an expected development due to a struggling farm economy and other reasons. The Lincoln Journal Star editorial board soberly opined in response that repeated tone-deaf calls for income tax cuts in the state are "the wrong priority for Nebraska…The last thing Nebraskans need is a slap-dash and poorly considered reform of the state's tax system."
  • Maryland Gov. Hogan has put together a package of $82 million of funding cuts -- to Medicare, the university system, juvenile services, housing, and others -- to begin closing the $175-$250 million budget hole the state currently faces. The state also faces another $486 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.
  • Kansas revenues fell short again in October, creating a budget gap of now $75 million.
  • Louisiana faces a $313 million mid-year budget deficit due to a shortfall in revenue raised from last year.  This news foreshadows more budget cuts for services like health care and higher education in the current year and reiterates the need for more meaningful tax reform next year when lawmakers need to close more than a $1 billion gap.
  • New Mexico's repeated rounds of funding cuts and failure to consider revenue solutions to its budget woes have now lost the state its coveted Aaa credit rating from Moody's Investor Services.
  • Governing reports that half of the 2016 races for governor are too close to call. "Tossup" states include: Montana, Vermont, Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. ITEP is keeping a close eye on what this will mean for tax policy in 2017.

What We're Reading...

  • Alexandra Sirota of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center explains that multiple years of tax cuts in the Tarheel state have not provided an economic boom.
  • Ted Boettner of the West Virginia Budget and Policy Center explains how expanding the middle-class is the best tool for improving the state’s economy.
  • Alltherooms.com Analytics estimates that Airbnb rentals could be bringing states a total of $440 million in annual revenue, but that 60 percent – $260 million – of that revenue is currently going uncollected (pdf at link above).
  • A Charleston Gazette editorial warns lawmakers of budget-balancing tactics that will create an even more upside-down tax system in West Virginia and force the state's poorest to pick up the tab.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 10/26: No More Free (Uber) Rides in Pennsylvania and a Growing Number of States Facing Revenue Challenges


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news on taxing Uber in Pennsylvania and yet more states with revenue gaps to fill in 2017. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • A bill to legalize and tax ride-sharing services in Pennsylvania, such as Uber and Lyft, heads to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for signature. The legislation would enact a 1.4 percent tax on all rides and put an end to the question of their ability to operate legally in Philadelphia. Speaking of Philadelphia, its school district will benefit from two-thirds of the revenue collected in the city.
  • From one Governor to another... West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says that the next governor of the Mountain State will have to raise taxes to make ends meet. 
  • In Wyoming, despite falling severance tax revenue and a confirmed $156 million shortfall, lawmakers have punted on raising new revenue. This November, voters will head to the ballot box to determine whether the state should invest more money in the stock market while the Governor is considering a withdrawal from the state's rainy day fund. 

  • Count South Dakota among the states expecting to grapple with budget problems in 2017, due to a struggling agriculture sector and high reliance on a sales tax base that is losing revenues to untaxed internet sales.

What We're Reading...

  • New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report today that explores the impact of federal expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC) on New Jersey adults without children. 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 10/19: An Attempted Sales Tax Ban, Kansas Revenue Talk, and Ballot Measures


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news of Montana's attempt to ban statewide sales taxes, ballot measures to tax e-cigarettes (in California), efforts to enact the nation’s first carbon tax (in Washington state), an initiative to increase income taxes (in Cleveland, Ohio), budget problems in Kansas (along with possible revenue raising momentum), and efforts to address revenue shortfalls in Virginia, Nebraska, and Massachusetts. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • Montana's Gov. Bullock has proposed banning a statewide sales tax. While there is no state sales tax currently levied, the constitution allows for one up to 4 percent—a possibility the governor wants to do away with. But don't expect to see any action on this in the near future. Passage requires support from two-thirds of the legislature and voter approval in the 2018 general election.
  • If voters approve Proposition 56 in a few weeks, California will become the fifth state to tax e-cigarettes, joining Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, and North Carolina.
  • Voters in Washington state have the chance to vote on what could be the first carbon tax in the country, a measure that has divided support even within the environmental community.
  • As a result of numerous tax cuts, Ohio cities continue to struggle. This November, Clevelanders will consider the city's first income tax increase in 35 years. To avoid deep cuts to city services, Issue 32 would increase the tax half a percent to 2.5 percent.
  • In Kansas, researchers warn that population changes will exacerbate state budget problems, Democrats and moderate Republicans are pushing for the legislature to raise revenue needed for public investments, and Gov. Brownback is making efforts to spread "good economic news" while not ruling out the possibility of a future tax increase.
  • Budget balancing measures to address Virginia's $1.5 billion revenue shortfall have commenced. Gov McAuliffe has called for budget cuts, canceling state employee pay raises, tapping reserve funds, and reconsidering the state's choice not to take part in Medicaid expansion. It remains to be seen whether revenue-raising options will be considered during the 2017 legislative session.
  • More on revenue shortfalls: Nebraska is one of many states facing a current and projected revenue shortfall. Unfortunately, it is also one of several states where some leaders think the solution to these problems is to make further cuts. In Massachusetts, a $295 million budget deficit has been identified. As a result, Gov. Baker is pursuing workforce reductions and contemplating cross-agency spending cuts. 

What We're Reading...

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 10/12: Lagging Revenues, Taxpayer Boondoggles, and Yet More Kansas Tax News


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news confirming that Kansas’ years of tax cutting have been heavily tilted toward the rich, more lagging revenues in states including Arkansas, Texas and Minnesota, new problems for New Jersey’s budget, and a major new taxpayer boondoggle in Nevada. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • In Kansas, the Brownback tax cuts are under fire on several fronts. Revenue estimates weren't defective before the tax cuts. The tax numbers are in and it's confirmed ITEP’s findings that the bulk of Brownback's cuts helped the wealthy while increasing taxes for those with low-incomes. And new information shows that the governor and majority of lawmakers personally stand to benefit from the tax exemption for business pass-through income.
  • Arkansas revenues are down for the third month in a row, but this isn't stopping Gov. Asa Hutchinson from talking tax cuts. He is expected to release an income tax cut proposal the day after the election. Other lawmakers appear more hesitant in light of unmet revenue expectations.
  • Tax collections are also down in Texas and Minnesota the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. As state budgets struggle, local governments are also feeling the pressure due to decreased revenue sharing.
  • The Joplin Globe takes a close look at Amendment 4, on which Missouri voters will decide this November. The amendment would constitutionally prevent the state from modernizing its sales tax to include the growing service sector.
  • As we wrote last week regarding the tax deal in New Jersey, work can recommence on the state's infrastructure but much remains to be done to repair and improve its tax code. Moody's Investors Service shares our concerns, pointing out that the large and regressive tax-cut package passed along with the gas tax fix “will worsen the state’s existing budget challenge.”
  • Lawmakers in Pennsylvania aim to rework the state's gambling tax after a state Supreme Court decision, ruling that the way casinos are taxed for local impact assessments is unconstitutional, drastically cut local aid.
  • Lawmakers are in special session in Nevada to decide on whether to subsidize a new stadium for the NFL Raiders. The Senate has approved the measure with more than the required supermajority, despite persistent evidence that it's a major rip-off for taxpayers.

What We're Reading...

  • A new study reinforces the need for tax policy and other public policy solutions to the vast and widening inequality we face. The report, using previously unavailable data on inequality and social mobility over multiple generations, reaches a disheartening conclusion: "Whatever you thought, it's worse." The Washington Post Wonkblog summarizes the findings here.

  • Jeffery Sachs also discusses facing up to income inequality in a weekly series.

  • The World Health Organization makes the case for taxing sugar sweetened beverages, urging countries to enact the tax to fight obesity and cut health care costs. Meanwhile, big soda is under scrutiny for using corporate philanthropy as a strategy to stop soda tax measures.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 10/5: NJ's rotten tax deal, KS Hides Bad Economic News, and Bayou State Tax Reform


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news of a rotten tax deal in New Jersey, revelations in Kansas, a search for a sound and politically feasible tax reform package in Louisiana, and more state tax happenings. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • New Jersey's roads department can soon get back to work as leaders have finally struck a deal to update the state's badly outdated gas tax. But the final deal is a bad one for the people of New Jersey, as the net result of the package is a tax shift that is both regressive and damaging to important state priorities like schools and the state's pension shortfall. Check the Tax Justice blog for more on the development in coming days. Check out this blog post from ITEP's Dylan Grundman for a deeper dive into this no good, very bad deal.

  • It's been another newsworthy week in Kansas. Economic reports showing quarter after quarter of poor performance have been obscured and then scrapped. Revenues for the first quarter of FY 2017 miss the mark. And Gov. Brownback hints at a course reversal on tax policy in anticipation of a state Supreme Court ruling that could require hundreds of millions of new dollars to adequately fund public education.

  • Louisiana's Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy has delayed the release of recommendations for reform until November as it works to find the intersection between sound policy and political feasibility, rarely an easy task.

  • The California Legislative Analyst's Office released a new report of the state's first film credit program. Similar to other film tax credit studies, findings include that the program had minimal impact on the economy, led to negative net revenue, and subsidized an otherwise profitable industry.

  • Expect to see tax proposals debated this coming legislative session in Idaho to increase the gas tax, in Indiana to raise the cigarette tax, in New York to increase the child care tax credit, and in Texas to cap property tax growth.

What We're Reading...

  • The Pew Charitable Trusts reports on persistent budget pressures leading some cities and states to consider expanding taxes to previously exempt non-profits.
  • Voluntary tax agreements between Airbnb and cities are under scrutiny as concerns rise regarding tax avoidance and unfair regulatory advantage.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.

 


State Rundown 9/28: The Quest for New Taxes


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news of proposed new (or increased) taxes in Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, California and Oregon and the spread of ‘dark store’ tax avoidance practices across the states.  Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • Missouri voters will officially be considering two proposals to increase state tobacco taxes, either by 60 cents per pack over four years or 6 cents over six years. A helpful breakdown of the two proposals and how revenues would be distributed is available here.

  • In Illinois, Cook County Board President is considering adopting a tax on sugary beverages to close a $174 million budget gap.

  • Members of the Governor's Task Force for Transportation Infrastructure Investment are considering a gas tax increase as a viable way to meet Louisiana's infrastructure needs. The last time the state raised its gas tax was in 1984.

  • Cities across California may start taxing online video streaming services, following the lead of Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Chicago.

  • Among the parties weighing in on Oregon's gross receipts tax on large businesses (Measure 97) are former Oregon governors and the unlikely tax policy adviser Kansas governor Sam Brownback.

  • The "dark store" tactic – by which big-box retailers like Lowe's are challenging their property tax valuations and undermining funding streams for schools and other local services – is spreading across the country and now hitting Alabama in a big way. Meanwhile, new Northern Michigan University-produced documentary "Boxed In" chronicles that state's fight over the issue.

What We're Reading...  

  • A new report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government warns of "slow and highly uncertain" revenue growth for states in FY 2017, which could foreshadow budget cuts ahead.

  • Pew Charitable Trusts reports that record money is being spent on state ballot campaigns across the nation in the leadup to November's election.

  • The Center for American Progress released a tax simplification plan that will "work for everyone."

  • California's Legislative Analyst's Office has released a report examining the impacts of Proposition 13—the landmark property tax limitations enacted back in 1978.
  • A new report from the Council of Economic advisors examining progress made on income inequality under President Obama includes the impact of tax policy changes such as an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and a rollback of the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest households.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 9/21: Many States Moving in Reverse


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about taxpayer disapproval of stadium subsidies in Nevada, more pressure to reverse tax cuts in Kansas, a move in Missouri to narrow its sales tax base, and other state tax policy developments from across the country.  Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

What We're Reading...  

  • New Jersey Policy Perspective has released a report and short video chronicling the "Notorious Nine" fateful decisions beginning in the 1990s that brought the state down from economic powerhouse to fiscal mess. Step one for states looking to recreate the New Jersey disaster? Pass unaffordable, regressive income tax cuts.
  • A new academic paper examines ownership of pass-through businesses and how much taxes they pay, finding that pass-through income is more heavily concentrated among high-earners and that many of the ownership interests are unclassified or circularly owned.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.

 


State Rundown 9/14: Sales Tax Reform and Other Developments


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news about potential sales tax changes (and vetoes) in California, New Jersey, and Iowa, voter disapproval of income tax elimination in Arizona, and other state tax policy developments from across the country. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • A recent poll shows that a majority of Arizona voters oppose (40%) or are uncertain (24%) about the idea of eliminating the state income tax in exchange for a higher sales tax. 
  • Alabama legislators last week sent a plan to Gov. Bentley (which he has promised to sign) to spend the state's $1 billion BP oil spill settlement. Most of the money will be used to pay down state debt, fund road projects, and free up money to plug the state's $85 million Medicaid shortfall. The state also recently rejected a regressive lottery proposal and established a budget reform task force that will begin looking at some of Alabama's revenue and spending processes later this month.
  • Sales taxes and water quality will be in the news in Iowa again next year, as a coalition has announced a new initiative to increase the sales tax by 3/8 of a cent and devote the $180 million raised to cleaning up waterways, increasing soil conservation efforts, and improving programs for wildlife and outdoor recreation.
  • Sales tax cuts are being discussed in New Jersey again as part of a package including a much-needed gas tax increase to bring the state's roads department – currently operating on an emergency shoe-string budget – back to life.
  • California Gov. Brown vetoed legislation this week that would have exempted feminine hygiene products and diapers from the state sales tax, citing these tax breaks as new spending that must be considered during the upcoming budget session.

What We're Reading...  

  • New Census data from the Current Population Survey shows the first increase in real terms of median income since 2007 and a decrease in Americans living in poverty (though the poverty rate still exceeds 2007 levels).
  • CNBC reports on the federal and possibly state tax treatment of federal loans forgiven through the Income Based Repayment Plan.
  • A new paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston studying income mobility in the US from 1977-2012 shows lower family income mobility in more recent decades, especially for those in the bottom 20% of earners.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 9/7: A Growing Number of States Face Revenue Challenges


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are bringing you news from a growing number of states with current and projected revenue shortfalls including Mississippi, Virginia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Tennessee.  Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

New Jersey Gov. Christie, one of the nation's most hard-line anti-tax governors, has ended a four-decades-old tax reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania and in the process has shown he is in fact willing to raise taxes – just so long as high-income New Jerseyans are protected. Nixing the deal will raise taxes on upper-income Pennsylvanians and lower- and middle-income New Jerseyans who cross the border to go to work.

Mississippi
revenues are already running behind for the new fiscal year, a particularly disconcerting sign considering lawmakers budgeted $130 million more than they expected to receive in tax revenues under normal circumstances. Meanwhile, state transportation commissioners estimate they need nearly $1 billion per year in additional funds to keep the state's infrastructure in good shape.

It appears fiscal issues will be front and center in Virginia in 2017, with Gov. McAuliffe announcing a projected $1.2 to $1.5 billion revenue shortfall this week that could be the largest in state history. The good people at The Commonwealth Institute have offered thoughtful solutions to the shortfall.

New Mexico
Gov. Martinez will call a special session to deal with the state's $485 million current-year revenue shortfall sometime in September. Tensions may be high in that session, with some legislators insisting on further funding cuts and refusing to consider revenue solutions, and others arguing "We're not cutting anymore; we're amputating." 

Oklahoma's Governor, Mary Fallin, decided against calling a special session to discuss teacher pay increases. Instead, the state's budget surplus will be divvied out amongst state agencies who felt the brunt of recent state spending cuts.

Wyoming lawmakers look to the sales tax as revenue from energy reliance continues to take a hit. Specifically, lawmakers are looking to end certain exemptions. The Equality State relies heavily on the sales tax, a tax that disproportionately falls on low- and middle-income families.

Tennessee's
decision this year to cut taxes for its wealthiest residents by beginning a phase-out of the state's "Hall Tax" on certain dividend and interest income is already leading directly to calls for 2 percent budget cuts throughout state departments that all Tennesseans rely on.

What We're Reading...  

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Meg Wiehe at meg@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.

 


State Rundown 8/24: Tax News in New Jersey, Minnesota, Illinois, California, Colorado


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we are highlighting tax and budget news in New Jersey, Minnesota, Illinois, California and Colorado. Be sure to check out the What We’re Reading section for the latest on marijuana laws, state film tax credits, and a new income equality report. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • The refusal to raise gas taxes to fund road and bridge construction, maintenance, and repair in New Jersey will now start harming other services in the state  sinceGov. Christie has issued an executive order that will divert general fund dollars away from other state priorities to keep the roads department from shutting down.
  • Hopes for a special session to address tax, bonding, and transportation bills in Minnesota were put to bed by Gov. Dayton last week due to failed negotiations over a light rail transit line. Expect to see all of these issues again during the 2017 legislative session.
  • Illinois became the third state this year to repeal sales taxes on feminine hygiene products. Lawmakers in California  approved similar legislation last week, the fate of which will be decided by Gov. Jerry Brown.
  • A proposed constitutional amendment to raise the Colorado cigarette tax has been approved for the November ballot, putting the decision to increase the tax from $0.84 to $2.59 per pack in the hands of voters.

What We're Reading...

  • As more jurisdictions consider liberalizing their marijuana laws, the co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center explains the importance of adopting tax structures that can flexibly respond to lessons learned through the implementation of this new tax.
  • A new report from the University of Southern California reiterates the failure of state film tax credits to bring about meaning economic return.
  • A new income inequality report from CBO looks at the uneven distribution of wealth across the country.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Kelly Davis at kelly@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email


State Rundown 8/10: Avoiding a Race to the Bottom


| | Bookmark and Share

This week’s Rundown features a troubling multi-state trend that would help shield the country’s wealthiest taxpayers from paying state income taxes, a message from voters about the Kansas tax cut experiment, and potential special sessions in Minnesota and Alabama. Also, be sure to check out the What We’re Reading section.  Thanks for reading the Rundown! 

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • A New York Times report shows the troubling race to the bottom between a number of states including Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming – to attract trust funds controlled by the wealthiest Americans. States are doing so not only by slashing  taxes on such funds, but also by putting up barriers to protect the elite from child-support claims, divorce settlements, and the attempts of other states and the federal government to collect taxes owed.
  • Tennessee officials are attempting to create marketplace fairness between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores via a rule change that would require out-of-state sellers to collect state and local sales taxes. But opponents to the rule worry that other states will follow suit and level the playing field in their states as well – let's hope they're right! 
  • Alabama Gov. Bentley has released his proposal for a constitutional amendment creating the state’s first lottery. The amendment would create a lottery commission but would not authorize casino gaming or affect "traditional bingo." The legislature convenes Monday for a special session focused primarily on the lottery proposal, and lawmakers may also discuss the state's outdated gas tax. 
  • Recent primary elections point to a changing landscape for fiscal policy in Kansas in January 2017, as 14 supporters of Gov. Brownback's failed tax policy lost their races. Whether those seats ultimately are filled by more moderate Republicans or Democrats, the new lawmakers are not likely to be advocates of the governor's tax cuts, which presents an opportunity for the state to reverse course.
  • Minnesota may have another chance to pass critical tax and public works funding bills during a special session  if the governor and legislative leaders can reach a deal regarding metro transit. State leaders resume talks this Friday.  
  • Missouri voters will decide on two different cigarette tax increases in November after both measures were approved for the ballot this week. One is a 60-cent-per-pack increase that would raise more than $300 million, primarily for early childhood education. The other is a 23-cent increase that would raise $95-$103 million for transportation infrastructure funding.
  • After reiterating her commitment to her no-tax pledge in the face of looming revenue shortfalls last weekNew Mexico Gov. Martinez has now ordered state executive branch agencies to cut 5 percent out of their budgets and implement the cuts immediately.

What We're Reading...    

  • A Center for American Progress study found that an EITC expansion for workers without children would save billions each year by reducing crime and improving public safety.  

  • Governing magazine summarizes state efforts to tax online streaming services such ase Netflix and Hulu and looks at Kalamazoo, Michigan's turn to private donations for needed revenue. 
  • Jared Bernstein in the Washington Post debunks the faulty correlation between the size of government and economic growth. 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Kelly Davis at kelly@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email

 


State Rundown 8/3: Looming Revenue Shortfalls and Short-Sighted Tax Reform Talk


| | Bookmark and Share

This week’s Rundown features a reiterated commitment to no new taxes in New Mexico, talk of a special revenue session in Oklahoma, tax shifting debates in Mississippi, and a looming shortfall in Missouri. Be sure to check out the What We’re Reading section for a guide to income inequality trends and an article examining studies on tax and spending levels. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • With New Mexico facing revenue shortfalls, some lawmakers are urging Gov. Susana Martinez to consider revenue solutions and save the state's schools, roads, and public safety services from further funding cuts. But so far, Gov. Martinez has rejected these pragmatic pleas and only reiterated her devotion to her ideologically driven no-tax pledge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is weighing whether to call the Legislature into special session to consider an alternative plan to fund teachers’ pay. Already under consideration is a 1 percentage point increase to the state’s sales tax, a proposal that will appear on the ballot this fall. Fallin's proposed alternative would use, in part, $140.8 million that the state collected from cuts to state agencies. The call for a special session, however, faces criticism across the aisle.
  • A Mississippi legislative "working group" has begun looking at the state's tax structure with an intent to shift the responsibility to fund state services even further onto low- and middle-income families by slashing income taxes and replacing them with regressive sales taxes. And some are already hoping for "an overall reduction in taxes" despite the massive, regressive, and short-sighted tax cuts already enacted earlier this year.
  • Results are in from a state study showing Missouri's state workers are some of the lowest-paid in the nation, and that these low wages "have led to high turnover rates, costing taxpayers additional money in overtime and training." And the Missouri Budget Project reports that more revenue shortfalls could be looming. But one silver lining on this cloudy outlook is that slow revenue growth has so far saved the state from a tax-cut "trigger" enacted two years ago, buying legislators time to change course and avoid reducing the revenues used to pay state workers even further.

 What We're Reading... 

  • The Florida Policy Institute's latest report calls for the state to carefully examine the "silent spending" it undertakes in the form of tax expenditures that total nearly $18 billion per year but receive very little scrutiny.
  • CBPP's guide to historical trends in income inequality.
  • The New York Times reviews recent studies on tax and spending levels, including one important study that asks "How Big Should Our Government Be?" and concludes that a significantly higher level of public investment would improve security, opportunity, and middle-class lives without sacrificing economic growth.
  • The Center for American Progress released a report this week, making the case for rainy day funds as a tool to help enact progressive policies.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Kelly Davis at kelly@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email


State Rundown 7/27: Stalemates and Tax Cut Talk


| | Bookmark and Share

This week’s Rundown features an ongoing stalemate in New Jersey, talk of new tax cuts in Arkansas, "tampon taxes," and the taxation of fantasy sports. Be sure to check out the What We’re Reading section for new research on public attitudes toward tax and budget issues. Thanks for reading the Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • The gas tax stalemate continues in New Jersey after Gov. Chris Christie voiced his disapproval on Monday of a tax package supported by the leaders of the state's Senate and Assembly. While Gov. Christie's opposition is focused mainly on the gas tax increase contained in the package, New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) has voiced its disapproval of a different component: the "financially reckless" proposal to repeal the state's estate tax. As the debate over transportation funding drags on, some observers are now speculating that by canceling construction projects, the state may be opening itself up to breach-of-contract lawsuits.
  • Gov. Asa Hutchison hopes to lead Arkansas in another round of income tax cuts. This week the governor suggested that cutting the state's top tax rate to 5 percent would make the state "competitive," despite considerable evidence to the contrary. In reality, the most likely practical effect of such a change would be to increase the regressivity of the Arkansas tax code.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law last week that will repeal the state's so-called "tampon tax," thereby joining five other states in extending sales tax exemptions for feminine hygiene products. Removing these items from the state's sales tax base is estimated to reduce New York tax receipts by $10 million per year. Lawmakers in Florida and Illinois, among other states, have also contemplated similar exemptions in recent months.
  • Without a broad-based income tax, Tennessee sometimes finds itself looking for revenue in unusual places. To that end, the state's new fantasy sports privilege tax took effect this month. The tax sets clear rules for the taxation of daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. While five other states also took action this year to regulate and/or tax fantasy sports websites, the topic remains a gray area in most states for the time being.

What We're Reading... 

  • The Oklahoma Policy Institute released a two-part report this week that outlines proposals to improve the state's fiscal policies and expand economic opportunity in the Sooner State.
  • The Washington Post reports on a new study revealing public attitudes on how to fund transportation improvements.
  • A new poll shows that Utah voters are willing pay more income taxes to better fund public education.
  • The OECD calls on the G20 to lead reforms that will create more socially equitable tax systems.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Kelly Davis at kelly@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email


State Rundown 7/6: Most Legislative Sessions Come to a Close: Budget Problems Remain


| | Bookmark and Share

This week we bring you tax and budget news in Alaska, California, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Check out the What We’re Reading section below for a good piece on Kevin Durant and the minor role tax rates played in his decision to take his talents to Golden State. Thanks for reading the State Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • In advance of bringing the Legislature back for yet another special session next week, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker capped the state's Permanent Fund dividend (a flat payment made to all Alaskans) at $1,000 next year, down from the 2015 payout of $2,072, and vetoed $1.29 billion in state spending. The dividend cap and service cuts will hit low-income Alaskans the hardest. However, an income tax, proposed in the governor's New Sustainable Alaska Plan could provide some balance.
  • Lawmakers in Pennsylvania agreed on a $31.5 billion spending plan in advance of the midnight June 30 deadline. SB 1073 increases funding to public schools and funds efforts to combat the state's opioid crisis. However, there is little agreement over how to find the $1 billion plus in new revenue needed to fund it. Gov. Tom Wolf said he will sign the bill "as soon as there is a sustainable revenue package to pay for it...", but lawmakers only have until Monday, July 11 to reach a compromise before the governor must start using his veto pen.
  • On the last day of the 2016 fiscal year, Illinois lawmakers approved stop-gap measures providing long-overdue funding to higher education and human services for FY '16, six months of FY '17 funding for the above mentioned and state agency operations, and a full year of FY '17 funding for K-12 education. While providing some relief for services that have been operating sans funding for the past year, these measures prolong uncertainty and instability by pushing the state's day of revenue reckoning past the November elections.

  • North Carolina lawmakers closed the state's short session on July 1 without giving final approval to a proposal to enshrine a cap on the state's income tax rate in the constitution via voter referendum.  However, the agreed upon budget for the new fiscal year includes a new, small income tax cut by increasing the standard deduction from $15,500 to $17,500 (married couples) continuing the state's march away from reliance on the progressive tax.   
  • In New Jersey, after rejecting a weird plan to pair a needed gas tax increase with a mish-mash of tax cuts that would have primarily benefited wealthy New Jerseyans, and then rejecting an even more destructive plan that would have slashed the state sales tax and blown a hole in the state general fund even bigger than the one they need to fill in the Transportation Trust Fund, lawmakers ultimately chose no plan at all and went on vacation. The state has been forced to declare a state of emergency and shut down most roads maintenance and construction. The bizarre saga will continue when the next scheduled Senate session begins on July 11.

 What We're Reading...

  •  The Washington Post's Wonkblog has a piece explaining that state tax rates were just one very small part of the calculation in Kevin Durant's decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors over the Miami Heat or Oklahoma Thunder.
  • Emmanuel Saez at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth has a new analysis on disproportionate income growth among the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 based on 2015 SOI data. Read the full analysis here.

State Rundown 6/29: State Budgets Come Down to the Wire


| | Bookmark and Share

We've got a jam-packed Rundown for you with legislative action coming down to the fiscal year wire. Read about tax happenings in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, and Wisconsin. Thanks for reading the State Rundown!

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  •  New Jersey lawmakers are coming up against a hard deadline at the end of the month to raise the state’s gas tax and shore up its Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), but continue to insist on pairing it with cuts in other taxes. They appear to have abandoned the weird mix of tax policies they were considering last week, but the new plan backed by Gov. Christie and Assembly leadership is even more destructive. The plan would slash the state sales tax rate from 7 percent to 6 percent and quintuple an existing tax break for retirement income, and is a net revenue loss for the state as a whole, draining the General Fund of more than $17 billion over 10 years.

  • The North Carolina Senate gave final approval on Tuesday to its radical measure to enshrine in the state constitution a 5.5 percent cap on the personal income tax rate.  If the House signs off, the fate of the state's ability to fairly and adequately fund vital public services will be in the hands of voters in November.   As our guest blogger Cedric Johnson wrote earlier in the month, the cap would forever lock in recent tax decisions that have primarily benefitted wealthy North Carolinians, force higher sales and property taxes, tie the hands of future lawmakers, and cut off a vital source of revenue needed to invest in education and healthy communities. 
  • Up against tomorrow's budget deadline, Pennsylvania lawmakers are charging ahead with a budget bill. The bill passed the House Tuesday evening and now moves to the Senate where it will likely face scrutiny over whether it is truly balanced. The $31.6 billion budget includes a dollar per pack increase to the cigarette tax, revenue gains from changes to liquor laws, expanded casino gambling, and a one-time tax amnesty program.
  • California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the FY17 budget bill on Monday, which includes added investments in higher education and child care, an additional $3 billion for the state's rainy day fund, and a $1.75 billion cushion to account for lower-than-expected revenues or higher-than-expected costs. While in good standing this year, the state faces a $4 billion deficit if higher income tax rates for the wealthy aren't extended in November.

  • Deficits, delays, and more short-term borrowing appear to be Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's continued approach to the state's transportation funding crisis. The governor recently reiterated his opposition to raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees without an equal cut elsewhere when advising agencies on their 2017-2019 budget requests, signaling that the long-term transportation funding solution lawmakers have been working for over the past several years is likely still a ways off. 

What We're Reading...

  • The Washington Post on a growing trend among states to explore mileage taxes to address inadequate gas tax revenues.
  • With growing income inequality, the Institute for Policy Studies identifies significant tax reform campaigns to watch.
  • Mayors grapple with new economy player Airbnb and how to respond to disruption of hospitality industry tax collections.
  • The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book identifies the EITC as one of the best policies to encourage work while improving the lives of children in low- to middle-income families.
  • Check out ITEP’s updated policy brief on state corporate tax disclosure. 

State Rundown 6/23: Budget and Tax Happenings


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Alaska’s legislative session continues to drag on, sessions in Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are potentially nearing their end and Philadelphia’s got a new soda tax. Don’t forget to check out What We’re Reading.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe

  • There is no immediate end in sight for Alaska’s legislative session, originally set to end in mid-April. This week Gov. Bill Walker called the Legislature back for yet another special session to consider tax and Permanent Fund legislation. Scheduled to reconvene in July, the Legislature will continue to grapple with ways to close the state’s $4 billion budget deficit. ITEP's analysis of revenue options finds that an equitable solution cannot be reached without a personal income tax.
  • Louisiana’s special session to address a FY17 $600 million budget gap ends tonight at midnight. The House has approved $284 million in new revenue, the majority from an increased tax on HMOs and revised business tax credits. All significant income tax reform measures failed in the House, and the Senate has given up on reviving the proposal to eliminate the personal income tax deduction for state taxes. With $200 million less than expected corporate income and a $27 million accounting error, new revenues fall significantly short of what is needed to fill the hole—the TOPS scholarship program and safety net hospitals will likely feel the most significant cuts.
  • New Jersey’s tax debate and fiscal crunch are coming down to the wire this week and next, as the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is set to run out of money for repairing and maintaining roads and bridges in the Garden State on June 30th. Raising the state’s gas tax, which has not been adjusted for inflation or changing needs since 1988, is the obvious way of shoring up the TTF. Yet in what the New Jersey Star-Ledger is calling “an astonishing capitulation,” the debate continues to focus largely on using the TTF crisis as an opportunity to pass tax cuts that primarily benefit the most well-to-do New Jersey residents.
  • Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Wolf abandoned calls to raise revenue through the state sales or income tax this year. This is an unfortunate turn of events for the Keystone State. ITEP analysis found that the Governor's proposal to increase the state's flat personal income tax rate from 3.07 to 3.4 percent, coupled with increases to the state's tax forgiveness credit to mitigate the impact on low-income families, would be an equitable solution to help address the state's revenue shortfall.
  • The Philadelphia City Council approved a new tax on soda and sweetened beverages last week making it the first major US city to impose this additional levy. The estimated $91 million raised from the 1.5 cent per ounce tax will primarily be used to fund an expansion of the city's early childhood education program.
  • The Rhode Island House and Senate approved an $8.9 billion budget that has already received praise from Gov. Gina Raimondo. The budget, in brief, provides a tax break for retirees, reduces the corporate minimum tax down to $400 from $450, cuts beach parking fees, increases education aid and expands the state's Earned Income Tax Credit from 12.5 to 15 percent of the federal credit. 

What We're Reading...

  • This Washington Post Wonkblog piece examines the impact of opposite approaches to tax policy in Kansas and California (bonus- it also features ITEP data).
  • The Kansas City Star takes down false claims from some lawmakers who are peddling misleading”'facts” to constituents about the state's fiscal and economic health.
  • A new report from the Economic Policy Institute documents growing income inequality across the states.

State Rundown 6/10: Ballots and Budgets


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Oregon officials approve ballot initiative to increase corporate taxes. Rhode Island legislative committee approves state budget. Local officials in Delaware worry about state shifting costs, need to raise property taxes. Minnesota special session looks less likely.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe


Voters in Oregon will have the final say on a proposal to increase taxes on corporations this fall after state elections officials certified that Initiative Petition 28 (IP-28) has enough support to appear on the ballot. IP-28 would increase the state's corporate minimum tax for businesses with annual Oregon sales over $25 million. Under current law, corporations pay the greater of a minimum tax on sales ($150 to $100,000) or a tax on income (6.6 percent on income up to $1 million and 7.6 percent on income above $1 million). IP-28 would eliminate the $100,000 cap on the corporate minimum tax and apply a 2.5 percent rate to sales above $25 million.  If passed IP-28 would generate $3 billion in new revenue earmarked specifically to education, health care and services for senior citizens. Gov. Kate Brown released a plan this week that outlines her vision for how the money should be spent if IP-28 is approved. The governor would spend more on vocational and technical education, expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, and reform business taxes by creating new deductions and closing existing loopholes.

A Rhode Island House committee approved a state budget this week. The House Finance Committee approved the $9 billion measure in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, rejecting Gov. Gina Raimondo's proposed cigarette tax increase but embraced her recommendation to increase the state's earned income tax credit from 12.5 to 15 percent of the federal.  The budget also included a $15,000 exemption on retirement income for taxpayers who have reached full Social Security retirement age and have less than $100,000 of income.

County officials in Delaware worry that the state could shift costs to them due to a revenue shortfall. State legislators want county governments to assume more responsibility for public services in the face of lower-than-expected tax revenue. Lawmakers have $75 million less than anticipated when Gov. Jack Markell released his budget in January. While the revenue outlook is not as dire as that faced by other states – Delaware will spend $200 million more this year than last year – most of the new revenue will be eaten up by automatic cost increases (school enrollment, state employee health insurance, and other categories). A panel of state and county officials is studying which state services counties could absorb. Local officials could be forced to increase property taxes.

Talk of a special session in Minnesota to tackle tax reform and public works funding was dead on arrival in St. Paul this week. Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders were unable to reach a deal on holding a special session following Dayton's pocket veto of a tax package that would have reduced state revenues by $100 million. The bill included tax breaks for farmers, working families, businesses, college graduates and professional sport stadiums. Amazingly, the revenue reduction came down to a wording error in the bill's language ("or" instead of "and" in a crucial clause) due to the rushed nature of the bill's passage at session's end. Dayton refused to sign the bill and initially said the measure could be taken up again in special session. Legislative leaders balked, wary that the governor would use the session to win passage of a larger package of public works spending. The impasse makes the prospect of a state EITC expansion this year – a measure included in the bill vetoed by the governor –  far less likely.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 6/2: Austerity Budgets By Choice


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: West Virginia lawmakers reject cigarette tax increase but still negotiating. Alaska legislature passes compromise budget, punts on oil and gas credits. Louisiana legislature will enter second special session to discuss tax reform. Oklahoma lawmakers gut EITC, use budget cuts, and one-time gimmicks to close budget gap. Progressive policy advocates win expansion of working family tax credit in Minnesota.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe


 

West Virginia lawmakers resumed budget talks this week after a failure to reach a deal before Memorial Day weekend. Previous efforts to pass a budget stalled when House lawmakers rejected Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's proposed increase of the cigarette tax. The 45-cent-per-pack increase, along with similar percentage increases on other tobacco products, would have raised $76 million in new revenue. The House instead passed a budget bill with no new tax increases but $143 million taken from the state's rainy day fund, an amount that Gov. Tomblin is unlikely to approve. The Senate will now take up the House measure in addition to a proposal to increase the sales tax. Lawmakers need to close a $270 million budget gap, the result of ill-advised tax cuts and low energy prices. If they do not pass a budget by July 1, the state government will shut down. Some political observers believe the cigarette tax hike is not yet dead, and business groups lent their support in a letter to lawmakers.

Oklahoma lawmakers finalized a budget last week, closing a $1.3 billion gap also caused by plummeting energy prices and big tax cuts enacted in better times. The legislature managed to pass a budget with limited tax increases by slashing spending on core programs and instituting a number of one-time revenue-raising gimmicks. Lawmakers made up a small portion of the budget deficit by eliminating the refundabability of the state's EITC, saving just $29 million but reducing aid to 200,000 working families. This move has rightly been described as an “empathy gap” and a move that “makes the poor poorer.” Efforts to increase the gas tax for transportation spending, the sales tax for teacher salaries, and the cigarette tax for healthcare expansion all failed. Legislative leaders acknowledged that the state's structural budget gap will remain next year. One positive outcome was the state's elimination of its nonsensical “double deduction,” a law that primarily benefits wealthy taxpayers who itemize their deductions. For more details on tax and budget policy in Oklahoma, check out Aidan's recent blog post.

The Alaska Legislature passed a compromise budget this week in an attempt to prevent layoffs for state government workers. Lawmakers broke an impasse by postponing decisions to cut tax credits for oil and gas producers and a range of revenue raising options. Instead, they agreed to restore budget cuts to senior benefits and K-12 and higher education, and to draw $3 billion (more than 40 percent of the fund) from the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve to cover FY 2017 expenditures. The $8.8 billion compromise budget is still significantly below last year's spending levels of $9.3 billion, largely due to overhauls of criminal justice and Medicaid spending. It is unclear how Gov. Bill Walker will respond to the spending plan. The legislature will remain in session to continue to address the state's structural deficit.

Legislators in Louisiana will begin a second special session next week to address tax reform and the remaining budget deficit. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the call for an extraordinary session from June 6th to June 23rd  to close a $600 million shortfall for FY 2017 and to resolve the state's structural deficit. The governor also issued a plan for the session that includes possible changes in corporate and personal income tax rates, taxes on healthcare entities and reforming tax credits.

Progressive advocates in Minnesota won a big victory last week when legislators passed a significant expansion of the Working Family Credit, Minnesota’s version of the EITC. Under the changes, the size of the credit will grow for most eligible families and individuals, and the income cutoff for eligibility will be raised for some families and individuals. Moreover, the age requirement for childless workers to qualify for the credit will be lowered from 25 years old to 21 years old. Minnesota is the first state (after Washington, DC) to expand the portion of the state EITC granted to childless workers. About 386,000 Minnesota families and individuals will benefit from the credit expansion, which will reduce taxes by $49 million. The Minnesota Budget Project, which led the effort to expand the Working Family Credit, notes that the credit promotes work, helps kids succeed, and reduces racial income disparities.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 5/26: Bad Ideas, Worse Budgets


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Kansas marks tax cut anniversary with budget cuts. New York governor expected to sign tampon tax repeal. Minnesota legislators pass tax cuts amid chaos. Tennessee repeals its Hall Tax. Massachusetts legislators give initial approval to millionaire tax.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director, @megwiehe


 

This week marks the fourth anniversary of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cut "experiment," and the governor recently celebrated by signing another austerity budget. Brownback's mid-biennium budget adjustment includes $97 million in cuts for most state agencies. The budget cut by 4 percent all agencies except for public safety and K-12 education, with higher education being hit worst. More than $30 million of the cuts were to the higher education system; the University of Kansas (KU) has already proposed a 4 percent tuition increase for next year. Meanwhile, a recent report found that the state's highest paid public employee – KU basketball coach Bill Self – pays virtually no state income tax thanks to Brownback's derided exemption of business pass-through income. Self receives the bulk of his $2.75 million in annual compensation through a limited liability corporation. Not quite the outcomes Brownback claimed would come from his income tax cuts.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign a bill that would eliminate the state's sales tax levy on female hygiene products. Right now, the sales tax adds approximately 88 cents to an $11 pack of 50 tampons. The so-called "tampon tax" has come under fire in some circles for being regressive and an unfair imposition of the sales tax on a product that should be considered a necessity. Others, however, have noted that exempting products from the general sales tax base erodes the base over time, necessitating higher rates on other purchases. They also note that targeted sales tax credits for working families would be a better solution to sales tax regressivity.

Minnesota's legislative session ended in chaos this week, with lawmakers scrambling to pass a series of major deals but falling short. The legislature managed to pass a $260 million package of tax cuts before the Sunday night deadline but fell short on bills for transportation funding and public works. The tax cuts include property tax cuts for farmers and businesses, a new tax credit for Minnesotans with student loan debt, and credits to help Minnesota families with childcare costs. Interestingly enough, lawmakers also passed a $3 million sales tax exemption for the purchase of suites at sports stadiums, but not an exemption for ordinary game tickets. Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested he could call a special session in June to give lawmakers another shot at passing the transportation and public works bills. EDIT: The package of tax cuts also includes a strong expansion of the Working Family Credit, Minnesota’s version of the EITC. Under the changes, the size of the credit would expand for most families and individuals, and the income cutoff for eligibility will be raised for some families and individuals. Moreover, the age requirement for childless workers to qualify for the credit will be lowered from 25 years old to 21 years old. Minnesota is the first state (after Washington, DC) to expand the state EITC to childless workers. About 386,000 Minnesota families and individuals will benefit from the credit expansion, which will reduce taxes by $49 million.

Anti-tax advocates in Tennessee succeeded in their years-long push to eliminate the state's Hall income tax on investment income. Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill that cuts the tax rate from 6 to 5 percent this year, and that eliminates the tax entirely in 2022. The bill also says that its "intent" is for future legislators to enact additional, gradual rate cuts in the years before full repeal takes effect. The Hall income tax is levied on some dividend and interest income, and was expected to generate $341 million in revenue in FY 2017. ITEP data show that eliminating the tax would give the top 1 percent of Tennessee taxpayers an average $5,000 tax break while doing nothing for the vast majority of Tennesseans. As senior analyst Dylan Grundman notes, “The Hall Tax plays an important role in offsetting the otherwise regressive impact of Tennessee’s tax system. Overall, the state’s tax system captures a greater share of income from low- and middle-income people than from the wealthy but the Hall tax is one of the few taxes that runs counter to that trend.” Municipalities could struggle to make up lost Hall tax revenue, which delivers more than $100 million to the state’s cities and counties each year.

In a bit of good tax policy news, a proposed "millionaire tax" ballot initiative gained initial approval in Massachusetts. Lawmakers  voted 133-57 to advance a 4 percent surtax on income over $1 million. Massachusetts currently has a flat tax rate of 5.1 percent on all income, and the uniform rate is constitutionally mandated. To change this, the millionaire tax ballot initiative must be approved by at least 25 percent of lawmakers in a joint session during two successive legislative sessions. If lawmakers vote again to advance the measure next year then voters will have the chance to weigh in. If enacted, the millionaire tax would generate an additional $1.9 billion in revenue for transportation and education.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.  


State Rundown 5/16: EITCs and Estate Taxes


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: New Jersey legislative leaders support pairing a gas tax increase with a boost to the EITC. An Oklahoma coalition urges lawmakers to protect state tax credits for working families in possible budget deal. Vermont legislators end their session with a package of tax and fee increases. New CBPP report shows that state estate taxes reduce inequality and support broad prosperity.

-- Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director


 

New Jersey leaders are finally considering an update to the state's decades-old gasoline excise tax rate to pay for needed infrastructure improvements.  But while an update to the gas tax is sorely needed, an increased gas tax will disproportionately impact lower- and moderate income families who spend a significant share of their incomes refueling their vehicles.  To deal with this reality, State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto have proposed boosting the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 to 40 percent of the federal credit to offset some of the impact that higher fuel taxes would have on these families. The development comes after Prieto broke with Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie on a plan to pair a gas tax increase with a repeal of the state's estate tax. Combining a gas tax increase with enhancements to low-income refundable credits like the EITC is a model worthy of close attention from lawmakers across the country.  This pairing could allow for economically crucial infrastructure projects to move forward without having to pay for them on the backs of working families.

A coalition of clergy and progressive organizations urged Oklahoma lawmakers last week to protect tax credits that benefit over 400,000 working families and seniors in the state. Over the past few months legislators have considered reductions and/or elimination of a variety of tax credits and exemptions in order to close the state's budget gap, including the state's EITC, Sales Tax Relief Credit, and Child Care/Child Tax Credit. Low-income families with children can receive benefits from these credits in amounts as high as $300 or more. While scaling back these credits would have a real impact on the ability of vulnerable families to make ends meet, the proposals under consideration would only reduce the state's current $1.3 billion budget gap by about $76 million. Notably, state legislators have thus far been unable to rein in tax credits and incentives for corporations.

Vermont legislators recently ended their session and passed a $49 million revenue package that relies largely on fees to raise money for home weatherization, increased Medicaid costs, and public sector employee contracts. The package includes a new fee on the registration of mutual funds in the state, which is expected to raise $20.8 million. The package contains a few tax changes as well, including a 3.3 percent tax on ambulance providers and the conversion of the tax on heating oil, kerosene and propane to an excise tax of 2 cents per gallon of fuel. The move from a price-based tax to one based on consumption is meant to offset the effect record low fuel prices. Lawmakers also expanded the state's lodging tax to include Airbnb and similar companies.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) makes the case for state estate taxes, arguing that they are "a key tool for reducing inequality and building broadly shared prosperity." CBPP Senior Fellow Elizabeth McNichol notes that only the wealthiest households are subject to the tax – the top 2.56 percent of estates on average in states where the tax is levied. Currently, just 18 states and the District of Columbia tax inherited wealth. You can read the full report here.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email

 


State Rundown 5/6: Energy Boom Goes Bust


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Wyoming and North Dakota grapple with declining revenue amid an energy bust. Arizona lawmakers reach a budget agreement. Missouri legislators consider a state EITC, and Missouri judges rebuff Krispy Kreme.

-- Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director


 

State governments across the country continue to grapple with bottom-barrel energy prices, with Wyoming the latest to deal with the fallout. March revenue collections were worse than expected, with sales and use tax receipts $9.3 million below projected levels and severance taxes falling $17.4 million short. Wyoming, which is one of nine states without a broad-based personal income tax, is unusually dependent on the fossil fuel industry to support the state budget. Making matters worse, declining fossil fuel production could also have a secondary impact on sales tax revenue – the largest source of government funding – if demand for goods and services also decreases. Gov. Matt Mead has asked state agencies to cut their FY 2017 budgets by an additional 8 percent as revenues are expected to come in $300 million short over the biennium. Meanwhile, legislators are considering a number of tax increases to shore up the budget. One proposal would allow local jurisdictions to impose a sales tax on groceries—a development sure to worsen the stark regressivity of Wyoming's overall tax system. Another proposal would increase the tax on producing wind energy, and lawmakers have also considered an increase in the state's property tax to fund school construction.

North Dakota faces a similar predicament as a result of its extraordinary reliance on the fossil fuel industry coupled with historically low energy prices. This week, Gov. Jack Dalrymple asked state agency heads to hold 2017-2019 budget requests to 90 percent of current spending levels, but made exceptions for the departments of corrections and human services and K-12 spending. It is the first time since 2002 that a governor has issued budget guidelines mandating cuts. North Dakota was the only state to weather the recession thanks to the oil boom. Instead of sound fiscal management, leaders there cut taxes repeatedly when times were good and severance tax revenues were high. Now, the governor refuses to consider tax increases. Agency budgets were already reduced by $245 million in February to help balance a mid-biennium $1.03 billion revenue shortfall.

After an extended session, Arizona lawmakers have reached a budget deal. The Arizona Legislature approved a $9.6 billion budget that includes $29 million in (mostly) business tax cuts. If the budget is signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, corporations will get a number of perks, including $8 million in bonus depreciation and $7 million in sales and use tax exemptions for manufacturers. However, the budget does not include a children's health insurance program for 30,000 kids that would have been funded by the federal government at no cost to the state.

Missouri legislators will consider legislation that would cut taxes for working families in the state. Senate Bill 1018 and House Bill 1605 would both create a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) based on the federal credit. Households that qualify for the federal EITC would receive a non-refundable state EITC equal to 20 percent of the federal EITC. Most of the benefits would support families with income ranging from $20,000 to $37,000 annually. The Missouri Budget Project, citing ITEP numbers, estimates that these families would see an average tax cut of $54 to $289, giving a needed boost to these families and Missouri businesses.

In wackier Missouri tax news, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against pastry purveyor Krispy Kreme. In what some observers termed the "doughnut hole loophole," Krispy Kreme demanded a state refund on sales taxes paid after arguing its products were groceries. State law places a 1 percent tax rate on groceries but a 4 percent sales tax on foods made to be immediately eaten. The firm noted that many customers take their doughnuts home to consume later, but the judges didn't buy it. 

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email


State Rundown 4/21: Scraping the Bottom of the Revenue Barrel


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown. Here's a sneak peek: Illinois lawmakers push to change state's income tax structure to a graduated one, could ask voters to change state constitution. Kansas lawmakers have had it with Brownback, and refuse to cut services anymore unless tax increases are on the table. Strong majority of Oklahoma voters favor tax increases over further budget cuts to solve revenue crisis. Mississippi lawmakers pile new tax cuts on top of old ones.

-- Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director 

Facing a never-ending revenue crisis, Illinois lawmakers have finally suggested the logical solution of adopting a progressive income tax. House Speaker Mike Madigan and top Democratic representatives have offered a bill, approved by the House Revenue Committee, that would replace the state's current flat income tax with a graduated system. Under the new plan, the income tax rate for married/joint filers with income of $200,000 and lower would fall from the current 3.75 percent rate to 3.5 percent. Joint income between $200,000 and $750,000 would be taxed at 3.75 percent, while an 8.75 percent rate would apply to joint income between $750,000 and $1.5 million. Joint income over $1.5 million would be taxed at 9.75 percent. Proponents of the bill say it would raise $1.9 billion in revenue, which would help significantly with the state's $10 billion in outstanding unpaid bills. Unfortunately, Gov. Bruce Rauner has already rebuffed the measure.

The graduated income tax measure is coupled with a proposed constitutional amendment resolution that would ask voters to decide if the state should move to a graduated income tax (the current flat income tax rate is mandated by the state constitution). Previous legislative efforts to implement a graduated income tax in 2014, or to create a new millionaire's tax, fell short. Voices for Illinois Children has come out strongly in favor of the progressive income tax, saying "This will allow the tools we need to not rely on low- and middle-income families. We truly believe this is one of the best ways to move our state forward."

Kansas officials have lost patience with Gov. Sam Brownback's ruinous tax cuts, and many lawmakers who helped him pass those cuts now refuse to cut spending any further. Tax collections were short of projections in 11 out of 12 months last year, and even conservative lawmakers argue that Brownback should scale back his tax cuts to balance the budget. Following the advice of supply-side Svengali Art Laffer, Brownback promised that economic growth would make up the revenue shortfall caused by his cuts, but the rapid growth never materialized. To make up the deficit this year, the governor has cut higher education by $17 million and shortchanged educators' pensions by $93 million. Additionally, $750 million has been transferred from road projects to other areas of the budget, setting the state up for ballooning maintenance and infrastructure costs down the line. Facing an election year, many lawmakers say they will cut no further and plan to leave Brownback holding the bag.

A new poll of Oklahoma voters shows a large majority favor income tax increases over budget cuts in the face of the state's ongoing revenue crisis. The poll, commissioned by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, found that 56 percent of voters "favor increasing state revenues by raising taxes and reducing tax breaks," while just 15 percent want to cut money for education, health care and public safety. At the same time, 59 percent of voters want to maintain broad-based tax credits for working families, like the state Earned Income Tax Credit and the state Child Tax Credit. Two-thirds of voters would support increasing the top income tax rate on incomes above $150,000 and 62 percent say that the income tax cut that went into effect in January of this year should be delayed.

Mississippi lawmakers passed a $415 million tax cut deal this week despite facing a revenue shortfall caused by previous tax cuts. The package would phase out the corporate franchise tax, which brings in $260 million in revenue each year, and would cut the state's bottom income tax rate from 3 to 0 percent. The income tax cut will cost $145 million annually, and while many lower-income families will not benefit from the cut, upper-income families will receive tax cuts averaging $220 or more per year. Legislators also lowered taxes on income from self-employment by $10.2 million over three years. The cuts will begin phasing-in in 2017 but most of the revenue impact is delayed until later years, not taking full effect until 2028.

At the same time, Mississippi is dealing with a large drop in revenue following tax cuts of roughly $350 million that Gov. Phil Bryant initiated in his first term. Those cuts included $150 million in sales tax rebates to developers of retail centers, another $100 million in limits on the taxing of multi-state corporations, and an additional $100 million in cuts to the business inventory tax. One recent editorial called out legislators who "have chosen to pass legislation pandering to different constituencies while ignoring serious issues like crumbling roads and infrastructure needs."

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 4/8: Show-Me State Rundown


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: St. Louis, Missouri residents renew earnings tax by a wide margin. Ferguson, Missouri, voters reject property tax increase to fund police reform but approve sales tax increase. Mississippi House passes scaled-down tax cut package. Ohio Gov. John Kasich promises another tax-cut package next year.

-- Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director

Despite a big-money campaign by a local billionaire to derail the measure, voters in St. Louis, Missouri renewed their local earnings tax by a wide margin. The 1 percent income tax applies to the income of those who live or work in St. Louis. According to unofficial election results, 72 percent of city voters wanted to keep the tax, which they must reapprove every five years. Supporters of the tax said its elimination would have created a big budget shortfall for the city. Opponents in the state legislature have introduced a bill that would repeal the tax.

Meanwhile, voters in Ferguson, Missouri, rejected a property tax increase that city officials say is needed to fund police reform efforts. The tax proposal, which appeared on the ballot as Proposition P, would have increased the property tax levied by 40 cents per $100 of assessed value. It required a two-thirds majority to pass but received just 57 percent of the vote. If approved, Proposition P would have generated $600,000 in new revenue. Voters in Ferguson did approve a sales tax increase, which requires only a simple majority to pass and received 69 percent of the vote. That measure is expected to raise $1.225 million in new revenue annually. The municipality came under scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department after the killing of teenager Michael Brown by city police officers in 2014.

The Mississippi House passed an income tax cut package this week, though the measure is much smaller than that sought by the Senate. The chamber approved $143 million in personal income tax cuts and raised the threshold for state income tax liability to $5,000 of taxable income. The state Senate, led by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, originally sought a $575 million package of corporate franchise, income and self-employment tax cuts. House Speaker Phil Gunn, who supported the scaled-down cuts, would have preferred to pair the cuts with increased revenue for roads and infrastructure spending. There is still a possibility that legislators will consider revenue increases for that purpose.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivered his State of the State speech this week, promising to propose another package of income tax cuts early next year. Since 2011 Ohio has cut taxes by more that $5 billion, including elimination of the estate tax and personal income tax rate reductions of 16 percent. Opponents of the governor's cuts argue that local jurisdictions bear the brunt, seeing $1.7 billion less in aid from the state.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 4/1: Foolish Games


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek:  New York lawmakers reach agreement on a $4 billion per year income tax cut. Connecticut lawmakers want to repeal their estate tax despite a major budget deficit. Oklahoma lawmakers are dragging their feet on tax increase proposals to close the state's billion-dollar shortfall. Missouri's Senate passes a gas tax increase for the first time in decades but the state House and voters will have the final say.

-- Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director


 

Last night, New York's legislative leaders agreed to a plan to cut personal income taxes by $4 billion per year. The plan, which is being described as geared toward taxpayers earning between $40,000 and $300,000 per year, will be phased-in between 2018 and 2025. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the plan "is not being paid for" since its delayed start date pushes its cost outside of the current budget window. A previous proposal championed by Democratic members of the Assembly would have combined $450 million in tax cuts for middle and working-class families with a tax increase on millionaires. Additionally, a group of 40 New York millionaires recently petitioned the state government to raise their taxes, saying they were "deeply concerned that too many New Yorkers are struggling economically, and the state’s ailing infrastructure is in desperate need of attention.”

Despite a looming budget deficit, some Connecticut lawmakers are pushing for repeal of the state's estate and gift taxes. If the taxes are repealed, the result would be a major giveaway to the state's wealthiest families at a time when the legislature's non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projects a $2 billion revenue shortfall over the next biennium. Proponents of repeal argue that the tax encourages well-heeled Nutmeggers to flee to more welcoming climes, but research shows that tax flight is largely a myth. Opponents of repealing the estate tax argue that the state's tax system has favored the wealthy for decades, and that the hundreds of millions in revenue the tax generates annually are a lifeline for crucial public services. The estate tax is expected to bring in $217 million in FY 2017, and applies only to estates worth more that $2 million.

Legislators in Oklahoma are squeamish about tax increases during an election year, despite the state's budget woes and the advocacy of Gov. Mary Fallin. Many legislators are dragging their feet on considering the governor's proposed tax increases or bond issues until they know if they'll face opposition. Fallin has made a number of suggestions to close the $1.3 billion budget gap, including an increase in the per-pack cigarette tax and expanding the sales tax base to include some currently-exempt services. Without new revenue, state agencies could face cuts of 15 percent or more next fiscal year. Some lawmakers argue that increasing regressive sales and cigarette taxes makes no sense when the legislature recently cut taxes on income and oil and gas production by billions of dollars.

The Missouri Senate approved an increase in the state's gasoline excise tax for the first time in almost 20 years. The current rate of 17-cents-per-gallon is among the lowest in the country. The Senate would increase the tax by 6 cents to 23-cents-per-gallon, and the new revenue would pay for road and bridge projects. The plan would also require voters to approve the measure at the ballot box. The tax increase now moves to the Missouri House, where it is expected to face opposition.


If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.


State Rundown 3/28: All's Well That Ends Well


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Georgia and Idaho lawmakers say no to income tax cuts. The Vermont House passes a budget and tax package. Maryland's Senate fails to move on manufacturing tax cuts. Nebraska's legislature advances the governor's property tax proposal with amendments.

– Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director

Georgia lawmakers ended their legislative session last week without passing a regressive package of income tax cuts. The Senate had passed two bills that together would have cut the top state income tax rate by more than 10 percent, but the House never took the bills up after Gov. Nathan Deal refused to support them. Deal argued that the cutting the income tax, the state's largest revenue generator, would lead credit agencies to downgrade Georgia's AAA bond rating. An ITEP analysis also revealed (PDF) that over half the cuts would have gone to the top one-fifth of Georgia earners.

Idaho lawmakers rejected a lopsided income tax cut of their own last week. On Friday the state legislature adjourned without passing any reductions to the state's graduated income tax rates. Earlier this year an ITEP analysis of one such proposal revealed that while most Idahoans would have seen their taxes fall by $35 or less under the plan, high-income households would have received a benefit of over $800. Ultimately, the legislature prioritized enhanced funding for education over tax cuts.

The Vermont House passed a package of budget and tax bills for FY 2017 last week, sending the state budget to their colleagues in the Senate for consideration. The $5.77 billion budget includes investments in the state college system, access to child care, and community health services. Lawmakers passed a 3.3 percent provider tax on ambulance agencies to pay for an increase in reimbursement rates for ambulance services under Medicaid. An effort to impose a 92 percent tax on e-cigarettes passed out of committee but died on the floor.

Efforts to create tax incentives for manufacturers in Maryland failed this session despite backing from the governor and senior legislators. SB 181, sponsored by Sen. Roger Manno, and SB 386, championed by Gov. Larry Hogan, would have established Manufacturing Development Zones. Under the bills, new manufacturers who located in the zones would pay no corporate income tax and new employees earning less than $65,000 would pay no personal income tax for a designated period of time. New manufacturers could also apply to counties for a property tax waiver. Hogan's bill would have applied only to poorer jurisdictions, while Manno's measure would have been piloted in seven counties. Both bills failed to move out of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee after established manufacturers complained the provisions would hurt their business.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' plan to cut property taxes got a boost this week when an overhauled version passed the Revenue Committee on a unanimous vote. The proposal would increase property tax credits for farm and ranchland owners by $30 million next fiscal year. The bill has received criticism from both sides. Organizations representing farmers and rural interests said the bill doesn’t go far enough, while Renee Fry of the OpenSky Policy Institute (and ITEP's Board of Directors) warned that it would reduce state revenues and hamper education funding.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email. 


State Rundown 3/17: Luck of the Double Irish


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here’s a sneak peek: Delaware lawmakers approve a corporate tax
 giveaway for a potential DuPont and Dow merger. West Virginia lawmakers leave without a budget after voting down tax increases. Florida lawmakers reject the governor's big tax cut plan, opting for more modest cuts and school spending increases. 

– Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director 

 America's own tax haven of Delaware approved huge tax breaks for Dow and DuPont in the hope that if the companies merge as planned, they will establish their new company in Delaware. In a move that will cost the state $14.1 million in lost revenue, the Delaware Senate passed a bill eliminating the $5 million aggregate cap on the research and development tax credit, and made the credit refundable. The bill passed unanimously and there was no debate. Senators also revived a never-used tax credit that rewards companies for establishing new headquarters in Delaware, expanding it to include in-state companies that retain jobs after a merger. The credit would be applied retroactively to the jobs retained under the Dow-DuPont merger. The bill is expected to swiftly pass the House. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to consider a bill that would make the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable, but only after reducing it from 20 to 6 percent of the federal credit. To learn more about Delaware's fiscal malfeasance, check out ITEP's report "Delaware: An Onshore Tax Haven." 

West Virginia lawmakers have failed to come up with a solution to the state's estimated budget shortfall of $238.8 million – an amount larger than initially expected because of the ongoing downturn in energy prices. Earlier this year legislators tabled a proposed gas and sales tax increases to pay for roads. After the West Virginia Senate approved a 3 cent increase in the state's gasoline excise tax and a 1 cent increase in the sales tax rate, the House Finance Committee batted both measures down, arguing that the state's public services can absorb more cuts. The House committee also voted down a Senate measure that would have increased the cigarette excise tax by $1 per pack. Gov. Tomblin has announced that he is sending legislators home and will bring them back later this spring to regroup and deal with the shortfall.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's billion-dollar tax cut failed to get a sympathetic hearing from legislators, who instead passed a modest property tax measure paired with more spending on K-12 education. The centerpiece of his plan, eliminating corporate income taxes for manufacturers and retailers, was swiftly rejected by the House. The Senate then pared the House version of Scott's tax cut plan back to just $129 million in sales tax reductions for manufacturing equipment purchases and specific groups and products. The Senate also passed $400 million in local property tax cuts by assuming more state responsibility for K-12 funding. Florida's per-pupil state spending on K-12 education will increase by 1 percent, a state record but anemic by national standards. House and Senate negotiators came together to present the governor with a final measure that largely followed the Senate proposal. There was speculation that Gov. Scott would veto the entire budget in protest, forcing the legislature into special session. Instead, the governor opted to veto $256 million from the budget.

States Ending Session: 

Utah (March 10)

Washington (March 10)

Florida (March 11)

Virginia (March 12)

Indiana (March 14)           

West Virginia (March 15, but will reconvene later this spring)

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email. 


 

 

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here’s a sneak peek: Delaware lawmakers approve a corporate tax giveaway for a potential DuPont and Dow merger. West Virginia lawmakers leave without a budget after voting down tax increases. Florida lawmakers reject the governor's big tax cut plan, opting for more modest cuts and school spending increases.  
– Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director  
 
America's own tax haven of Delaware approved huge tax breaks for Dow and DuPont in the hope that if the companies merge as planned, they will establish their new company in Delaware. In a move that will cost the state $14.1 million in lost revenue, the Delaware Senate passed a bill eliminating the $5 million aggregate cap on the research and development tax credit, and made the credit refundable. The bill passed unanimously and there was no debate. Senators also revived a never-used tax credit that rewards companies for establishing new headquarters in Delaware, expanding it to include in-state companies that retain jobs after a merger. The credit would be applied retroactively to the jobs retained under the Dow-DuPont merger. The bill is expected to swiftly pass the House. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to consider a bill that would make the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable, but only after reducing it from 20 to 6 percent of the federal credit. To learn more about Delaware's fiscal malfeasance, check out ITEP's report "Delaware: An Onshore Tax Haven."  
West Virginia lawmakers have failed to come up with a solution to the state's estimated budget shortfall of $238.8 million – an amount larger than initially expected because of the ongoing downturn in energy prices. Earlier this year legislators tabled a proposed gas and sales tax increases to pay for roads. After the West Virginia Senate approved a 3 cent increase in the state's gasoline excise tax and a 1 cent increase in the sales tax rate, the House Finance Committee batted both measures down, arguing that the state's public services can absorb more cuts. The House committee also voted down a Senate measure that would have increased the cigarette excise tax by $1 per pack. Gov. Tomblin has announced that he is sending legislators home and will bring them back later this spring to regroup and deal with the shortfall. 
Florida Gov. Rick Scott's billion-dollar tax cut failed to get a sympathetic hearing from legislators, who instead passed a modest property tax measure paired with more spending on K-12 education. The centerpiece of his plan, eliminating corporate income taxes for manufacturers and retailers, was swiftly rejected by the House. The Senate then pared the House version of Scott's tax cut plan back to just $129 million in sales tax reductions for manufacturing equipment purchases and specific groups and products. The Senate also passed $400 million in local property tax cuts by assuming more state responsibility for K-12 funding. Florida's per-pupil state spending on K-12 education will increase by 1 percent, a state record but anemic by national standards. House and Senate negotiators came together to present the governor with a final measure that largely followed the Senate proposal. There was speculation that Gov. Scott would veto the entire budget in protest, forcing the legislature into special session. Instead, the governor opted to veto $256 million from the budget.
 
States Ending Session:  
Utah (March 10) 
Washington (March 10) 
Florida (March 11) 
Virginia (March 12) 
Indiana (March 14)            
West Virginia (March 15, but will reconvene later this spring) 
If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email. 

 

 


State Rundown 3/3: Some Bills Move Forward, Others Move Back


| | Bookmark and Share

Thanks for reading the State Rundown! Here’s a sneak peek: The Arizona House adopts an optional flat tax experiment for low-income residents. An Indiana Senate committee approves a transportation bill after removing a gas tax increase and income tax cut. Convoluted sales tax changes go into effect in North Carolina.

Check out Corporate Tax Watch, an exciting new resource that will keep you up-to-date on corporate taxes paid (or not) by profitable companies. Sign up here for occassional Corporate Tax Watch emails, just like the State Rundown!

– Carl Davis, ITEP Research Director

The Arizona House approved an optional flat tax for individuals who make less than $25,000 a year, or 660,000 tax filers. House Bill 2018 is being described as a five-year pilot project. Under the proposal, eligible filers can choose between calculating their tax liability under current law or choosing to pay a 1 percent rate on their income after taking a $10,000 standard deduction. Budget analysts believe the plan will cost the state $39 million in lost revenue, though supporters of the program hope to eventually enlarge that figure by extending the program to all tax filers. If that happens, the effects are virtually guaranteed to be regressive—Arizona's graduated rate income tax is a rare bright spot in a tax code overwhelmingly stacked in favor of the wealthy.

An Indiana Senate committee recently approved a transportation bill partially paid for with a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase, though other tax changes were stripped out at the last moment. The original bill included an increase in the state's gasoline excise tax and indexed the tax to inflation. It also included income tax cuts added by the House. As ITEP's own Lisa Christensen Gee noted in a guest blog post for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, the combination of changes would have made the Indiana's tax system more regressive by providing income tax cuts to the wealthy in exchange for tax increases that hit working and middle-class families hardest. Ultimately, both the gas tax increase and income tax decrease were removed during the amendment process.

A number of new sales taxes went into effect in North Carolina recently, affecting services such as car repair, shoe repair, flooring installation, and appliance installation. While broader sales tax bases are generally better than narrower ones, the base expansion in this case is part of a regressive tax-shift that lowers income taxes and makes up the lost revenue through higher sales taxes. Moreover, the implementation of these base expansions has created some confusion among retailers regarding which services are taxed and which are exempted. For instance, car washes performed by an employee are now subject to the sales tax while self-service and machine car washes are not. Likewise, some home repairs and installations will be taxed but home repairs where no materials are sold will remain tax free.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.

 


State Rundown 2/26: Tax Changes on the Horizon


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Alaska legislators consider moving money from their oil tax fund to shore up the budget. Maine lawmakers consider tax changes that would benefit the top 5 percent of earners while Oklahoma lawmakers consider delaying a tax cut that would also primarily benefit the wealthy. Hawaii's legislature will mull a new state Earned Income Tax Credit. And the South Dakota House passes a sales tax increase by a one-vote margin.

 – Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director


 

Efforts to raise taxes in Alaska to close a yawning budget gap caused by declining oil revenues may be pushed to next session. Legislators are instead considering plans to use the Permanent Fund to plug the state's revenue hole. The Permanent Fund is a constitutionally-mandated sovereign wealth fund, financed with oil tax revenue that pays Alaska residents a dividend each year. Dividends have ranged from $878 to $2,072 per person over the last decade. Under Gov. Bill Walker's plan, that payout would be reduced as the state would transfer $3.3 billion from the Permanent Fund to the state budget each year. Rep. Mike Hawker's plan would go even farther, putting dividends on hold until the state's deficit is eliminated. A large reduction in the dividend is likely to impact lower- and moderate-income families much more heavily than the wealthy, though a progressive income tax (as has also been proposed by the Governor) could help offset some of that regressivity.

Under the cloud of a large budget deficit, the Oklahoma Senate Finance Committee has voted to reverse itself on a previously approved income tax cut. The committee surprised many by voting 10-2 to delay the 0.25 percent reduction in the state's top income tax rate that went into effect January 1. Gov. Mary Fallin and the leaders of the House and Senate all want the income tax cut to remain in effect. The author of the bill to postpone the tax cut, Sen. Mike Mazzei, rallied support to his cause last week, as we covered on The Tax Justice Blog. Expect additional fireworks in this developing story.

A column in the Portland Press Herald makes the case against a bill that would give upper-income Mainers a tax break. The column's author, Bill Creighton, is in the top 5 percent of Maine taxpayers and would see a tax cut if LD 1519 were passed. The proposal would eliminate the cap on itemized deductions adopted last year in a comprehensive tax reform package and would come at a cost to the state of roughly $52 million. ITEP crunched the numbers on behalf of the Maine Center for Economic Policy and found that over half the benefit of eliminating the cap on itemized deductions would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. That group would receive an average tax cut of $4,000 per year. No Mainer in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution (those making less than $93,000) would see any benefit.

Hawaii lawmakers will consider creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). SB 2299 would implement a state credit equal to 10 percent of the federal EITC—providing an average benefit of approximately $220 per eligible filer. In 2013 over 315,800 Hawaii residents, including 127,200 children (PDF), benefited from the federal version of the EITC. Enacting an EITC could go a long way toward lessening the unfairness of a tax system that ITEP ranks as levying the 2nd highest taxes in the country on low-income taxpayers.

The South Dakota House voted to raise the state sales tax rate by half a point, from 4 to 4.5 percent, in order to fund an increase in pay for teachers. The measure initially failed by one vote, but supporters were able to convince their colleagues to reconsider. The measure will now go to the Senate for consideration. The South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute, citing ITEP data, says the change will raise $107 million but will also make the state's tax structure more regressive. They suggest an alternative plan that would remove food purchases from the sales tax base but raise the rate an entire percentage point on all other goods. This alternative would raise $128 million while actually cutting taxes for the bottom 20 percent of earners.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email

 


State Rundown 2/19: Guns, Gimmicks and Giveaways


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the Rundown! Here's a sneak peek: Missouri lawmakers want to move money from anti-poverty programs to road construction in a move some are calling unconscionable. Arizona could pass a first-of-its-kind tax credit for concealed weapons carriers. Louisiana paid out more in corporate tax breaks than it made in corporate tax revenue. One North Dakota lawmaker has regrets about a recent oil tax cut.

 – Meg Wiehe, ITEP State Policy Director


The Missouri Legislature will consider a proposal to shift money from programs for poor families and children to road construction. Last year, legislators passed the Strengthening Missouri's Families Act over the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon. The two-part measure eliminated the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for 9,500 Missourians (6,300 of them children) and made another 58,000 adults ineligible for food stamps. The money saved was supposed to go to job training, child care and other programs to help poor Missourians; instead, lawmakers want to spend the money on road construction to avoid raising the state's gasoline excise tax by 1.5 cents a gallon. Missouri has not seen a gas tax increase in almost 20 years.  Gov. Nixon, who supports the gas tax increase to pay for road construction, rebuked the idea of paying for roads with money diverted from safety net programs as a budget gimmick that "could jeopardize priorities such as local public schools, higher education and services for Missourians with developmental disabilities and mental illness." An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called the proposal "unconscionable," arguing that if "Missouri drivers want better roads, they — and not the neediest among us — should bear the burden."

One North Dakota senator says the state will soon come to regret its 2015 decision to lower its oil extraction tax rate. Sen. Jim Dotzenrod said in an op-ed for the Grand Forks Herald that the rate reduction from 6.5 to 5 percent will leave North Dakota with $132 million less in annual revenue if prices remain at $25 a barrel. The rate cut was adopted last year at the insistence of lawmakers who wanted to offset the elimination of a "trigger" provision in a 1987 drilling law. The trigger provision automatically reduced the extraction tax rate if oil prices fell below a pre-determined price of about $55 per barrel; given the recent steep decline in oil prices, the effective tax rate would have fallen from 6.5 to 1 percent if the trigger were not eliminated. While eliminating the trigger was broadly supported by the state's political establishment, the choice to permanently lower the extraction rate from 6.5 to 5 percent was not. Dotzenrod notes that "the effect of this cut in the oil extraction tax could be quite high because it will be in place even when oil prices rise. For example, had this cut been in effect during the 2013-15 biennium, the revenue loss would have been well over $600 million." He believes the rate cut will adversely affect future investments in public services.  

Louisiana lawmakers are zeroing in on highly inefficient tax credits as one reason for the state's ongoing budget woes. The state's Department of Revenue reports that Louisiana paid corporations $210 million more in tax rebates and credits than it collected in corporate income and franchise taxes. From 2004 to 2014, state spending on the six largest tax credits increased from $207 million to $1.08 billion. Gov. John Bel Edwards wants lawmakers to close or reduce several corporate tax giveaways to help plug a significant revenue gap.

If you carry a firearm in Arizona, you could get a tax break. A House committee passed a new tax credit of up to $80 for Arizonans who get concealed weapons permits. Only those who obtain permits after the passage of the credit will be eligible. The bill's sponsor, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, says the tax credit encourages gun safety since individuals must attend firearms training classes to get a permit. The credit, which would be the first of its kind in the nation, would cost $1.9 million in revenue.

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown via email.  


State Rundown 2/17: Cuts and Crises


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Thanks for reading the Rundown. Here’s a sneak peek: Despite a revenue shortfall, lawmakers in West Virginia are moving forward with their corporate tax cuts. North Carolina lawmakers are once again talking tax cuts, Pennsylvania lawmakers are barely talking – after legislative leaders declared Gov. Wolf’s budget bill DOA. Louisiana Gov. Edwards is threatening that if his state doesn’t balance its budget the end of college football is near.  Thanks for reading.

-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP's State Tax Policy Director

 


 

North Carolina lawmakers are looking at cutting income taxes – again. This time, a House committee considered a proposal to increase the standard deduction for the second time since last year. Joint filers would see an increase of $2,000, while individuals would get an increase of $1,000. If enacted, the change would mean an additional 70,000 to 75,000 filers would owe no income tax since their income would be below the standard deduction. State revenues would decline by $195 million to $205 million annually. An editorial in The News & Observer makes the case that lawmakers should restore the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) rather than raise the standard deduction. The EITC is better targeted to those families hit hardest by regressive sales, excise, and property taxes, and it would be less costly than increasing the standard deduction, as has been pointed out by our friends at the North Carolina Justice Center.  An ITEP analysis found that the bottom 40 percent of taxpayers in the Tarheel state would receive just 28 percent of the tax cut from a change to the standard deduction, but would see more than 87 percent of the cut from reenacting a state refundable EITC.

Pennsylvania legislative leaders declared Gov. Tom Wolf's budget dead on arrival last week after the governor unveiled his plan in a speech to the legislature. Pennsylvania has not had a budget since July 2015; negotiations between legislators and the governor have broken down multiple times over the past few months. Wolf's budget address was a fiery rebuke to lawmakers with dire predictions of chaos for state workers and services if a deal is not reached soon. Wolf's proposed $33.3 billion budget includes $2.7 billion in new revenue. Under his plan, the state's flat income tax rate would increase from 3.07 to 3.4 percent, and the sales tax base would be expanded to include basic cable television, movie tickets and digital downloads. The governor would also levy a new 6.5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction, increase the cigarette excise tax by $1 per pack, and raise taxes on other tobacco products.

Despite a major budget shortfall, West Virginia lawmakers are moving forward with a corporate tax giveaway to coal and natural gas companies. Senate Bill 419 would repeal two severance tax increases first implemented in 2005 to pay off the state's workers compensation debts. One tax is a 56-cents-per-ton levy on coal producers while the other is a 4.7-cents-per-thousand cubic feet tax on gas producers. Together, the two taxes brought in $122 million in revenue during fiscal year 2015. If repealed, the state will lose $110 million next fiscal year. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the tax cuts by voice vote, "in a committee room largely empty save for members of the governor’s staff and coal and gas lobbyists." The state will finish the current fiscal year $353 million in debt.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned legislators that the continuing revenue shortfall could spell disaster for college athletics. In his state of the state address, Edwards told Louisianans that they could "say farewell to college football" since Louisiana State University is set to run out of money by April 30. Louisiana faces a $2 billion budget shortfall next fiscal year and needs to come up with $850 million to make it through the current fiscal year. Lawmakers have railed against the governor's proposal to increase sales and alcohol and cigarette excise taxes, but the dire situation leaves them with few options.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.orgClick here to sign up to receive the Rundown in via email 


State Rundown 2/9: State Coffers Bare


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Today we are taking a look at several states that are dealing with budget shortfalls. Despite shortfalls, governors in Arizona and Kentucky are calling for tax cuts. Newly elected Louisiana Gov. Edwards is taking a different approach and calling a special session next week to talk about tax increases. Meanwhile the sad saga of Kansas continues as lawmakers grapple with revenues that again fell short of monthly projections.
Thanks for reading. 
-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP's State Tax Policy Director

 


 

Years of tax cuts have left Arizona low on cash, despite state officials' protestations to the contrary. While lawmakers point to lingering effects of the Great Recession to explain sluggish revenue collections, economists at Arizona State University blame over 20 years of tax cuts, which have reduced the 2016 general fund by $4 billion. Revenues will continue to decline as corporate tax cuts are phased in through 2019, but no matter -- Gov. Doug Ducey affirmed his commitment to cutting taxes further in his State of the State address (while somehow also promising increases in education spending).

Advocates in Kentucky say years of budget cuts show that the state needs more revenue. Under former Gov. Steve Beshear, the state cut spending by $1.5 billion. Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed $650 million in additional cuts under his latest budget. Recently, a coalition of 20 groups called on lawmakers to consider raising revenue instead of enacting more cuts. Using data from our state partners at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), the Kentucky Together coalition advocates for eliminating tax breaks for corporations and wealthy property owners as well as broadening the sales tax base to include services. The KCEP report (PDF) cites ITEP data showing that state and local taxes hit middle-income families hardest (10.8 percent of family income) and are relatively light on the top one percent of Kentucky earners (6 percent of family income).

The sad saga of Gov. Sam Brownback continues for Kansas. The governor and his revenue officials continue to make the case that relying heavily on consumption taxes will provide "more stability" for state revenues despite mounting evidence to the contrary. In January, sales tax receipts were $3.9 million under expectations, and since July have come in as much as $10 million under monthly projections. Brownback and lawmakers increased the sales tax rate last June in an effort to pay for the governor's costly income tax cuts. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan insists that the short-term data are an aberration, and that the sales tax is more reliable than the income tax "over a 5-10 year trend." Conveniently, Jordan won't be around then to see if his prediction was correct. And despite the assertions of Art Laffer and Stephen Moore, the Kansas economy doesn't prove the wisdom of Brownback's "experiment." As Yael Abouhalkah of The Kansas City Star notes, those economists have failed to acknowledge the consumption tax hikes, budget cuts and highway trust fund raids made necessary by the state's recent tax cuts.

At the request of new Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana will hold a special session beginning next Monday to deal with its budget crisis. The session is limited to considering bills that would increase taxes, rollback tax cuts and incentives, or cut spending in an effort to balance the budget. However, it will be up to the legislature to decide if a bill meets the parameters established by the governor. One piece of legislation expected to be considered is a repeal of the SAVE higher education act, a bill passed by Louisiana lawmakers at the behest of former Gov. Bobby Jindal. The convoluted law created a fake tax credit to cover for a tax increase so that Jindal could pretend to keep his no-taxes pledge.

State of the State Addresses This Week:
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards -- Friday, Feb. 12
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf -- Tuesday, Feb. 9 (watch here)
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead -- Monday, Feb. 8 (watch here)

 

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.orgClick here to sign up to receive the Rundown in via email


State Rundown 2/5: Three Revenue Raisers and A Tax Cut


| | Bookmark and Share

Today we are taking a look at revenue raising proposals in New York and Oregon, fast-moving tax cuts in Idaho (with some ITEP numbers), and highlighting the impact of state tax cuts on local governments in Ohio. Have a great weekend!


As always, thanks for reading.
-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP's State Tax Policy Director

A local official in Ohio says citizens have no choice but to raise local taxes in the wake of state budget cuts--the latest reminder that tax-cutting states such as Ohio are often just passing the buck to localities. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that city residents will have to approve a 0.5 percent local income tax rate increase (from 2 to 2.5 percent) to avoid cuts in services. The increase would generate $85 million in revenue that Jackson pledges will go to expanding services. Otherwise, the city faces a deficit next fiscal year thanks to cuts in state funding and declining property tax revenues.  If approved by the city council, the income tax increase would then be put before voters in November.

Oregon  Sen. Mark Hass introduced a revenue proposal this week that he sees as an alternative to a corporate income tax initiative that will likely be on the ballot in November.  The ballot initiative, sponsored by Our Oregon, would create an additional minimum tax on corporations with Oregon sales of at least $25 million (a 2.5 percent tax would apply to sales in excess of $25 million).   If the initiative wins approval, it would raise close to $3 billion annually in new revenue for public education and senior health care programs. Currently, corporations doing business in Oregon pay the greater of a minimum tax based on relative Oregon sales or a corporate income tax rate of 6.6 percent on income up to $1 million and 7.6 percent on income thereafter. Hass' proposal would eliminate the current system of corporate taxation and replace it with a Commercial Activity Tax of 0.39 percent on gross receipts. Hass would also cut taxes for households earning $58,000 or less and increase the state's Earned Income Tax Credit from 8 to 18 percent of the federal credit. Hass' measure would raise $1 billion in new revenue each biennium with half of the revenue going towards public education spending and the other half to pay for his targeted low- and middle-income tax cuts.

An Idaho House committee approved a tax cut bill from House Majority Leader Mike Moyle that would cut the corporate income tax rate, and top two personal income tax rates, by a tenth of a percentage point each. If passed, the top two personal income tax rates would fall to 7.3 and 7 percent, while the corporate rate would drop to 7.3 percent. The bill would also increase the grocery tax credit by $10 for some Idahoans of more modest incomes. On net, however, the proposal would primarily benefit the state's wealthiest taxpayers. ITEP estimates that while most families would receive tax cuts of $35 or less, the top 1 percent of earners would take home an additional $815 per year, on average.

The New York Assembly will consider a proposal to raise taxes on millionaires and cut taxes for working families. Under the proposal, individuals earning between $1 million and $5 million would pay a tax rate of 8.82 percent on that income. Income between $5 million and $10 million would be taxed at 9.32 percent, and income over $10 million would be taxed at 9.82 percent. If enacted, the tax increases would raise $1.7 billion in revenue. Middle class earners who make $40,000 to $150,000 would get a modest tax rate reduction, from 6.45 to 6.25 percent. The state's Earned Income Tax Credit would also be increased, with the average recipient seeing a boost of $110.

If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org. Click here to sign up to receive the Rundown in via email


State Rundown OK, KS, and IN: Tax Cut Groundhog Day


| | Bookmark and Share



Thanks for reading this Groundhog day edition of the State Rundown. Today we are taking a close look at developments in OklahomaKansas, and Indiana.  There's a link below to an especially good editorial in The Witchita Eagle outlining  critiques of Kansas Governor Brownback's regressive tax policies. You'll also find a helpful listing of State of the State addresses happening this week. 

As always, thanks for reading. 
-- Meg Wiehe, ITEP's State Tax Policy Director

 


Oklahoma legislators fear the state could be headed for a second revenue failure before the end of the fiscal year if oil prices continue to drop, forcing spending cuts across the board for all state agencies. The state's previous revenue failure required a cut of 3 percent and the state's school superintendent says another cut might mean schools running out of money and shutting their doors. To help deal with the state's bleak fiscal situation, Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed raising significant new revenues by expanding the state's sales tax base, increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, and eliminating the state's bizarre state income tax deduction for state income taxes paid. While describing Fallin's proposal as a "good starting point," the Oklahoma Policy Institute also observes that Oklahoma's current revenue crisis was partly brought on by the legislature's decision to allow a regressive and unaffordable income tax cut to take effect this January. Unless lawmakers reverse that decision, state revenues will decline by $147 million during the upcoming fiscal year.

An editorial in The Wichita Eagle calls out Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators for their continued reliance on regressive food taxes to shore up the budget. In 2012, when Brownback pushed through his tax cut experiment, the state sales tax on food was scheduled to drop to 5.7 percent; today, the sales tax on food is 6.5 percent. When local taxes are included, the combined rate can be as high as 10 percent -- the nation's highest. A recent study (PDF) found that "A household in the lowest income group pays anywhere from 2.7 percent to 8.4 percent more of their income in taxes on groceries than does a household in the highest income level.” Representative Mark Hutton has proposed cutting the state sales tax rate on groceries to just 2.6 percent and would make up the revenue by eliminating the state's costly and ill-targeted personal income tax exemption for all non-wage business income.

Indiana lawmakers seem to have taken a page out of South Carolina (and Michigan's) playbook in considering a transportation package pairing gas tax increases with income tax cuts. House Bill 1001 would increase the state's gasoline excise tax by 4 cents to 22 cents per gallon, the first increase in over thirteen years. The tax on diesel fuel would increase by 7 cents per gallon. House Republicans inserted a phased-in 5 percent income tax cut into the transportation package to entice Gov. Mike Pence and other lawmakers who might be on the fence to support the gas and diesel tax increases. The package also raises more than $200 million through a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike.  An ITEP analysis of the proposal found that the average taxpayer among the bottom 80 percent of earners would see a tax hike under this plan while the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers would benefit from a tax cut on average.

 


State of the State Addresses This Week:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley -- Tuesday, Feb. 2

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy -- Wednesday, Feb. 3

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan -- Wednesday, Feb. 3

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan -- Thursday, Feb. 4

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin -- Monday, Feb. 1 (link here)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo -- Tuesday, Feb. 2

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam -- Monday, Feb. 1 (link here)


If you like what you are seeing in the Rundown (or even if you don't) please send any feedback or tips for future posts to Sebastian Johnson at sdpjohnson@itep.org

 


State Rundown 1/28: Taxes Up For Debate


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

New Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin delivered his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, forgoing tax cuts he promised during the campaign because in his words, the state "can't afford them right now." Instead, he called for deep reductions in state spending that would impair crucial services. Bevin would cut spending by $650 million across the board -- a 4.5 percent reduction for all agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year and a 9 percent reduction over the next biennium. The governor's plan would protect per-pupil K-12 funding, Medicaid, and social workers, and would increase some public safety spending. Bevin would also move $1.1 billion to the state's troubled pension funds for teachers and state employees. However, universities, regulatory agencies, parks, public television, workplace safety, public health, environmental quality and economic development would be affected by the cuts.  


The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center came to the aid of partners in West Virginia this week, pleading with legislators to take proposed tax cuts off the table. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's budget proposal would cut the state's severance tax on coal to help prop up the ailing industry, while raising taxes on tobacco products and telecommunications. Ted Boettner of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy warned lawmakers that more tax cuts wouldn't help the economy, and could make matters worse, pointing out that recent sales and corporate tax cuts had reduced state revenue that could have prevented the current deficit. Alexandra Sirota of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center backed him up, noting that tax cuts in her state merely shifted taxes down the income scale and failed to produce new jobs.  


Georgia Senate Finance Chairman Judson Hill proposed two tax-cutting measures last week. The first would institute a flat income tax rate of 5.4 percenteliminate most itemized deductions (though would allow taxpayers to deduct all charitable contributions), and increase the personal and dependent exemptions by $2,000. Hill's second measure would amend the state's constitution to mandate a decrease in the flat rate (assuming the first proposal is enacted) to 5 percent if state revenues and reserves exceed certain levels. The finance chairman's proposals come against the backdrop of Gov. Nathan Deal's call for additional funding to make up for reduced spending in the wake of the Great Recession.  Look for an ITEP analysis of these proposals soon on the Tax Justice Blog.

  

Lawmakers in South Carolina continue to debate how to increase road funding while also cutting taxes in order to satisfy a demand by Gov. Nikki Haley to offset any gas tax increase with income tax cuts. The latest compromise would increase the state's gasoline excise tax by 12 cents per gallon over three years, along with a number of other vehicle related fees and taxes. The increases, expected to increase road funding by $665 million, would be paired with $400 million in  income tax cuts. One point of contention is a desire by some  lawmakers to include a refundable EITC for low-income South Carolinians in the package. The proposed EITC would cost $44 million and benefit 514,000 residents who would face higher costs at the pump. Some influential lawmakers were amenable to idea. Senate President Hugh Leatherman, who supports proposed tax breaks for manufacturers included in the plan, said "When we are giving everybody else something, why wouldn't we look to help them to pay the additional increase in the gas tax?" An ITEP analysis of this proposal will be coming soon to the Tax Justice Blog. 


The debate over the budget deficit in Alaska continues, with lawmakers mulling a gas tax increase and proposals to bring an income tax back to the state. The Senate and House transportation committees considered Gov. Bill Walker's plan to double the state's gasoline excise tax from 8 to 16 cents per gallon. The measure would raise $49 million annually, a far cry from the $4 billion needed to plug the state's budget hole. The governor has also suggested levying a state income tax equal to 6 percent of the federal income tax Alaskans owe, while State Rep. Paul Seaton has put forth a plan asking Alaskans to pay the state 15 percent of what they pay in federal taxes. Walker's income tax plan would raise $200 million, while Seaton's more ambitious plan would raise $655 million and includes a long-term capital gains tax of 10 percent. A recent poll of Alaskans shows that residents favor a mix of cuts and new revenue to address the crisis by almost a 2-1 margin. 


Got a juicy news story or new development in state tax policy that's too good to miss? Send your ideas and any comments to Sebastian at sdpjohnson@itep.org and we'll add it to the next State Rundown!  


State Rundown 1/25: State of the States


| | Bookmark and Share

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed two tax increases in his State of the State address to help close a projected revenue gap of more than $350 million in the current fiscal year. The governor plans to ask lawmakers to increase the tax on tobacco products and add telecommunications services to the state's sales tax bases, applying a 6 percent tax to cell phone data and voice plans. Cigarette taxes would increase by 45 cents a pack, while other tobacco products would be taxed at 12 percent, up from 7 percent. Together, both taxes would raise $138 million in revenue -- including $28.9 million for this fiscal year if the increases are effective on April 1. This amount would not be nearly enough to avoid spending cuts, and is far from the reform-minded revenue raising ideas that groups such as the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy have been promoting.   

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana used his State of the State address to criticize a House Republican proposal to raise the state's gasoline tax -- and gained support from House Democrats in the process. House Bill 1001 would increase the gas tax by 4 cents a gallon to 22 cents, the first increase in thirteen years. The tax on diesel would increase by seven cents per gallon, and the amount of gas tax revenue earmarked for roads and bridges would also go up. While House Speaker Brian Bosma argues that increasing the tax to pay for transportation maintenance would be good for economic growth, Pence and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath say the tax increase would be premature. Both men argue that the state should rely on its revenue surplus to pay for transportation improvements instead. 

Kansas, which has been awash in red ink since Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cut experiment failed, will again face deep cuts to balance the budget. Brownback would eliminate the Kansas Bioscience Authority, which strives to build bioscience jobs in Kansas, and the Children's Initiative Fund, which sponsors crucial early childhood education programs. The move would allow the governor to cover at least $80 million of a $190 million deficit next fiscal year. Brownback would also raid the state's transportation fund for $25 million to support general government programs. Meanwhile, individuals in Kansas have used the governor's exemption on business pass-through income to avoid millions in income taxes. While the state estimated about 191,000 taxpayers would be eligible for this break, over 330,000 "self-employed" filers have taken advantage of the loophole. Even business advocates, like local chambers of commerce, say the pass-through income break has failed to create jobs and hurt economic growth.  

 

State lawmakers in Massachusetts heard arguments for and against the Fair Share Amendment, which would impose an increased tax rate on income over $1 million. If passed, the tax rate on income over that amount would increase from 4 percent to 9 percent. ITEP data show that the current tax system in Massachusetts is regressive; the top one percent pay 4.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the middle 20 percent pay 9.3 percent of their income. The disparity arises from Massachusetts' flat tax rate on income, and the fact that those who earn less pay a larger proportion of their income in sales and property taxes. The proposed tax increase would affect just one percent of Massachusetts taxpayers.

 

North Carolina lawmakers claim that their tax cuts are responsible for a budget surplus. But as a recent editorial in The News and Observer notes, lawmakers didn't cut taxes -- they merely shifted responsibility from the wealthy to the working poor. While Gov. Pat McCrory and legislators cut personal and corporate income taxes, they expanded the sales tax base -- and the revenue increase is a result of that base expansion. And since the sales tax is a regressive tax, working families and the middle class are paying more.  

 

State of the State Addresses This Week:  

Hawaii Gov. David Ige -- January 25 

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner -- January 27 

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin -- January 26 

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert -- January 27 

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant -- January 26 

 

Previous State of the State Addresses:  

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker -- January 21 (link here

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey -- January 11 (link here

California Gov. Jerry Brown -- January 21 (link here

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper -- January 14 (link here

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell -- January 21 (link here

Florida Gov. Rick Scott  -- January 12 (link here

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal -- January 13 (link here

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter -- January 11 (link here

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- January 12 (link here

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad -- January 12 (link here

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback -- January 12 (link here

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker -- January 21 (link here

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder -- January 19 (link here

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon -- January 20 (link here

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts -- January 14 (link here

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- January 12 (link here

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez -- January 19 (link here

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- January 13 (link here

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley -- January 20 (link here

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard -- January 12 (link here

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin -- January 7 (link here

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe -- January 13 (link here

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee -- January 12 (link here

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin -- January 13 (link here

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- January 19 (link here

 


State Rundown 1/7: New Year, New Taxes


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

The revenue crisis in Louisiana is worse than anticipated, according to Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards. The state is short $750 million this fiscal year, which must be accounted for by the end of June. Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will put the state $1.9 billion further in the hole. Edwards has said he will unveil a “menu of options” to address the shortfall in advance of a special session he plans to call next month.  He will likely ask lawmakers to consider revenue raising measures to help soften the impact of spending cuts in the current year and to boost available revenue for next year’s budget (which will get sorted out in March). 

A tax cut for the middle class took effect on January 1 in Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson won approval last year of a 1 percent cut in the income tax rate for those making between $21,000 and $75,000, at a cost of $135.7 million over the biennium. Hutchinson sees the cut as the first step toward a broader income tax reduction, but he has no plans to propose new cuts before the 2017 legislative session. But some lawmakers and advocates warn that the income tax cuts will lead to further cuts in state services such as the state’s severely underfunded preschool and child welfare programs. "That's just a huge amount to come out of the budget and we're seeing a lot of current unmet needs in Arkansas," noted Ellie Wheeler of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Pennsylvania officials still haven’t reached an agreement on their state’s budget (now almost seven months past due), but that hasn’t stopped them from approving the funding of tax breaks for corporations. Gov. Tom Wolf conditionally approved several requests for tax credits from businesses, including breaks for donations to private schools, film tax credits and credits for research and development.  Apparently, this represents a reversal for the governor, who said last Tuesday that emergency funds recently made available for school districts and social services would not be used to fund tax credit programs. The state government approved 3,000 requests for the education tax credit, up from 2,700 last year. Businesses can take a 75 percent credit on their donations (up to $750,000) to organizations that provide scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wants his state’s legislature to reconsider its earmarking practices, saying that automatically directing new revenues to specific purposes can reduce flexibility in funding state priorities. Herbert specifically argued that money earmarked for transportation could be better spent on educational priorities. "We're coming to a point where there's a crossroads decision, because if we don't reduce some of the earmarks, we will have a difficult time funding education, particularly higher education,” noted the governor. Some lawmakers have also argued that the automatic earmarking practices prevent the state from regularly reviewing if funds are being spent efficiently.

Snack lovers in Maine will pay a little more at the register this year. Since Jan. 1, a number of products including marshmallow fluff and beef jerky were added to the sales tax base. The sales tax base expansion was one element of the tax reform package passed by the legislature last summer which also included a permanent hike in the sales tax rate, significant changes to the state’s personal income tax, and the introduction of a refundable sales tax credit. 


State Rundown 12/22: Looking Ahead to 2016


| | Bookmark and Share

As the year comes to a close, several tax bills are already being debated in states across the country. ITEP is closely following those proposals because they will likely dominate state headlines in 2016. In the new year we will write more about state tax policy trends for 2016, but in the meantime, here are some of the big state tax policy developments happening now:

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

There are bright signs on the horizon in Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker recently proposed a progressive income tax to address the state’s budget implosion, brought on by declining oil and gas revenues. Alaska has not had a personal income tax since 1980, when massive oil deposits were discovered on state land. Walker’s proposal would set the state income tax at six percent of what Alaskans pay in federal income taxes. The governor would also raise the state’s gasoline tax, which has not increased in 45 years. To learn more, check out this post on the Tax Justice Blog.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will continue to push his $1 billion hodge-podge of tax cuts, though even legislators from his side of the aisle balk at the price. The package includes sales tax holidays for back-to-school shopping and hurricane preparedness and a tax break for college students’ textbooks. But those measures are mere leaves for the massive corporate tax cuts at the core of the proposal: corporate income tax cuts worth $770 million annually and a sales tax break on commercial rents that will cost $339 million over the biennium. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says the governor’s plan may not be possible in its entirety. The state will post a one-time surplus of $635 million next year, but much of that money will go to support public education. Furthermore, a one-time cash infusion won’t pay for tax cuts that recur year after year.

Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will push to double the state’s EITC as part of his plan to reduce poverty in the state. As we outlined in a previous blog post, the move by Edwards is one of a number of encouraging signs for tax justice advocates. The governor-elect also appointed a moderate Republican, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, to be the state’s budget chief. Dardenne could have the skills to get a revenue-raising tax reform through the legislature since he was able to do so in the early 2000s. Louisiana faces a $1 billion deficit next fiscal year.

Mississippi lawmakers are set to push for tax cuts again next year after a failed attempt to pare back and even eliminate the personal income and corporate franchise taxes in 2015. While the Mississippi Economic Council for Transportation is calling on lawmakers to raise close to $400 million through the gas tax to pay for a long list of transportation infrastructure projects, Gov. Phil Bryant has said “any tax increase must be offset by corresponding tax cuts."  Given the nature of the tax cuts proposed last year, such a plan would likely result in a significant tax reduction for the state’s wealthiest residents and a hike on low- and moderate-income working families.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget proposal unveiled this month includes corporate and personal income tax cuts.  The governor wants to cut the state’s corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.75 percent. The proposal would cost $64 million in state revenues. McAuliffe claims that these changes are necessary to compete with neighboring North Carolina, which has repeatedly slashed its corporate tax rate in recent years. But an analysis by The Commonwealth Institute says these claims are false. They point out that two-thirds of Virginia corporations pay no income tax despite record profits, and that the governor’s proposed tax break would help a few large companies while providing no benefits for small businesses and families. They also note that recent history does not provide much reason to be optimistic about the Governor’s plan: a 2009 tax break for manufacturers, for example, failed to spur job growth in that sector. The governor also wants to cut the personal income tax through slightly increasing the size of the personal and dependent exemptions.  Such a proposal will only cut taxes by a little more than $20 million a year and ITEP found that more than a quarter of taxpayers, primarily low- and moderate-income working families, will see no benefit from the proposal. 

 


State Rundown 12/3: Who Needs A Budget?


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Pennsylvania leaders have again pledged that a budget deal is in reach, despite the collapse of a recent compromise (and, of course, the compromises before that). The state is also in its sixth month of stalemate. Gov. Tom Wolf says that negotiations are down to “details and language,” with revenue raising measures being a sticking point. Legislative leaders have ruled out a broad-based tax increase so negotiators are working on a way to raise $600 million without a sales tax rate increase. Rather, a wider range of goods and services will be subjected to sales tax, including admission to museums, amusement parks, and golf courses. A proposed property tax reduction is no longer under consideration. Both houses of the legislature plan to work through the weekend on reaching a deal.

Mississippi leaders will push forward with tax cuts next legislative session even though revenue collections are sluggish enough to threaten mid-year budget cuts. Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both recently reelected, will try again to push tax cuts after being defeated during the last session. A likely target is the state’s business franchise tax, which is a levy on a business’s property used, invested, or employed. Eliminating the tax, which brings in $245 million annually, is a prime item on both men’s agenda, and bigger Republican majorities in the legislature make it a possibility. House Republicans are just on vote shy of the 3/5 supermajority required to pass a tax cut. Mississippi’s Legislative Black Caucus warned that the state would be unable to afford a deep tax cut like the ones proposed by leaders last session.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has never met a tax cut he doesn’t like, and if he has his way the upcoming legislative session will give him plenty to love. Scott wants the legislature to pass $1 billion in tax cuts aimed at businesses to fulfill a campaign promise. So far, leaders in the Senate have balked at the hefty price tag, arguing that the governor shouldn’t push business tax cuts at the same time he wants to rely on property tax increases for more school funding. Budget officials estimate that Florida will see a surplus of $635 million this fiscal year, but some argue it would be irresponsible to use that one-time money for permanent cuts. In a rare move, Scott appeared before a House panel to argue that his tax cuts would be good for the state’s economy. A recent editorial in the Sun-Sentinel pushed back on the governor’s claims, saying that eliminating corporate income taxes for manufacturers and retailers won’t address Florida’s problems. 

***

Do you have a exciting piece of state tax news that should be featured in the State Rundown? Send it to Sebastian at sdpjohnson@itep.org. And don't forget to sign up for the Tax Justice Digest and follow ITEP on Facebook and Twitter!


State Rundown 11/20: Incentives, Deficits and Unexpected Windfalls


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Oklahoma officials want an independent review of business incentives that cost the state more than $355 million each year. A new law that took effect at the beginning of this month established an Incentive Evaluation Commission charged with looking at tax credits, deductions, expenditures, rebates, grants and loans intended to promote business relocation and expansion. Under the law, each business incentive will be reviewed every four years. Currently, just two incentives – the Investment/New Jobs Tax Credit and the Quality Jobs Program – account for over $180 million in lost revenue for the state, and have failed to meet rosy job creation projections. State Auditor Inspector Gary Jones is cautiously optimistic about the independent review process, saying, “Some of these things ought to be eliminated….The problem is, you’re leaving so much to people whose jobs depend on campaign contributions.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who recently abandoned his bid for the presidency, returns to a state in budget turmoil. Louisiana’s budget officials predict the state faces a deficit of $370 million after downgrading their projections for 2015-2016 fiscal year revenue. The shortfall is due to freefalling oil and gas prices as well as anemic business tax collections. The state must also contend with a $117 million deficit from last fiscal year that has yet to be addressed. This mid-year deficit is the eighth time in Jindal’s eight years in office that revenue has come in under projections. There will likely be cuts to critical services. Both of the candidates vying to replace Jindal have said they will call a special session in 2016 to deal with the budget and revenue crisis.

Improved budget numbers in South Carolina have caused some officials to question whether the state needs to raise its gasoline excise tax – last increased over 26 years ago. Forecasters say the state will see an additional $1.2 billion next year in unallocated money and new tax revenues. State Sen. Tom Davis says that rather than increase the gas tax, road repairs should be funded with this unexpected revenue.  Of course, funding long-term infrastructure projects with what appears to be a one-time windfall will create sustainability problems down the road.  In the last session, Haley attempted to use the push for a gas tax increase as an opportunity to enact a significant income tax cut for high-income households. A similar “tax shift” will likely be on the table once again during the upcoming session.


State Rundown 11/6: Election Day Wrap Up


| | Bookmark and Share

Voters went to the polls in a number of state and local elections this week, with lots of implications for tax policy. This rundown covers the burning ballot outcomes and election results that followers of state policy should know about!

***

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Washington state voters approved Tim Eyeman’s Initiative 1366 with 53 percent of the vote. The measure mandates an automatic decrease in sales tax revenue by $1 billion unless the legislature agrees to refer a ballot measure to voters that would require a supermajority to raise taxes. As we noted in a previous blog post, Initiative 1366 is a disaster for the state. Legal challenges to its legitimacy are sure to follow, but at the moment eyes are on state legislators and what they will do to avoid both the revenue loss and the supermajority requirement.

Voters in Texas approved two proposals that will impact road and school funding. Proposition 1, which increased the property tax homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, will cost schools in the state at least $1.2 billion over the biennium. Homeowners will keep $126 annually, on average. The measure passed with 86 percent of the vote. Proposition 7 diverts up to $2.5 billion a year in sales tax revenue from the general fund to the State Highway Fund beginning in 2018. It passed with 83 percent of the vote.

Ten out of seventeen counties in Utah passed a ballot initiative for transit funding, though the measure went down in defeat in the state’s most populous counties, Salt Lake and Utah. Proposition 1 implements a local sales tax with revenue split between transit providers, cities and counties.

Voters in Kentucky elected Republican Matt Bevin governor in an upset over challenger Jack Conway, the state’s attorney general. Bevin, a businessman often at odds with his own party’s mainstream, has pledged to end Kentucky’s successful healthcare exchange and is opposed to Medicaid expansion. He has also called for corporate and personal income tax cuts and for the repeal of Kentucky’s inheritance tax. Bevin’s election is likely to move Kentucky tax policy in a less fair and unsustainable direction.

Mississippi voters easily reelected Gov. Phil Bryant, who faced token opposition from Robert Gray, a long haul truck driver. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Phil Gunn, both also reelected, were responsible for a flurry of tax bills last session that would have lowered income taxes and eliminated the corporate franchise tax. At one point, lawmakers considered eliminating the income tax entirely. These efforts failed because backers could not gain a supermajority vote for their changes; now, Republicans are just one vote away from a supermajority. Expect more of the same during the state’s next legislative session.

In a bright spot, voters in Seattle, WA and Maine approved ballot questions to limit the influence of money in politics and to increase the power of small donors. Maine voters passed by 55 percent a proposal to update their public elections system. Candidates who opt for public funding will now receive additional funds if super PACs spend big for their opponents, and the transparency rules for independent spending have been tightened. The question also requires the legislature to scale back or repeal some business tax breaks in order to fund public financing. Voters in Seattle passed by 60 percent a new concept called “democracy vouchers.” Each citizen will receive four $25 publicly-funded vouchers to pledge to candidates of their choosing. The Seattle initiative also lowered campaign contribution limits, increased ethics enforcement, and banned contributions from lobbyists and city contractors. Hopefully, these measures will make lawmakers more responsive to the public on matters of tax fairness rather than entrenched interests.

 


State Rundown 10/30: Spooky Appointments, Phantom Tax Increases


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, clearly not a regular reader of this blog, nominated Art Laffer acolyte Ford Scudder to be state treasurer. Scudder is chief operating officer of Laffer Associates and an analyst at Laffer Investments. If appointed to the position, Scudder would be responsible for crafting the state budget and overseeing state investments, pensions and benefits, state debts and lottery revenue. Senate President Stephen Sweeney was not impressed by the governor’s move: "The so-called Laffer curve came to embody the trickle-down economic policies that were discredited because they favored the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. New Jersey is not the place to reintroduce the policies that caused so much lasting damage to the economy.” This is not the first time a Laffer associate has served in state government. Donna Arduin, a partner in Laffer’s consulting firm, recently left a high-profile position in Illinois (which remains mired in a budget standoff) and Laffer himself was a prominent architect of Sam Brownback’s failed tax experiment.

Louisiana voters decided on four constitutional amendments with implications for the state’s fiscal health this past weekend. Voters rejected Amendment 1, a proposal to weaken the state’s rainy day fund to benefit transportation projects, and Amendment 3, which would have loosened the rules around which bills could be offered during the fiscal legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years. Voters approved Amendment 2, a proposal that gives the state treasurer the option of investing funds in the state infrastructure bank, by a slim margin. The infrastructure bank allows local governments to borrow money at favorable rates for infrastructure projects. Voters also approved Amendment 4, which allows local governments to collect property taxes on properties owned by state and local governments outside of Louisiana.

A Maryland environmental group is challenging one jurisdiction’s plan to phase out a stormwater fee – also derided as a “rain tax” – without first spelling out an alternative way of paying for required environmental projects. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation argues that Baltimore County, which plans to eliminate the stormwater fee over two years, must first specify how it will pay for state-mandated projects designed to reduce water pollution. In 2012, the state legislature required urban and suburban districts to collect the stormwater fees to reduce runoff; under newly-elected Gov. Larry Hogan, the law was revised to allow jurisdictions to drop the fee if they dedicate another source of money to the required projects.

A bill that will fix an unintended feature of a recently-enacted tax cut passed the Ohio legislature this week and will now go to Gov. Kasich for his signature. In June, lawmakers passed a tax cut that allows business owners to deduct up to 75 percent of their first $250,000 in business income this tax year, and 100 percent of that amount in 2016. Any income in excess of $250,000 would then be subject to a flat tax of 3 percent in both years. However, as the law was originally enacted, the 2015 exemption only covered 75 percent of the first $250,000 and the other 25 percent (as well as any income over $250,000) would have been subject to a 3 percent flat tax.  For some taxpayers, this would have resulted in a tax increase since the state’s current graduated income tax system includes rates as low as 0.528% on low levels of income. Essentially, the tax cut included an accidental tax increase. The recently passed measure fixes the oversight, though it’s worth noting Ohio would have avoided $81 million in revenue losses next fiscal year if no correction was made. 


State Rundown 10/23: Cuts, Roads and Student Kickbacks


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

A coalition of Iowa student leaders is calling for a tax incentive to keep graduate and professional students in the state. Student government leaders from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa want lawmakers to implement a 50 percent income tax break for graduate and professional students who reside in Iowa for up to five years after graduation. For students who choose to reside in rural areas, the tax break would increase to 75 percent. Student leaders say the measure would address a shortage of healthcare and legal professionals in the state. However, a recent survey of Iowa graduate and professional students found that employment opportunities were the biggest factor in choosing to remain in the state, not tax incentives.

The battle over road funding in Michigan continues. House Republicans managed to pass a road funding plan despite objections by chamber Democrats, though some say the measure is unlikely to pass. The measure would increase the state’s gasoline excise tax by 3.3 cents per gallon, increase the state’s diesel tax by 7.3 cents per gallon over two years, and increase vehicle registration fees by 40 percent. It would also shift hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund to the roads budget. In a bizarre twist, House Republicans decided to tie these revenue-raising measures to a triggered personal income tax rate cut that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and could ultimately repeal the state’s income tax entirely. Critics say the proposal would fail to raise enough revenue and that the income tax cut and general fund transfer could cause major budget problems down the road. They generally favor a larger increase in the gas excise tax. The bill is the latest salvo in transportation talks between the legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder that have collapsed into impasse. Voters rejected a sales tax increase to pay for road construction in May.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will push a package of income and property tax cuts next legislative session, according to a recent address the governor delivered to Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. Ricketts claimed that cutting taxes would be the key to economic growth and would be his “No. 1 issue.” Similar efforts to cut income and property taxes failed in Nebraska during the last legislative session. An ITEP analysis of one of these plans found that wealthier Nebraskans would benefit disproportionately, while revenue losses would be drastic. 


State Rundown 10/16: More Cuts, Less Funding


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

The Clarion-Ledger reports that transportation funding could be a “sleeper issue” in Mississippi’s upcoming election. The state has not raised its gas tax, right now at 18.4 cents per gallon, since 1987 and road conditions reflect the lack of investment. Last fall, state highway officials were forced to tell farmers and other businesspeople that crucial bridges connecting fields and ports were off limits to heavy trucks. Many decided to flout the state’s rules and send heavy trucks across the deteriorating bridges, which have collapsed on occasion. The Department of Transportation estimates that $400 million a year in additional revenue will be needed just to maintain current road conditions.  

Low oil prices pose a challenge for state budgets in Texas and Oklahoma. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar lowered revenue projections by $2.6 billion from his January estimate, citing lower economic growth than anticipated and undercutting the fabled “Texas Miracle” narrative of low taxes leading to gangbusters economic expansion. Meanwhile, Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger reported that general fund apportionments were below projections last month due to falling oil prices and accompanying job loss. Notably, while personal and corporate income tax revenues exceeded projections, sales and gross receipt tax revenues were far below projections. Many conservative lawmakers advocate a move from income to consumption taxes, but Oklahoma’s example indicates that such a move could be bad for budget stability.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants more tax cuts and additional funds for corporate tax incentives, but so far the legislature is not biting. Scott pledged during his reelection campaign last year to cut taxes by $1 billion. He is almost halfway there after lawmakers passed a $427 billion package of tax cuts during the most recent legislative session, but even conservatives have yet to endorse a further round of cuts and more corporate giveaways. Senate President Andy Gardiner says $250 more in cuts could be possible, but balked at more money for corporate incentives. Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner decried new tax cuts and more “corporate welfare” as “grand abdications of the public trust.”

Florida House lawmakers are considering a different tax plan that would not cut taxes but swap revenue sources. The House Tax and Finance Committee is exploring options that would allow it to reduce property taxes by increasing sales taxes. One proposal would exempt the first $1 million of a property’s appraised value from property tax liability and cover 98 percent of property in the state. In return, the sales tax rate would have to increase by 4.93 percentage points. Some lawmakers were outraged at the proposals, as poor Floridians already pay eight times as much of their income in sales taxes as the wealthy. An editorial in The Gainesville Sun notes that “Florida already has one of the most unfair tax systems in the country, and the sales-tax plan would only make it worse. Making Florida even more reliant on the sales tax would also force greater cuts of schools, safety-net programs and other government expenses whenever the state experienced a recession.”


State Rundown 10/8: Credits, Cuts and Britney Bill


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Plans to eliminate the state income tax in Arizona continue, with State Rep. Darin Mitchell telling officials that the push will come during the next legislative session. Mitchell, who chairs the Arizona House Ways and Means Committee, says the current strategy is to fight for a flat income tax that can be slowly eliminated over time: “We want to go to a flat tax next year, and then, maybe over the next five or six years we’ll ratchet down the collection until it no longer exists. We’ll just increase sales tax, on certain items.” Mitchell expects that Gov. Doug Ducey, who ran for election on a platform of eliminating the income tax, will support his plan. Were Mitchell’s plan to actually go forward, tax fairness in Arizona would become much worse. According to ITEP’s Who Pays? report, Arizona has the 8th most unfair tax system in the country, and the bottom 20 percent pay almost three times as much in taxes as a share of their income as do the top one percent.

New Jersey legislators are set to consider yet another tax cut for Atlantic City. The “Britney bill,” named after entertainer Britney Spears, would allow performers who play at least four nights in Atlantic City to avoid paying state income taxes on any income they make on any shows performed in New Jersey for the entire year. Proponents hope the measure will bring more high-profile stars to Atlantic City to do residencies, a popular practice in AC rival Las Vegas. Opponents, including New Jersey Policy Perspective, say the idea is a waste of money since performers follow audiences, not tax cuts. It’s worth noting that other tax breaks, including $400 million for failed casino project Revel, have not turned around Atlantic City’s economic prospects thus far.

The top budget official in Ohio said that legalizing marijuana could bring in $293 million in new tax revenue if a ballot initiative proposed for this November is approved by voters. Budget Director Tim Keene said that figure was based on the proposed new legal market capturing 70 percent of marijuana sales in the state. The backers of the ballot proposal say Keene’s estimate is too low, and that passage of the ballot measure could bring up to $500 million in new revenue to state coffers. 

Michigan Democrats recently unveiled a new plan to deliver tax cuts to middle-income families. Under the plan, a new $400-per-child income tax credit would be established for children under 13 living in households making up to $100,000. A new dependent care income tax credit would apply to these same households to offset some of the cost of childcare and eldercare. The Homestead Property Tax Credit would be expanded to cover families with income up to $100,000, increasing the threshold from $50,000. Seniors 65 and older would get an income tax exemption of $2,300 while all Michigan residents would get an income tax credit of up to 50% of the amount paid on state and federal student loans. House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said the $1 billion tax cut plan could be paid for by increasing the corporate income tax and renegotiating unredeemed refundable tax credits given to corporations.

Idaho State Commerce Director Jeff Sayer cautioned lawmakers that the state needed to demonstrate a commitment to public investments rather than cutting taxes to attract new residents and businesses. “In all of those conversations we’ve had with industry leaders, not one of them has brought up tax rates,” he noted, arguing that investments in education, infrastructure and broadband internet would bring more residents and higher-paying jobs. The Idaho Department of Labor projects that 109,000 new jobs will come to the state over the next decade, but only 14,000 working-age adults will become new residents in the same time period.


State Rundown 9/30: Fall Budget Tumbles


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Michiganders will pay sales and use tax on online purchases for the first time when a new law goes into effect this Thursday. The Main Street Fairness Act, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in January, requires out-of-state companies with a physical presence in the state, such as a warehouse or distribution center, to collect and remit sales and use taxes on online purchases made by Michigan residents. State analysts estimate that the measure will increase revenue by $60 million annually. The Michigan law is the latest in a series of so-called “Amazon laws,” named after the largest online retailer most likely to be affected by such measures. For more on this story, check out this ITEP blog post.

Conservative lawmakers in Arizona could be gearing up for a push to eliminate the state’s income tax, according to trial balloons in Forbes and by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC). The recent advocacy comes from none other than Travis Brown and Stephen Moore, the Scooby Doo villains seemingly behind every terrible state tax plan. In Forbes, Brown uses praise for Gov. Doug Ducey’s education plan as an excuse to argue that Arizona should eliminate its income tax because “now is the time to end the price on work…. There’s no need for such an innovative and financially attractive place as Arizona to slap a growth-discouraging premium on doing business in the state.” Moore argues in a paper on behalf of AFEC that eliminating the income tax would make Arizona more competitive and attract jobs, investments and new residents. Left unmentioned were the disaster in Kansas, where lawmakers took such advice to heart, or the numerous studies showing that businesses and residents don’t follow income tax cuts. 

The budget impasse in Illinois continues with no end in sight. This week, Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White warned that the lights at the state capitol could be cut off if lawmakers can’t reach a deal. Moody’s noted that even reinstating the income tax increase that expired in January, a source of continuing conflict between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature, won’t be enough to close the $5 billion gap. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger says the state’s backlog of unpaid bills could hit $8.5 billion by the end of December. Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has proposed a city property tax increase of $543 million over the next three years to avoid huge spending cuts.

Deadlock is the name of the game in Pennsylvania, too, where Gov. Tom Wolf and the legislature have yet to agree on a new budget. The governor and key lawmakers met on and off on Monday, which marked 90 days since the start of the fiscal year, but there were no breakthroughs. Gov. Wolf has proposed a tax plan  that would increase education funding and eliminate the budget deficit, while legislators want to privatize state-run wine and liquor stores and reduce pension spending. Wolf says he plans to veto a continuing resolution passed by the legislature since the state has waited too long for a permanent solution. Yields on state bonds have increased as investors see Pennsylvania’s financial situation as increasingly risky


State Rundown 9/24: Money for Schools, Money for Roads


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Progressive activists in California introduced a new ballot proposal this week that would make permanent temporary income tax increases on the state’s highest earners included in Proposition 30, which passed in 2012 and expires in 2018. Under the measure California couples making more than $580,000 annually would pay higher rates on their income. The new measure would also implement a higher income tax rate on couples earning more than $2 million annually. If enacted, the proposal would increase state revenues by about $10 billion each year, with the money going to K-12 education, healthcare subsidies for low-income citizens, and early childhood development. Last week, a coalition of labor unions endorsed their own version of a Proposition 30 replacement. That measure would extend all of the income tax increases under Proposition 30 through 2030, raising $7 to $9 billion in new revenue earmarked to K-12 funding. Neither of the new proposals would extend the sales tax increase in Proposition 30 past its 2016 expiration.

Arizona Rep. Charlene Fernandez is taking on the state’s controversial income tax credits for private school tuition, saying the program has “existed within a system that lacks transparency and accountability” for almost 20 years. Fernandez points out that, even though fewer students attend private schools in Arizona now than when the credits were created, more state revenue is being spent on private school tuition. An investigation by The Arizona Republic found that while legislative staff estimated the credits would cost the state just $4.5 million annually in 1997, today they cost $140 million every year. Worse, over $80 million in state money has paid administrative fees for scholarship organizations since 1998 instead of supporting students. Rep. Fernandez wants stricter oversight of the program, but partisan resistance has blocked her efforts.

Wallethub recently put out a 50-state study that combines their survey data with ITEP’s distributional data from Who Pays? to compare public perception of state and local tax fairness with the reality on the ground. According to the results of Wallethub’s survey, both Democrats and Republicans support progressive taxation at the state level, despite every state having an upside down and regressive tax system. Though the survey data is useful in pointing out that the majority of Americans support progressive taxation, it’s best to stick to ITEP’s distributional analysis as the best measure of fairness since in some cases perception can distort reality.

New Jersey lawmakers could support an increase in the state’s gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1988, to address a huge backlog of transportation maintenance and construction projects. However, some legislators, including Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, want to couple any gas tax increase with a decrease in New Jersey’s estate tax. Currently, the estate tax is levied on estates valued at more than $675,000; raising the threshold to the federal level of $5.34 million, as some advocate, could cost New Jersey $300 million in lost revenue. Worse, the benefits of an estate tax cuts would accrue to just over 3,300 wealthy households, making an estate tax cut an especially poor offset for increased gas taxes, which would disproportionately affect low-income and middle-class households. Bramnick has also suggested a gas tax increase could be avoided if the state were the cut $1 billion from its in education budget.

A big property tax cut championed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has failed to pan out as predicted. Two years ago, legislators limited the growth rate for property tax assessments on residential and agricultural properties, reduced the assessment threshold for commercial and industrial properties and provided tax credits to businesses and individuals. Proponents argued that the package would stimulate the economy. But, as The Associated Press reports, “it is difficult to assess exactly how many jobs have been created or businesses enhanced because of the tax cut. The state’s unemployment rate has declined over the past year, but the tax cut can’t be directly credited with that.” Today, the tax cuts are a big drag on the state budget, costing $260 million in this fiscal year alone. Much of that money was earmarked as state aid to local municipalities, who were hit hard by lost property tax revenue. 


State Rundown 9/16: Let's Make A Deal


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Leaders in New Hampshire voted on a final budget deal this week after months of wrangling between Gov. Maggie Hassan and legislative leaders. Hassan vetoed a budget passed by the legislature in June, and lawmakers were unable to overcome her veto. The budget dispute centered on business tax cuts pursued by the legislature but opposed by the governor. The final compromise will cut taxes by the same amount as the vetoed budget over the biennium, but the second round of tax cuts will be contingent upon state revenues meeting certain targets. If lawmakers pass the compromise budget, the business profits tax (BPT) rate will decrease from 8.5 to 8.2 percent and the business enterprise tax (BET) rate will be lowered to 0.72 percent in 2016. In 2018, the BPT rate will fall to 7.9 percent and the BET rate will fall to 0.675 percent, provided the revenue trigger is met.

Alabama lawmakers also moved to resolve a longstanding budget impasse as state leaders get closer to an October 1 deadline. There, legislators and the governor disagree over how to make up a projected $200 million budget gap. This week, the legislature passed a cigarette excise tax of 25 cents per pack and approved a permanent shift of some use tax revenue from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund. Revenue from the use tax, a sales tax on goods purchased outside the state, tends to growth with the economy, while the General Fund revenues have remained flat since 2008. The portion of revenue moved to the general fund is projected to yield $80 million. The cigarette tax increase was opposed by some conservatives, while progressive lawmakers said the transfer of funds out of the Education Trust Fund could hurt public schools. Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to sign both measures.  The state capitol was the site of dueling rallies by progressive groups and Alabama tea partiers over various tax proposals designed to close the budget gap.

West Virginians continue to urge their state legislators to exercise caution on tax reform proposals, despite Art Laffer’s encouragement. Ted Boettner of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy noted that “Years of austerity and tax cuts have not boosted the West Virginia’s economy,” and that previous tax cuts have not kept the state from ranking first nationally in unemployment. “Taxes pay for services businesses want and need.” Boettner echoes the advice of Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, who said legislators should focus on other ways to make West Virginia more competitive, like workforce and infrastructure investments.

Local officials in Indiana are worried that a push from big-box retailers will spell big revenue losses for cities and towns and a higher tax bill for homeowners. The concern arises because some retailers insist that their stores should be assessed as vacant structures for sale instead of based on their value as active stores. Some retailers have successfully appealed their assessments before tax courts, forcing jurisdictions to issue millions in refunds. A legislative fix was approved by the lawmakers in Indianapolis, but the change only limits property value comparisons to vacant structures that have been up for sale for less than a year and used for similar purposes. It is unlikely the law will address the underlying dispute over property valuation, and local officials want stronger language.

State gambling revenue has been flat since the Great Recession, according to the Rockefeller Institute, thanks to a lack of interest in traditional gaming from younger consumers. Polling from the American Gaming Association finds that younger players are more attracted to table games, which bring in less casino revenue, than they are slots, which are the most lucrative form of gaming. Other studies found that younger gamers spent more on food, entertainment and drink than gambling at casinos. The studies highlight the danger of states relying on gambling revenue rather than more traditional sources not subject to industry volatility. 

 


State Rundown 9/9: Spin, Opinions and Tax Cuts


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Louisiana voters will consider ballot initiatives next month regarding road and bridge funding. The first measure would steer tax revenues from oil and gas from the state’s rainy day fund to its transportation fund. If approved, $21 million would shift from the rainy day fund to the state highway system in each of the next five years, with up to $100 million annually shifted to transportation thereafter. The second measure would establish a state transportation infrastructure bank, which would use public funds to offer loans and credit to public and private transportation projects. Of course, Louisiana’s legislators could also address the state’s $12 billion backlog in infrastructure needs by raising the state gas tax, which hasn’t changed in over 25 years or kept pace with inflation.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has changed his spin on the disastrous tax cuts he enacted two years ago, preferring now to focus on employment numbers instead of the promised revenue growth. When asked about his policies by a local reporter, Brownback replied, “The tax cuts were always designed around jobs and economic growth. Wasn’t designed around revenue for the state.” This, of course, is false – in 2012, Brownback and economist Art Laffer claimed tax cuts would increase revenue growth by 5 percent. And despite Brownback’s sunny job growth rhetoric, Kansas still lags the nation in that category. But what use are facts to a good story?

The Illinois budget might be a disaster at the moment, but one company will still get a tax cut. Amazon will receive a corporate tax credit for a new warehouse in Joliet, despite the fact that the corporate recruiting program was put on hold in June during the budget showdown. Economists have consistently questioned whether tax incentives matter to company relocation, and some Illinois legislators called for the decision to be reviewed. The state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity says the tax credits were awarded to Amazon to honor a commitment made before the suspension of the corporate recruiting program, though some question that logic. Rep. Jack Franks asked, “"I'm not sure why we would provide tax credits to a company that's already made a decision to come here. If they've already said they're doing this, what benefit is there to the state?"

Tax reform proposals from conservative legislators in Georgia would make life’s necessities more expensive, according to an editorial in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Columnist Jay Bookman, citing ITEP data, argues that conservative plans to cut the income tax and replace the lost revenue by increasing sales taxes and applying the sales tax to groceries would result in higher taxes for middle and low-income families and tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals. Bookman also notes that the move could have a negative impact on the state’s bond rating if revenues don’t materialize as expected, and that families at the bottom of the income scale have already lost purchasing power.

Another editorial in The Toledo Blade argues that Ohio workers fare worse than others across the country, thanks in part to the misguided policies of current Gov. John Kasich. The column cites ITEP data to show that, under the governor’s new tax plan, the top one percent of Ohio taxpayers will receive an average cut of $17,600 while the bottom 20 percent will pay more. During his tenure Kasich also eliminated the estate tax, which provided revenue for local aid. With less aid from the state, poorer cities have struggled to get by or have been forced to raise local taxes on their already cash-strapped residents. 


State Rundown 9/3: Back to School, Back to the Drawing Board


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

The Texas Supreme Court this heard oral arguments in a school finance case regarding recession-era education budget cuts. In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut K-12 education spending by $5.4 billion and per-pupil spending declined by more than 8 percent. More than 600 school districts sued the state, arguing that the cuts make it impossible to meet minimum education standards and that funding is inadequate and unfairly apportioned. Over the past four years, the state has restored about $5 billion in funding, but District Judge John Dietz still sided with the plaintiffs, declaring that the funding system is unconstitutional. The state then appealed the case. Texas, which has no income tax, relies on local property taxes to fund its public schools. In 1993 the legislature passed the “Robin Hood” plan, which mandated some revenue sharing between wealthy and poor school districts.

The latest group to be fed up with the interminable budget impasse in Illinois is credit rating agency Moody’s, which said that the stalemate is a sign of “weak governance.” Moody’s warned Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers that failure to reach an agreement by late September would turn a projected deficit of $5.14 billion into an actual one. Moody’s suggested that raising the income tax would be the most logical solution, as the state “has the economic capacity to absorb higher income tax rates. It is one of only eight states that levy a flat individual income tax. Among those states, Illinois’ current rate is comparatively low: the average among these states is 4.4%, compared with 3.75% in Illinois.” Increasing the personal income tax by 1 percent and the corporate income tax by 1.5 percentage points would generate approximately $2.4 billion in additional revenue.

Michigan group Citizens for Fair Taxes is fighting for a ballot initiative that would increase the state corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 11 percent, a change they say would bring in $900 million annually for public roads and reverse the tax shift from businesses to working families begun under Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011. About one-third of Michigan businesses are subject to the corporate income tax. If the group collects 253,000 signatures, the proposal would go before the legislature. If the legislature fails to act or votes down the proposal, it will be put to the voters on the November 2016 ballot.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is fighting to keep GE headquarters in the state after the company threatened to move. Some state leaders want to repeal the combined reporting requirement just enacted as part of the tax package supporting the two-year budget in June. Malloy is working with officials to create a sweetheart package of tax incentives to keep GE in the state. The move comes after GE used its political clout to force the legislature into special session this June, after the tax package narrowly won legislative approval despite business objections. Numerous studies have shown that taxes are not the primary driver behind business relocation decisions, but GE and other business still use the threat of relocation to wring concessions out of state and local governments.

Speaking of dubious tax claims, Art Laffer urged West Virginia leaders to slash income taxes to stimulate economic growth, weeks after the state’s commerce secretary said taxes were a non-issue in business relocation decisions. The secretary stated that West Virginia’s uneducated workforce was a larger factor in attracting new companies to the state. Unmoved by facts, Laffer told the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that lower taxes and a reduced social safety net would result in more growth: “If you tax rich people and give money to poor people, you're going to get lots and lots of poor people and no rich people.” Laffer’s remarks were praised by Senate President Bill Cole, who said, “There's no question in my mind that, by itself, it could be the single biggest and largest economic driver that this state has ever seen. I think he's spot on. I think, virtually, everything he's said has proven itself out in history.” Clearly Sen. Cole has never been to Kansas.

A recent op-ed in The Huntsville Times outlines how Alabama legislators could reform the state’s tax system without constitutional amendments. The four proposals outlined would reform the state’s business privilege tax by reducing rates for small businesses and increasing them on large multinational businesses, require combined reporting on corporate income tax forms, increase the cigarette excise tax, and transfer use tax revenues to the General Fund. Author Carol Gundlach of Arise Citizen’s Policy Project says these reforms would avoid harmful cuts to Medicaid, prisons and mental health being considered by legislators.

 

Do you have a hot state tax tip? Send it to sdpjohnson@itep.org for the next State Rundown!

 


State Rundown 8/20: Summertime Sadness


| | Bookmark and Share

Budget gridlock continues in a few states across the country, including North Carolina where lawmakers are dragging through one of the longest sessions in 40 years, and taxpayers have already spent an extra $1 million to keep the legislature in session. House and Senate leaders agreed on a $21.74 billion budget, or roughly the mid-point between the two chambers' spending packages passed earlier this summer.  However, lawmakers now need to agree on how to spend the money.  As a News and Observer editorial notes, such a restrictive level of spending keeps the state's budget "suspended in the recession’s gloomy economic period." A proposed change to local sales tax revenue also caused deadlock. Rural legislators would like to redistribute local sales tax revenue from urban areas and tourist destinations to their jurisdictions, while legislators from those places say the change would require a tax hike on their constituents. Last week legislators passed a stopgap funding measure through Aug. 31.

The Michigan House this week again debated road funding but adjourned Wednesday without a deal, the latest move in a long debate that has already defeated a ballot measure and threatened the state’s EITC. After voters torpedoed a sales tax increase at the polls that would have paid for transportation improvements, both chambers of the legislature passed alternative funding plans. The compromise package called for $600 million in new fuel tax and vehicle registration tax increases as well as a transfer of $600 million in income tax revenue from the general fund. Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic legislators balked at the general fund transfer, while Republicans in the House were slow to rally around the new taxes. Both houses of the legislature will return after Labor Day.

A controversial education tax credit in Kansas is drawing fire from critics who say it directs public money to religious schools. Created in 2014, the Kansas Low-Income Students Scholarship Program allows non-profit organizations to collect donations from businesses to pay private school tuition for low-income students who attend public schools with low test scores. In return, businesses are allowed a state income tax credit equal to 70 percent of their donation. More than 50 private schools, many of which offer religious education, have signed up for the program. Opponents of the scholarships say the program is unconstitutional, as Article 6 of the State Constitution states “No religious sect or sects shall control any part of the public educational funds.”

New Jersey lawmakers are trading proposals to cut taxes on yacht owners with Gov. Chris Christie. Lawmakers sent a budget to the governor that capped the 7 percent sales tax on yachts at $20,000, a windfall for boats costing more than $286,000. Christie vetoed that measure and responded with a plan that would halve the yacht sales tax from 7 percent to 3.5 percent. Marinas and boat retailers favor the governor’s plan. The vetoed plan would have cost between $3 million and $4 million; estimates on the governor’s alternative are not available but are expected to be higher. Legislators will consider Christie’s proposal when the legislature reconvenes, perhaps as soon as September.

As West Virginia legislators continue to consider changes to the state’s income tax structure to draw more businesses, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette questioned whether such an effort was necessary. Burdette pointed out that location was the number one reason that companies chose not to expand in the Mountain State:  “We don’t lose prospects over taxes; I’m not sure we lose them over regulations any more. We lose them over site.” Burdette also pointed out that the state’s lack of an educated workforce hurts business recruitment efforts. “Simply making us the lowest cost state without acknowledging and focusing attention and resources on other factors which make an attractive business climate would be a mistake,” Burdette acknowledged. 


State Rundown 7/22: The Dog Days of Summer


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

The Illinois budget saga continues as Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan remain at odds. After Rauner vetoed the FY15-17 spending plan passed by the legislature, lawmakers were unable to override it – resulting in a one-month stop-gap state budget passed last week. However, the governor insists that he won’t sign these piecemeal measures, and demands that Madigan embrace his reforms. Any new revenues will have to be passed with a veto-proof majority, as Rauner has pledged not to raise taxes.

Impasse continues in Michigan as well, where the House lacks the votes to pass the roads funding bill that barely passed the Senate. The Senate plan would have increased the gas tax by 15 cents, raised diesel taxes and cut non-transportation areas of the state budget by $700 million. Legislators are wary of enacting gas tax increases after a ballot proposal that would have raised revenue for transportation was defeated by the voters in May. The state legislature will adjourn until mid-August, when new proposals could be offered.

The Maine Republican Party has signed on to help fund and promote Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to put a proposal to phase out and eliminate the state’s income tax before voters. GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said the party would help collect the tens of thousands of signatures required to put the measure on the 2016 ballot. The deadline for gathering signatures is in January.

An Arizona personal income tax credit for contributions to public schools is drawing attention from citizens concerned that it exacerbates inequality. According to The Arizona Republic, a small number of schools in wealthy areas receive most of the donations eligible for the dollar-for-dollar credit – on average nearly $400 per student. One school received almost $900,000 in one year. The average per-pupil expenditure statewide is just $45 in state income tax revenue. The donations were restricted to extracurricular spending, but the legislature approved a change this session that will allow the money to be spent on SAT and AP tests – worsening academic inequality between rich and poor districts. Coupled with proposed K-12 budget cuts at the state level, this income tax credit funnels resources from lower-income to upper-income school districts.

Ohio legislators inadvertently raised taxes on businesses despite attempting to enact deep cuts for them in the recently passed budget. Under the terms of the budget, business income above $250,000 was to be taxed at a reduced rate of 3 percent under the personal income tax. Instead, the legislative language omitted the $250,000 cutoff, saying that all business income would be taxed at a rate of 3 percent. And under Ohio’s graduated income tax structure, most business owners paid a rate lower than 3 percent on their business income. Lawmakers trying to give businesses a break through a flat tax and mistakenly taxing them more is the height of irony. State Senate President Keith Faber says the legislature will fix the error in the fall. For more on how this mishap highlights the need for a graduated income tax, check out this piece from Policy Matters Ohio.

New Jersey officials are considering an increase in the state’s tax on wholesale petroleum (currently at 4 cents a gallon) in the wake of a transit fare hike.  Lawmakers failed to pass an increase in the gasoline tax during the session – at 10.5 cents a gallon, New Jersey’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation. The wholesale petroleum tax and gasoline excise tax support the state’s transportation fund, which is dangerously close to running out of money.  

 


State Rundown 7/1: Fiscal Year Blues


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

The budget showdown between Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and the state legislature continues. Republican lawmakers want to close a large budget gap without new taxes, while the governor has proposed a property tax reform measure and a new tax on natural gas extraction. Wolf has threatened to veto a budget with no tax increases. With the fiscal year ending today, pressure is on for leaders to make a deal. If that deadline is passes without a resolution, most observers expect business to continue as usual for state workers in the short term.

Washington state legislators reached an agreement on transportation spending that includes an increase in the state’s gas excise tax. The $15 billion package will increase the tax by 11.9 cents-per-gallon over three years. Gov. Jay Inslee previously pledged to sign any deal between the House and Senate, making enactment of this deal likely.

New Jersey is poised to increase the state EITC to 30 percent of the federal credit after a surprise endorsement from Gov. Chris Christie. As New Jersey Policy Perspective notes, the increase will help over 500,000 working families and boost the state economy: “It’s been estimated…that the EITC has a multiplier effect of 1.5 to 2 in local economies – in other words, every dollar of tax credit paid ends up generating $1.50 to $2 in local economic activity.”

Connecticut lawmakers reached a deal on the budget in a special session after Gov. Dannel Malloy called lawmakers back to the capital at the behest of corporate lobbyists. At issue was an increase in the state’s sales tax on computer and data processing services from 1 to 3 percent, as well as new combined reporting rules for businesses operating in Connecticut. The legislature backed down on those changes after corporations decried the measures and leaned heavily on the governor. The new deal maintains the sales tax rate on computer and data processing and delays the start of combined reporting by one year.  To make up the lost revenue from those changes, lawmakers reduced Medicaid spending by $12.5 million, reduced a scheduled state employee pay increase by .5%, partially delayed a transfer of sales tax revenue to transportation projects, and delayed some new municipal revenue sharing.  

Oregon will launch a new experiment this month that aims to change the way we fund road construction and repair. The program, called OReGO, will charge 5,000 volunteer drivers a 1.5 cent-per-mile road usage charge, also known as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, rather than the traditional state gas excise tax at the pump. The program is meant to address declining revenues from the gas tax, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and the maintenance needs of aging infrastructure skyrocket. While some observers are optimistic that VMT taxes could prove to be a more sustainable revenue source, there is reason to be more skeptical. As ITEP’s Carl Davis points out in a new report, “[Oregon’s] new VMT tax is an unsustainable revenue source because it contains the same design flaw that has plagued the state’s gasoline tax for almost a century—a stagnant, fixed tax rate that is incapable of keeping pace with inflation.” Davis suggests indexing current state gas excise tax rates to inflation before beginning to experiment with entirely new funding mechanisms.

 

States Still In Legislative Session:
Alabama
Illinois
Maine
Massachusetts
Michigan
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Washington
Wisconsin

 


State Rundown 6/24: High-End Boats and Low-End Credits


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

In a textbook example of a silver lining, working families in Colorado could see an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) enacted this year thanks in part to the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Enacted in 1992, TABOR limits the amount of revenue that the state and local governments can collect and spend. Any revenue over the TABOR limit must be sent back to taxpayers through a complex set of formulas. While TABOR is inflexible and prevents the state government from responding effectively to crises, in this case it has worked to the benefit of Coloradans near the bottom of the income scale. Once the state EITC is triggered as a TABOR rebate, it becomes a permanent tax credit set at 10 percent of the federal level. The EITC will benefit 300,000 working families in the state and boost 75,000 individuals – half of them children – out of poverty.

States all along the East Coast are competing for a slice of the yacht business through hefty sales tax breaks, as reported in The Washington Post. New York recently passed a law limiting sales taxes on yacht purchases to $20,000 to counter Florida’s 2010 sales tax limit of $18,000. (For context, an owner purchasing a $2 million yacht would save $150,000 in taxes under New York law.) Florida struck back at New York by adopting a $60,000 sales tax limit on yacht repairs, and New Jersey copied their rival to the north by adopting the same $20,000 limit on purchases. While such sales tax breaks are usually justified as protecting the jobs of yacht builders, in reality the primary beneficiaries are yacht owners. As ITEP’s Matt Gardner notes in the article, "It's just a deluded approach to tax policy to say that you have to exempt these transactions or else they will move elsewhere." 

Lawmakers in Washington are facing a budget impasse ahead of their July 1 deadline. Initially, House lawmakers sought to levy a state capital gains tax on investors who earn more than $25,000 a year from investments. But the House dropped that plan this week when the state Senate refused to pass a new tax but indicated a willingness to get rid of some tax exemptions. Lawmakers have a little over a week left to agree on the budget before the state government begins a partial shutdown.

California lawmakers reached a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown, passing a $115.4 billion budget that includes a new EITC for working families. This new EITC is worth approximately $380 million and is expected to help 2 million Californians. 

 


State Rundown 6/18: Promising Gas Tax Developments, Pandering Tax Cuts


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Wisconsin lawmakers are considering eliminating the state’s Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a move that would send tax breaks to the rich and nothing to more than 80 percent of Wisconsinites. The AMT is meant to ensure that wealthy individuals pay a minimum level of income tax, and is therefore assessed at higher incomes. Ironically, as state lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker slashed top marginal income tax rates for the wealthy, more of these taxpayers were subjected to the AMT. The proposal to eliminate the tax would cost more than $27 million annually in lost revenue.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives unanimously approved the 2016 budget deal on Tuesday night, sending the measure to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. The unanimous approval cleared the House by 7:30pm, and has been touted as the quickest budget vote in at least 30 years. The $8.7 billion bill exempts Social Security income from the personal income tax for Rhode Islanders over 65 if their income is below $80,000 (single) or $100,000 (married) – a change that will benefit mostly wealthy retirees, as we’ve argued before. The plan also phases out sales taxes on utility bills for non-manufacturing businesses. On a positive note, the budget increases the states refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax break for working families, from 10 to 12.5 percent.

The Florida Legislature approved a $400 million package of tax cuts on Monday, and Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the measure even though it reduces taxes by less than he wanted. Passage of the measure comes after the resolution of a deadlock over healthcare spending; Florida is expected to lose federal aid to state hospitals, and many lawmakers were reluctant to accept Medicaid dollars offered under the Affordable Care Act. In the end, the size of the tax cuts relative to what Scott proposed was reduced by almost half in order to cover healthcare costs. The package of cuts includes tax cuts for cellphone purchases and cable bills, college textbooks, and sailboat repairs that cost more than $60,000.

As the summer travel season heats up, lawmakers in states across the country are mulling gas tax increases as a way to boost road construction and maintenance budgets. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam plans to barnstorm the state to stress the need for more transportation funding, though he’s stopped short of endorsing a gas tax increase. Tennessee’s gas tax hasn’t risen in decades, and the average motorist there is paying a third less per mile for roads than a generation ago. An editorial in The New York Times, meanwhile, argues that New Jersey lawmakers must raise their state gas tax to pay for crumbling roads. At 14.5 cents a gallon, the state tax is less than a third of New York’s tax and trails Pennsylvania and Connecticut by similar margins. Meanwhile, New Jersey has 577 structurally deficient bridges and 300,000 potholes. Efforts to increase state gas taxes also received a boost from a recent study that finds gas tax increases do not result in penny-to-penny increases in the price that motorists pay at the pump.

A Delaware House committee will consider a bill that would make their income tax rate structure more progressive. Currently, the top personal income tax rate is 6.6 percent for income above $60,000. The new proposal would institute a rate of 7.1 percent for income between $125,000 and $250,000, and a rate of 7.85 percent for income above $250,000. State officials say the changes would increase revenue by $97.5 million over the next two years. 


State Rundown 6/8: Compromise and Defeat


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

As legislative sessions across the country enter the final stretch, many states are buzzing with activity around tax policy. Lawmakers in Kansas and Maine are still working on behind-the-scenes negotiations aimed at resolving differences around major tax deals, while Ohio and North Carolina lawmakers are expected to release budgets with more personal income tax cuts (on top of the cuts enacted in recent years). Meanwhile, Alabama, Minnesota, Florida and Illinois are headed into special sessions to tackle thorny budget and tax issues and, in some cases, enduring budget shortfalls. 

Iowa lawmakers reached a budget compromise last week, ending a stalemate that took the state legislature a week beyond its expected adjournment. The debate centered on how to spend a budget surplus. Republican legislators were reluctant to increase spending on ongoing expenses using one-time money, while Democratic legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad wanted to use the surplus to invest in education and human services. The deal includes a 1.25 percent increase in K-12 spending next fiscal year as well as $55 million in one-time expenditures for public schools this fiscal year. In all, the budget next fiscal year will increase by about $299 million.

Rhode Island lawmakers are considering various tax breaks, among them proposals to exempt retirement income from the personal income tax. State Rep. Robert Craven has proposed exempting all state, local and federal retirement income, including Social Security and military pensions paid to those 65 and older, from state income taxation. Craven argues that the measure will keep retirees from moving out of state, though research shows that retirees don’t move for tax reasons. Critics of the plan argue that most of the benefits would go to wealthier citizens. Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed a more targeted retirement income exemption that would fully exempt Social Security income from taxation for single filers with annual household incomes of $50,000 or less and married filers making $60,000 or less.  House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello supports a similar approach, although married couples earning $100,000 or less ($80,000 for singles) would be exempt from paying taxes on Social Security under his plan. The speaker also supports raising the state EITC to 12.5 percent of the federal credit, an improvement but less than the 15 percent proposal included in Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget.

Louisiana legislators narrowly rejected a bill that would have doubled the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 3.5 to 7 percent of the federal credit. If enacted, the change would have benefitted 515,000 Louisianans every year. So far this year, lawmakers in the state have approved or extended a variety of credits for business owners and corporations. One state representative called the EITC “essentially welfare written into the tax code” and sought to do away with the credit altogether. Other representatives rebuked their colleagues for doing nothing to help working families in the state, noting that Louisiana has a starkly regressive tax system.

 

States Ending Session This Week:
Louisiana

 


State Rundown 6/2: Things Fall Apart


| | Bookmark and Share

This week looks like an active one for states that are entering the final stretches of their legislative sessions. Stay tuned to the State Rundown for updates on the tax policy battles happening across the country.

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Bipartisan negotiations in Maine over the scope of proposed comprehensive tax reform failed this weekend after Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate remained deeply divided and a Democratic counterproposal to Gov. Paul LePage’s plan failed to gain traction. State leaders announced that they’ve reached a tentative budget deal that would include no new income tax cuts over the biennium, but as a trade-off would allow a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds legislative supermajority to enact new income tax increases to be put before state voters. The plan would also allow the sales tax rate to revert back to 5 percent from a temporary increase to 5.5 percent on schedule (note: this should not be perceived as a tax cut as many commentators have suggested). Republican leaders in the House are vowing to oppose any budget plan that does not include the welfare reform or income tax cuts championed by Gov. LePage in his original proposal. As of now, the compromise budget will fail to be enacted unless is draws enough House Republican support to override Gov. LePage’s certain veto.

Republican leaders in Kansas remain deadlocked over a plan to close the state’s big budget shortfall, despite warnings from government officials that state workers would be furloughed by the end of the week without a deal. Legislators are divided over how to close the projected $406 million gap; some want to roll back Gov. Sam Brownback’s exemption of business pass-through income for business owners and farmers, while others want to rely on increased sales and excise taxes. Meanwhile, Gov. Brownback unveiled a plan on Saturday that would protect his business income exemption but eliminate income taxes for low-income individuals in response to criticisms that his previously enacted tax cuts shift income taxes from employers to their employees. A preliminary ITEP analysis of the governor’s plan found that on average, Kansans in the bottom 40 percent would pay more.

Texas’s legislative session ended on Monday, with lawmakers passing new tax cuts in addition to the tax changes enacted last week. The first change, a $10,000 increase in the homestead exemption for property taxes, has been described as “the least-worst way to under-invest,” as the homestead exemption is spread evenly across taxpayers and the bill will replace local property tax revenue with more state aid to schools. For more on why homestead exemptions can be a good policy option, check out this ITEP brief. The second change, a cut in the business franchise tax rate of 25 percent, will cost the state $2.6 billion in revenue in a way that decidedly favors the wealthy and corporations.

In a welcome development, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval gained legislative approval of $1.3 billion in new revenue to fund improvements in public education, despite strong opposition from conservative lawmakers in the Republican-dominated legislature. Sandoval’s tax package, which he is expected to sign this week, will increase the business license fee and the payroll tax, extend some tax measures that were to sunset this year, and implement a new Commerce Tax on gross business revenue that falls more heavily on capital-intensive businesses. Altogether, the measures add up to the biggest one-time tax increase in state history. The new revenue will increase education funding, expand services to the poor, and provide for special education and statewide full-day kindergarten. 

States Ending Legislative Session This Week:
Nevada
Texas
Connecticut
Iowa


State Rundown 5/28: Deals Made, Dreams Fade


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Efforts to tie property taxes to household income face long odds in New York. Back in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $1.7 billion property tax circuit breaker for New York homeowners and renters meant to offset the cost of property taxes with an income tax credit. The measure enjoyed support in the state Assembly, but has since stalled in the conservative state Senate where lawmakers would prefer a broader property tax rebate not tied to income. The Senate plan, however, would provide less targeted relief and would only apply to homeowners. Supporters of Cuomo’s proposal say a property tax circuit breaker would help keep people in their homes in a state with some of the highest property taxes in the nation, while critics say the plan is a giveaway to suburban districts that doesn’t address the root cause of New York’s high taxes. ITEP has long advocated property tax circuit breakers as a way to fight poverty and make tax systems fairer – for more, check out this report.

A number of tax policy developments have come out of Alabama as the state nears the end of the legislative session. State Sen. Bill Hightower, who initially proposed replacing Alabama’s personal income tax with a flat tax version, scaled back his ambitions to a resolution that calls for a new taskforce to study the issue. Hightower’s initial proposal received pushback from groups who argued that a flax tax would increase the contributions of poor. A recent op/ed in The Huntsville Times notes that Alabama is among the few states that ask families below the poverty line to pay income taxes, noting that “the social and economic cost of taxing the poor might actually be higher than the dollar value of the revenues the state is collecting from them.” Meanwhile, Hightower also sponsored a successful bill that would require annual reports on the effectiveness of various tax credits, deductions and special rates, earning praise for going after ineffective tax loopholes that are used mainly by the wealthy.

Texas legislators reached a deal on transportation legislation that could send more revenue to road and bridge construction but reduce funding available for crucial investments in education and human services. House and Senate negotiators agreed on a proposed constitutional amendment that would divert $2.5 billion in sales tax revenue to roads if approved by voters. Sales tax revenue must exceed $28 billion for the measure to take effect, and the law will be on the books for 15 years. The deal also diverts 35 percent of any vehicle sales tax revenue over $5 billion to road construction, a measure that is expected to deliver an additional $250 million in new road money. 


State Rundown 5/22: Last-Minute Fireworks


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

A Louisiana Senate committee passed a package of eleven bills that would raise an additional $615 in revenue next fiscal year. If passed, the package will raise the state cigarette tax by 32 cents per pack, scale back business subsidies, and decrease many of the state’s existing tax breaks through a 20 percent across-the-board cut. Most of the new revenue raised by the package of bills would go toward preventing deep cuts to higher education and healthcare programs. The bills have garnered opposition from many business groups, and are likely to have a tough time gaining the governor’s signature. Gov. Bobby Jindal has pledged to veto any measure considered a net tax increase by Grover Norquist, who is the head of Americans for Tax Reform and not a resident of Louisiana.

Minnesota’s lawmakers are headed for a special session after Gov. Mark Dayton pledged to veto a $400 million education spending bill that does not include additional funds for universal pre-kindergarten. The veto comes after an offer by Dayton to drop his insistence on universal pre-kindergarten in exchange for $125 million in additional educational funding was rebuffed by conservative lawmakers. The veto and call for a special session cap five months of negotiations and failed compromises over the budget. In the press conference announcing his planned veto, Gov. Dayton railed against lawmakers for considering billions of dollars in tax cuts but balking at funding education, saying "It's astonishing that with a $1.9 billion projected surplus and more than $1 billion on the bottom line for future tax cuts, there would not be more invested in our schools this year."

Oklahoma lawmakers passed an unbalanced budget deal that would cut the higher education budget deeply but allow disastrous tax cuts to take effect. Facing a $611 million budget deficit, the legislature decided to address most of the shortfall through the use of $589 million in agency and reserve funds. The rest of the shortfall was made up in cuts to higher education ($24.1 million). Some agencies will see budget cuts of up to 7.25 percent, while a proposal to increase teacher pay and add days to the school year will likely be scrapped. Meanwhile, a cut in the top personal income tax rate from 5.25 to 5 percent will continue as planned, despite the revenue shortfall and its cost of $200 million over two years. The cut will overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, with ITEP data revealing that the top 1 percent of Oklahoma taxpayers will receive an average cut of $2,127 while those in the middle will get an average cut of just $31. The Oklahoma Policy Institute called for the rejection of the budget deal  as it “barely maintains some vital services only by using up hundreds of millions in one-time revenues that will immediately dig another large budget hole for next year. Oklahoma will not be able to kick this can down the road much longer. Legislators should reject this budget and demand a balanced plan that includes sustainable revenue options.”

 


State Rundown 5/18: Late-Breaking Developments


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

State leaders in North Carolina are crowing about an unexpected budget surplus of $400 million, but the surge in new money will likely be a one-time occurrence. Meanwhile, the state’s corporate income tax rate will continue to fall in accordance with revenue triggers included in the tax cuts passed in 2013. This fiscal year, the corporate rate will drop from 5 to 4 percent, at a cost of about $109 million. As ITEP’s Meg Wiehe noted in a recent editorial, “the truth is that, as a share of income, no matter how you slice the data, the wealthiest households got the biggest tax cut and the vast majority of the net tax cut goes to those families.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that one feature of Maryland’s local income tax law is unconstitutional. The case centered on the state’s collection of a “piggy-back” income tax of up to 3.2 percent on behalf of Maryland counties and Baltimore City in addition to the 5.75 percent personal income tax at the state level. Maryland offers a credit on the state personal income tax for income taxes paid to other states, but the credit does not apply to the piggy-back tax. One Maryland couple sued, saying that applying the piggy-back tax without applying a credit for income taxes paid in other states amounted to double taxation. The US Supreme Court agreed, saying the practice was a violation of the Commerce Clause as it could discourage business across state lines. The ruling will likely cost Maryland counties and localities millions in revenue.

Vermont’s legislative session ended last week with a deal to cover a $113 million shortfall that included $30 million in new revenue. Under the plan, the state sales tax of 6 percent will now apply to soft drinks and the 9 percent meals tax will apply to vending machines. The deal also caps the  most itemized deductions Vermonters can claim against their personal income tax to 2.5 times the standard deduction.

Conservative legislators in Maine shared the details of their tax plan last week. The proposal would cut the top income tax rate from 7.95 to 6.5 percent over two years and would leave the sales tax unchanged. The plan differs greatly from Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal, which would implement much bigger income tax cuts and increase the sales tax. The plan also increases state revenue sharing with localities, rather than eliminating it as the governor’s plan would. Critics of this newest plan, citing ITEP data, note that Mainers who make less than $57,000 would see their taxes increase on average, and that the income tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and corporations. 

 


State Rundown 5/14: Helping and Hurting Working Families


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

California Gov. Jerry Brown included a new state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in his revised budget plan this week, responding to critics who claim he has not done enough to address poverty. Brown’s proposed EITC would provide qualifying working families in California an average credit of $460 a year, with the maximum credit for a family with three or more kids of $2,653. In order to qualify, families must earn a maximum of $13,870, about the average income of California’s bottom fifth of taxpayers but relatively low considering the median household income in California is $60,194. The governor’s proposal is much less generous than two bills under consideration in the legislature. Senate Bill 38 and Assembly Bill 43 propose EITCs with no income cutoff for eligibility. According to an ITEP analysis, SB 38 would provide an average credit of $781 to the bottom fifth of taxpayers, as well as generous credits to middle-class taxpayers. AB 43 would provide an average credit of $602 to the bottom fifth. State EITCs are one of the most successful poverty-fighting tools available to policymakers, and we hope that California adopts an EITC more in line with the legislative proposals on the table.

A Michigan representative wants to replace the state’s flat personal income tax with a progressive structure, arguing that the recent defeat of ballot measure Prop 1 shows Michigan voters reject regressive sales taxes and want the wealthy to pay their fair share. “The middle class is pretty tapped out, and obviously the working poor can't afford to pay more,” Rep. Jim Townsend noted. “And yet we have the people in the top five percent, and specifically the top one percent, who have been doing by all accounts, extremely well.” Changing the state’s income tax structure from a flat rate to a graduated version would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature and approval by a majority of voters. Townsend’s bill is unlikely to pass the current legislature, but the people are already on board; a recent survey of Michigan voters found that 66 percent would vote for a graduated income tax.

A new report finds that voters have not punished lawmakers who support gas tax increases to fund transportation investments. The study by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association says 95 percent of Republican and 88 percent of Democratic legislators who voted to increase state gas taxes in 2013 or 2014 were reelected last cycle. Even legislators who pledged to never raise taxes were unpunished at the polls; of the 191 legislators included in the study that signed the Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) state pledge, 13 percent “ignored the ATR and supported increased revenue for transportation improvements… Only one legislator who defied the ATR and sought re-election was not returned to office.”

 

Following Up:
Nebraska: Lawmakers successfully overrode Gov. Pete Rickett’s veto of a 6 cent increase in the state’s gas tax over four years. The tax increase will raise an additional $25 million annually for the state and $51 million for cities and counties once fully implemented. The revenue is sorely needed, as Nebraska’s gas tax rate, adjusted to inflation, is currently at an all-time low according to ITEP data.

Kansas: Legislators in the House and Senate are gravitating toward plans to increase the sales tax to make up for the budget deficit. The plans would also implement a lower sales tax on food; Kansas is one of a few states where the full sales tax applies to food. Meanwhile, a bill to repeal Gov. Brownback’s income tax exemption for business pass-through income was approved by the House Taxation Committee. 

 


State Rundown 5/11: Deadlock and Infighting


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Kansas lawmakers continue to clash with Gov. Sam Brownback over the efficacy of his tax break on business pass-through income, this time in the House. State Rep. Mark Hutton says the measure was passed to boost the economy, and that the record shows the tax cut hasn’t paid off. His concerns echo those of Senate Pres. Susan Wagle, who pointed out that her constituents are concerned the tax break isn’t fair, since owners of businesses can avoid income taxes while their employees cannot. The Chair of the House Taxation Committee, Rep. Marvin Kleeb, has stated that lawmakers never intended that small business owners would have no income tax liability, and that changes should be considered. Meanwhile, public schools in the state continue to cut programs and shed jobs, and legislators hold out hope the governor will present a coherent strategy for dealing with the budget shortfall.

The budget negotiations in Minnesota continue, though lawmakers have reached the last full week of the regular legislative session. After Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget proposal, Conservative lawmakers in the House passed over $2 billion in unwise tax cuts. Gov. Dayton expressed his willingness to consider the House’s personal income tax exemption and a some additional exemptions for Social Security income, but held firm on his opposition to proposed business tax cuts, calling them a bait-and-switch: “You put out the favorable item, in this case middle-income tax cuts,” Dayton argued, “and then you switch that to eliminating the estate tax on millionaires and billionaires and then permanent business property tax relief that goes on and on after the middle-income tax cut falls away.” The governor, meanwhile, called for permanent investments in education in his budget, including $343 million for universal pre-kindergarten that the House and Senate budget proposals did not include. Some legislators, like Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, want to tie agreement on any tax cut proposals to a transportation package that raises new revenue for road construction and maintenance.

 

Following Up:
South Carolina: Political observers in the Palmetto State feel that Gov. Nikki Haley’s hard-line stance on road funding could prove costly. Some legislators have grumbled that the governor’s transportation plan is unrealistic and that she should work with lawmakers instead of demonizing them.

Nebraska: State senators passed a six cent increase in the state’s gasoline tax, which Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed immediately. The gas tax bill passed just four votes shy of a veto-proof majority, and its sponsors say they are confident they can override the governor’s veto since eight senators didn’t vote at all. Gov. Ricketts wants the legislature to give his newly-appointed roads director time to come up with an alternative.

States Ending Session This Week:
Missouri (Friday)

 


State Rundown 5/8: Legislators Make Deficit Sausage


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Conservative leaders in the South Carolina Senate proposed a road funding bill Thursday that reforms the Department of Transportation (DOT), increases the gas tax and reduces income taxes – all measures that Gov. Nikki Haley insisted must be in any funding package she signs. The measure increases the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years, ties the gas tax to inflation and prohibits it from rising higher than gas taxes in Georgia or North Carolina. The bill raises $400 million for roads in the short term and $800 million after five years. The bill also gives the governor near-complete control over the DOT through the power to appoint the Department’s board of directors. Income taxes would be cut across the board by one percent over five years, but would be delayed if economic growth is lower than expected. The plan is in direct contrast to the proposal passed by the Senate Finance Committee last week, which would increase gas taxes and other fees without reforming the DOT or cutting income taxes.

A new study from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center blasts another hole in the myth that state tax cuts are a recipe for economic success.  After closely examining a 2008 study that claimed tax cuts could benefit state economies, the authors attempted to replicate the results and found they were “not robust” in more recent years.  Instead, the study concludes that low state income tax rates, or low taxes in general, are unrelated to economic growth across states.

Bad news in the Badger state: new revenue estimates in Wisconsin have confirmed the dismal outlook for the state’s budget, making the adoption of Gov. Scott Walker’s austerity cuts to higher education more likely. Legislators were hoping the new estimates would point to increased tax revenue, but the numbers show that Walker’s tax cuts have evaporated the state’s surplus. The Wisconsin Budget Project has pointed out that legislators have other options, among them accepting federal Medicaid dollars, halting the expansion of ineffective tax cuts, and capping a tax break for manufacturers.

Gov. Paul LePage and Maine lawmakers in favor of eliminating the state’s income tax have shifted tactics away from using negotiations over the budget to push their agenda and toward a constitutional amendment. The proposal currently before legislators would eliminate the state income tax by 2020 and requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate, as well as ratification by Maine voters. It faces a long road in the legislature. Meanwhile, the Maine Center on Economic Policy argues that eliminating the income tax would be a boon for the wealthy and would fail to promote economic growth.

Alabama legislators moved in the direction of common sense this week. First, lawmakers decided to abandon a proposal to replace the state’s currently regressive income tax structure with an even worse flat tax. At the same time, conservative legislators announced their willingness to increase taxes on cigarettes and large businesses and fees for car titling and renting in order to address a budget deficit. While the proposed fees and taxes are mostly regressive, they are a step toward a better budget. An even bigger step would be if legislators considered the plan put forward by Gov. Robert Bentley, which would increase revenues by a far larger magnitude. 

 


State Rundown 5/4: Road Money and Budget Gaps


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

A complex Michigan ballot initiative that would increase various taxes to fund roads, public transit, K-12 education and local governments is a sound idea that, unfortunately, is unpopular among the state’s voters. The measure, Proposal 1, would increase the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent for education, and increase the gas tax and vehicle registration taxes to fund transportation. The measure also includes a provision to improve the EITC. An analysis of the plan estimates it would raise about $1.8 billion annually. The bottom fifth of Michigan taxpayers would receive an average tax cut of $24, while earners in the state’s top bracket would pay an average of $497 to $697 more. Given that Michiganders spend more than $686 a year on vehicle repairs thanks to atrocious roads, the measure is a comparative bargain for most.

The South Carolina Senate Finance Committee passed a road funding bill that would raise $800 million a year by increasing the gas tax and driver’s license and vehicle registration fees. It would also tie the gas tax to inflation and increase the sales tax cap on cars.  Passed earlier, a House plan would raise $400 million by increasing the gas tax and sales tax cap on cars (by smaller amounts than the Senate bill) and introducing a new gas excise tax at the wholesale level. Neither measure includes the immense income tax cuts that Gov. Nikki Haley insisted be included with any bill that raises the state gas tax. For more on the gas tax debate in South Carolina, check out this guest blog post from John Ruoff on the Tax Justice Blog.

Despite the plethora of bad press the state has received for attempting to balance the budget on the backs of low-income people while maintaining ill-advised tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses, Kansas lawmakers continue to propose regressive tax plans to plug the state’s deficit. Sen. Les Donovan, who chairs the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, suggested that the committee would consider a measure to increase excise taxes on cigarettes and liquor as well as a bill that would weaken the state’s EITC by reducing the credit and making it non-refundable. The committee will also review a host of small tax exemptions to phase out. Kansas faces an $800 million deficit, $400 million of which must be closed with spending cuts or tax increases.

Over the past decade, West Virginia lawmakers have phased out and eliminated the state’s Business Franchise Tax and reduced the corporate income tax rate from 9 to 6.5 percent. The tax cuts failed to deliver the promised job growth, instead blowing a hole in the state budget; business tax collections next year will be lower than they were in 1990.  Meanwhile, public university students in West Virginia could soon see big tuition increases thanks to shrinking state funding. West Virginia University is considering a 10 percent tuition hike on top of the 29 percent increase over the past five years, while West Virginia State University recently announced a 7 percent hike.

A California Senate committee approved a bill that creates a refundable earned income tax credit (EITC) for low-income and working families. The state EITC would equal 30 percent of the federal EITC for eligible individuals with children.


State Rundown 4/30: Tax Cuts Stall, Tax Increases Advance


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

A proposed constitutional amendment that would implement a flat income tax has stalled in the Alabama Senate. A vote on the measure, titled the “The Simplified Flat Tax Act of 2015,” was postponed by a Senate budget committee after sponsor Sen. Bill Hightower asked for more time to work on the measure. The bill would implement a flat income tax and eliminate some exemptions, credits and deductions. Opponents of the bill, including the advocacy group Alabama Arise, note that the changes would reduce revenue for the Education Trust Fund by hundreds of millions of dollars, and that some of the credits and deductions eliminated would impact retirees and working families. Kimble Forrister, executive director of Alabama Arise, cited ITEP data showing the bill would benefit mainly the wealthy while hurting the poorest Alabamans. He told the committee that “Alabama can't move forward as long as we have an outdated, upside down tax system." Sen. Hightower wants to make the bill revenue neutral and prevent any tax hikes for low-income Alabamans.

A committee in the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill that would raise revenues in the state. Members on the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee voted to approve a tax package that increases personal income tax rates for the wealthy and broadens the sales tax base. The top marginal income tax rate would increase to 6.99 percent for individuals making $500,000 or more and joint filers making $1 million or more. The measure also creates a new supplemental tax on capital gains income of 2 percent for the same group. The state sales tax rate would be reduced from 6.35 to 5.35 percent, while the base would expand to include more services, including engineering, veterinary services, laundries and dry cleaners, golf courses, and accountants. The measure is expected to raise $1.7 billion over the next two fiscal years, and would reverse many of the deep cuts proposed in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget. The bill incorporates some of the progressive tax changes proposed by Connecticut Voices for Children, which incorporated ITEP analysis into their report.

Efforts to repeal the Hall Income Tax have failed again in Tennessee after the legislature failed to act on two repeal measures before the close of session. The Hall Tax is a 6 percent tax on income from stocks, bonds and dividends that is the state’s only tax on personal income. A significant portion of the revenues raised by the tax supports county and municipal governments. Opponents of the Hall tax won a small victory, however, as they succeeded in increasing the exemption allowed for citizens over the age of 55.

A measure to raise the sales tax in Iowa advanced out of a Senate subcommittee on Monday, while a parallel bill is being discussed in the House. Senate Bill 1272 would increase the sales tax by three-eighths of one percent to generate new revenue for natural resources and outdoor education – as much as $150 million annually, according to its sponsors. The bill has wide support, including “representatives of conservation, environmental, farm and outdoor recreation groups.”

 

Do you have a story you think should be in the next Rundown? Email sdpjohnson@itep.org with your idea!

 


State Rundown 4/27: Leaders Push Back Against Unwise Tax Cuts


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

New Hampshire business leaders, nonprofits and civic organizations have come together to oppose business tax cuts proposed in the legislature, arguing that they would jeopardize needed investments in education, infrastructure and other areas. The inclusion of business leaders in the coalition led by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute represents a rare but growing alliance between businesses who understand that investments are needed for economic growth and progressive organizations that advocate on behalf of working and middle-class families. The state Senate passed two bills in March that would cut corporate tax rates. One would reduce the business profits tax from 8.7 to 7.9 percent, while the other would reduce the business enterprise tax from 0.75 to 0.675 percent.

Kansas lawmakers want to take another look at Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax exemption on pass-through business income after more than 300,000 Kansans claimed the exemption at a cost of millions in state revenue. Initial estimates suggested that fewer than 200,000 taxpayers would be eligible for the exemption, a key part of the governor’s 2013 tax cuts. Many lawmakers, including members of Brownback’s own party, believe the business pass-through exemption is unfair because it has “created situations where a business owner may not pay tax on income, but an employee making less would.” Other legislators believe the exemption has contributed to structural imbalance in the budget, which currently has a $400 million hole.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton rejected a budget proposal from legislators in the state House, saying the $2 billion tax cut package is a “non-starter” because of its fiscal irresponsibility. The House plan would give many Minnesotans a temporary income tax break, permanently phase out the statewide business property tax and reduce taxes on Social Security benefits. The governor refuses to begin budget negotiations until House leaders come up with a plan that is closer to his own targets. Dayton also asserted that the House plan would cost $4 billion annually once implemented, turning the state’s $1.9 billion surplus into a deficit. Gov. Dayton’s budget plan would use the surplus to shore up investments in education, particularly on a push for universal pre-kindergarten.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and state legislators are headed for a showdown over a 6 cent-per-gallon increase in the state’s gasoline excise tax that, if approved, would raise $180 million after four years. The measure has already passed the initial hurdle in the state’s unicameral legislature, but two additional votes are needed before it is sent to the governor’s desk. Ricketts has said he does not support the measure. A recent article in the Omaha World-Herald found that inflation has eroded the buying power of Nebraska’s gasoline excise tax by $1 billion since 1995. ITEP's Carl Davis, who was interviewed for the article, noted that “It’s an inevitable fact that if gas tax rates are not updated from time to time, the tax is not going to keep pace with construction costs.” 

 

Things We Missed:

  • Arizona ended its legislative session on Saturday, April 25th.
  • North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed Senate Bill 2349, which cut the state’s corporate income tax rate by 5 percent and the personal income tax rate by 10 percent. This is the ninth straight year that the state’s leaders have cut income taxes. The House also passed a tax cut for oil companies.

States Ending Session This Week:
Montana (Monday)
Indiana (Wednesday)
Florida (Friday)
North Dakota (Friday)

 


State Rundown 4/23: Tax Cuts in the Face of Budget Disaster


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Alabama senators have proposed a constitutional amendment that would establish a flat personal income tax and lower the corporate tax rate, despite facing a devastating budget shortfall. The proposal would lower the top income tax rate from 5 percent to 2.75 percent and reduce the corporate tax rate from 6.5 to 4.59 percent while eliminating all deductions, exemptions and credits. The bill’s sponsors claim that the measure would make the state more competitive and attract new businesses. Opponents argue that Alabama’s antiquated tax system (unchanged in 82 years) is already a flat tax in practice, since the top tax rate takes effect at $3,000 for single filers. The Montgomery Advertiser notes that “a household of four begins paying state taxes at $12,600 – well below the poverty threshold of $24,250 for that family, meaning the state taxes households operating below the poverty level.”  An ITEP analysis of this plan found that the lowest-income Alabamans would see a tax hike under this change while most other taxpayers would see a small reduction.

A new poll finds that the majority of Oklahoma voters don’t want planned tax cuts to take effect because of the state’s budget deficit. The poll, commissioned by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, found 64 percent of registered voters in Oklahoma opposed moving ahead with a scheduled cut to the top personal income tax rate, while 74 percent of voters felt the state spent too little on education. Legislators in the state have vowed to let the cuts take effect next year despite a $611 million revenue gap.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to implement a plan that in future years would reduce the likelihood that the state would issue taxpayers a refund as mandated under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment to the state’s constitution. Hickenlooper would reduce the share of state revenues subject to the TABOR limit by moving hospital provider fees out of the general fund and into an “enterprise account.” He would also target some TABOR refunds to low-income households via a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). While conservative lawmakers have decried the move, the governor has gained the support of an important hospital lobbying group, which said the plan would "ensure that Colorado has the flexibility to support its top budget priorities, including funding for transportation and K-12 education."

Maine Gov. Paul LePage threw down the gauntlet to state legislators on Tuesday, filing a bill that would eliminate the state’s income tax by 2020 and giving leaders in the House and Senate a short deadline to announce their support. In the past, Gov. LePage has pledged to campaign against those who oppose his plans to get rid of Maine’s income tax and replace it with higher consumption and property taxes. So far, no legislative leaders have announced support for his plan. 


State Rundown 4/20: State Houses Consider Cuts


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Legislators in the Pennsylvania House released an alternative to Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax reform plan last Tuesday. The House plan would increase income and sales tax rates to provide significant property tax cuts, as would the governor’s plan. One difference is that the House plan would raise the sales tax rate to 7 percent but leave the base unchanged, while Wolf’s plan would increase the sales tax rate to 6.6 percent and expand the sales tax base. The House plan also would not provide property tax rebates for renters as the governor’s plan would. While the House plan would provide even more funding for property tax cuts, ($4.9 billion vs. $3.9 billion under the governor’s plan) their package is essentially revenue neutral and does not include increased investments in public education which is a signature piece of the governor’s plan. The House Finance Committee is expected to vote on the House plan next week. Stay tuned to the Tax Justice Blog for a more in-depth analysis of tax reform efforts in Pennsylvania.

The Ohio House is set to approve Gov. John Kasich’s proposed tax cuts while nixing his proposals for new tax revenue. Kasich originally proposed $5.7 billion in income tax cuts and $5.2 billion in consumption tax increases over two years– specifically an increase in the sales tax rate from 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent, an expansion of the sales tax base, and increases in the commercial activities tax and severance tax on natural gas extraction. The House is expected to pass a smaller income tax cut and to reject all of the proposed tax increases; whereas the governor wanted to lower the top personal income tax rate to 4.1 percent, the House will likely reduce the rate to just under 5 percent. At the same time legislators blocked the governor’s proposed cuts in public school funding, a welcome but contradictory move.  Stay tuned to the Tax Justice Blog for a more in-depth analysis of tax cutting efforts in Ohio.

The South Carolina House approved a bill by a veto-proof majority that would increase the states gas tax by 10 cents and provide most residents with a modest income tax cut of $48. It is expected to generate $400 million in new revenue for road construction, tax cuts excluded. The margin of passage is important because Gov. Nikki Haley, who vowed not to increase the gas tax without significant income tax cuts, feels that the cuts passed by the House are not enough. The bill also does not contain the Department of Transportation reform measures demanded by Haley, who seeks to assert more control over road funding and construction. The Senate is also considering a road funding plan.

 

Following Up:
Florida: Senate President Andy Gardiner says the $600 million in tax cuts championed by Gov. Rick Scott and passed by the House last week are “on the shelf” until the fight over Medicaid expansion is resolved. Federal subsidies to Florida for healthcare providers who treat the poor are scheduled to expire, but the governor is resistant to expanding Medicaid coverage under Obamacare to make up for the lost revenue.

 

In Case You Missed It:

  • ITEP released a report on undocumented immigrants’ contributions to state and local tax systems. The report found that undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $11.84 billion in taxes in 2012. Check out this blog post for more!
  • In honor of Tax Day, the Tax Justice Blog highlighted the great work done by our state partners around tax issues.  

 


State Rundown 4/15: New Cuts and New Revenue


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Idaho legislators ended their session very early on Saturday morning without enacting a regressive flattening of the state’s income tax.  Instead, lawmakers agreed to simply raise the state’s gas tax by 7 cents (the first increase in 19 years) and boost vehicle registration fees by $21.  Unfortunately, the bill also redirects some general fund dollars away from other core public services to spend on roads and bridges instead—but that feature of the law will lapse after two years.  Assuming Governor Butch Otter signs this legislation, Idaho will become the 7th state to raise or reform its gas tax in 2015.

The Florida House passed a $690 million package of tax cuts last week that now awaits approval by the Senate. The package of cuts closely resembles the proposal floated by Gov. Rick Scott in January and includes a cut in the communications services tax as well as tax cuts targeted at “small businesses, college students, military veterans, farmers, gun clubs, school volunteers, high-tech research, widowed and disabled homeowners.” Dissenting legislators argued that the impact of the revenue losses from the tax cuts would outweigh the benefit for most Floridians.

Following Up:
Alaska: While proposals to institute an income tax face an uphill climb, Alaska’s revenue problems continue to worsen. The state’s oil production tax is set to produce the least amount of revenue in its four decade existence, and state senators voted to repeal the state’s film tax credit program to save money.  

States Starting Session This Week:
Louisiana (Monday)

States Ending Session This Week:
Maryland (Monday)

 


State Rundown 4/10: Positive Developments


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Momentum is building in California for the passage of a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income workers. Two bills, Assembly Bill 43 and Senate Bill 38, would create a new, refundable state EITC. AB43 would provide a state credit equal to 15 percent of the federal credit for working families with children, and 60 percent of the federal credit for workers without children (the federal EITC for childless workers is significantly less generous than the credit for workers with children). AB43 would also provide a more generous EITC for working families with children under age 5, at 35 percent of the federal credit, in order to support children in their early development. SB38 does not include the provision for families with young children, but is more generous to childless workers; under this bill, families with children would receive 30 percent of the federal credit, while childless workers would receive 100 percent of the federal credit. An ITEP analysis finds that both bills would benefit a significant portion of working families and would improve outcomes for childless workers, who receive little support from other public benefit programs.

A bill in Alaska could impose a state income tax for the first time in 35 years. HB 182, sponsored by Rep. Paul Seaton, would introduce a state income tax equal to 15 percent of an individual’s federal income tax and would apply to some capital gains earnings as well. Seasonal workers would not be exempt from the tax, which Seaton projects would bring in $600 million annually. Revenues are an increasing concern in Alaska, which relies heavily on the volatile oil and gas industry to fund government services and has no state-level income, sales or property taxes. While the bill’s reception has been lukewarm, Rep. Seaton argued that the people should have a stake in funding government. He also argued that an income tax would be easier to collect than a sales tax. Another proposal from Rep. Click Bishop would institute an “education tax” of $100 on those making at least $10,000 a year, $200 for those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, and $500 for those making $500,000 or more.

 

Following Up:
Kansas: A new poll found that 69 percent of Kansans oppose using funds from the highway trust fund to close the state’s budget gap, and 95 percent said infrastructure investment should be a top priority. Gov. Brownback has proposed directing $2.1 billion from the transportation fund over 10 years to pay for his income tax cuts.

New Jersey: State newspapers have reported that Gov. Chris Christie’s privatization of the New Jersey lottery may have helped supporters of the governor. Gtech, the firm that operates the lottery, hired a law firm and a public relations company headed by men close to Christie to make the privatization deal happen. Gov. Christie privatized the state lottery over the objection of the state legislature and without a public bidding process.

Nevada: Legislators in the state Assembly advanced a plan out of committee that they say is an alternative to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed expansion of the state’s business license fee. The Assembly plan would raise the rate of the Modified Business Tax (MBT) instead, from 1.17 percent to 1.56 percent. Proponents of this plan argue that it would be easier to calculate and a more predictable revenue stream, while opponents note that the MBT only covers 4 percent of state businesses and disproportionately falls on labor intensive companies.

 


State Rundown 4/7: Bad Ideas Die Hard


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback doubled down on defending his disastrous tax cuts, insisting that the state would benefit from a shift away from income taxes to consumption taxes. The governor claimed that such taxes, which fall more heavily on middle and working-class citizens, are more “growth oriented” than the income tax, despite the problems with this claim. Brownback has proposed increases in taxes on cigarette and alcohol consumption this session to make up for freefalling revenues, and has indicated willingness to increase the sales tax. Meanwhile, the deep budget cuts enacted in the wake of Brownback’s tax cuts means Kansas schools will close early this year. 

It seems as if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lottery privatization plan is a bust. The Associated Press reports that the New Jersey lottery, once among the most profitable in the nation, has failed to meet state revenue targets for the second year in a row. Legislators have already lowered income expectations for the struggling lottery, but Gtech, the private firm in charge of operations is trailing even the revised number by $64 million. Gtech is the same company responsible for the abysmal performance of the Illinois State Lottery after it was privatized in 2011. Former Gov. Pat Quinn fired the firm last summer.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval hit back at critics of his proposed increase in business license fees, singling out a report by the Tax Foundation as irresponsible and “intellectually dishonest.” Sandoval wants to replace Nevada’s flat fee of $200 for a business license with a tiered system that takes into account gross receipts and the type of business. The new fees would range from $400 to $4 million a year and would raise $430 million. The governor would use the new revenue to help increase education funding by nearly $782 million. He has gained the support of business and interfaith groups, as well as the majority of Nevada voters.

 

Following Up:
North Carolina: An editorial in The News and Observer blasted the income tax cut proposal offered by state Senate leaders, noting that “while they’ve been cutting taxes for the wealthy and businesses, which have gotten most of the breaks, they’ve bashed the public schools, cut the university system and put the state in such a tight revenue margin that further tax cuts could be catastrophic.”

Idaho: The state Senate killed the tax plan offered by House leaders that would have removed the sales tax on groceries, increased the gas excise tax and lowered income taxes for the wealthy. ITEP found that the overall impact (PDF) of these changes would be higher taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers, and dramatically lower taxes for the affluent (the top 1 percent of earners would receive an average benefit of $5,000 per year).  While an alternative plan has yet to be formulated, the Senate appears to be interested in refocusing efforts on the original objective of this legislation: raising money for transportation.

Nebraska: The proposed gas tax increase continued its progress through the state’s unicameral legislature, when senators voted 26-10 to advance the measure. Two more votes are required before the bill reaches Gov. Pete Ricketts, who does not support increasing the gas tax.

 

Things We Missed:
The Georgia legislature approved a sweeping transportation deal last Tuesday that will raise $1 billion for infrastructure maintenance and improvements through a mix of new revenue sources. The final version of House Bill 170 raises the existing state gas tax by 6.7 cents and reforms the tax so that it will grow alongside fuel-efficiency gains and general inflation, rather than being tied to gas prices. The bill also introduced a new $5-per-night hotel and motel tax and a new fee of $50 to $100 on heavy commercial trucks. The measure eliminated tax breaks for commercial airlines and electric cars to raise revenue as well. Gov. Nathan Deal has indicated that he will sign the measure into law.

 

States Ending Session This Week:
Mississippi (Sunday) (note: the end of the session means no new tax cut proposals can be considered in Mississippi this year)



State Rundown 3/31: Tax Cut Throwbacks


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

North Carolina lawmakers proposed another round of personal income tax cuts last week that cost more than  $1 billion when fully enacted and would slash millions of dollars in corporate income taxes. The Job Creation and Tax Relief Act of 2015 (a sure misnomer) would reduce the personal income tax rate to 5.5 percent by 2017 and replace the current standard deductions with  a zero percent tax bracket on the first $10,000 in income for single filers by the same year (married couples could apply the zero percent bracket to the first $20,000 in income). The bill would also reduce the corporate income tax rate to 3 percent by 2017 even if the state fails to meet the required revenue targets included in the 2013 tax cut bill along with several other changes. Revenues are $300 million below projections this fiscal year. Opponents of the cuts note that they would do little to stimulate the state’s economy while reducing public investments and providing a windfall for already-profitable corporations.

An elaborate tax proposal from Idaho House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle would cut taxes for the top one percent of Idaho taxpayers by $5,000 according to an analysis by ITEP and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. Moyle’s plan would increase the state’s excise tax on gasoline by 7 cents, remove the sales tax on groceries and eliminate the food tax credit. Combined, the elements of the bill will increase taxes paid by the bottom 20 percent by $68 and taxes on middle-income earners by $192.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley embarked on a statewide tour to drum up support for his proposed tax increases. The plan, which received a lukewarm reception from many state legislators, would increase the cigarette excise tax by 82 cent a pack, increase the sales tax rate on automobile purchases from 2 to 4 percent, and would end some tax credits for insurance companies, banks and corporations. The combined measures would raise $541 million in new revenue. The governor argues that his plan is necessary to end the dysfunctional nature of state budgeting.

The Nebraska Legislature will consider a bill that would increase the excise tax on gasoline by 6 cents. The increase would be phased in over four years (1.5 cents per year). Gov. Pete Ricketts opposes the increase in the gas tax, arguing that the state should look to other options for road construction that do not entail tax increases.

 

Things We Missed:
The Mississippi House defeated efforts to pass significant tax cuts this legislative session after Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’s proposal to cut income and corporate franchise taxes by $555 million over 15 years died on the floor. Opponents of the cuts noted that they would sap K-12 and higher education budgets while shifting the burden of funding crucial services to the local level.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a package of gas and property tax increases that rank as the Utah’s largest revenue increase in 20 years. Proponents of the tax increases say they are necessary to fund important transportation projects and improvements in public education. The excise tax on gasoline will increase by 5 cents per gallon beginning in July, and will be indexed to inflation. It is expected to bring in $100 million for road and bridge repairs over the next two years. The property tax increase will add about $50 in taxes to the bill for a $250,000 house, and the revenues raised are earmarked for education.

 

States Ending Session This Week:
Kentucky (Monday)
South Dakota (Monday)
Idaho (Friday)

 


State Rundown 3/16: Win Some, Lose Some


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval will make his case for expanding the state’s business license fee before a joint legislative committee on Wednesday. The governor wants to change the fee from a flat rate of $200 per year to a tiered system with rates from $400 to $4 million per year, with a company’s revenue and industry type determining the fee level. Sandoval argues that the change is necessary to support investments in K-12 education throughout the state.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal received positive reviews last week for its emphasis on job creation and education. Notable tax changes include a two-step increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and a targeted tax exemption on social security income for couples who make up to $60,000. An ITEP analysis shows that all of the benefits of the governor’s proposed social security exemption would go to seniors in the bottom 80 percent of the state’s income distribution, whereas a rival plan to exempt all social security income from taxes would deliver half its benefits to the top 20 percent. To help raise revenue, Gov. Raimondo also proposed a new property tax on second homes worth over $1 million, as well as increases in the cigarette excise tax and taxes for online rental companies.

The Montana House of Representatives failed to override Gov. Steve Bullock’s veto of HB166, a bill that would have cut income taxes. Under the proposal passed by the legislature, income tax rates would have been reduced by 0.2 percentage points across all brackets. Opponents of the bill argued that the state already faces a $47 million deficit and that most of the benefits of the income tax cut would accrue to high-earners; almost 50 percent of the cuts would have gone to the top ten percent of Montanans. Gov. Bullock also pointed out that “the experience of other states shows that decimating your revenue base to benefit large corporations and the wealthiest individuals does not work to stimulate the economy.” A smattering of other tax cut proposals are still making their way through the legislature, including a measure that cuts income taxes and reduces breaks for capital gains, and another that would increase the exemption allowed for business equipment.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives, by contrast, voted to allow a scheduled income tax cut to proceed despite facing a $611 million budget deficit. The tax cut will reduce the top income tax rate from 5.25 to 5 percent beginning in January 2016. After that, if revenue conditions are met, the tax rate will fall to 4.85 percent in 2018. Since the Oklahoma Tax Commission says the state will lose $404 million in revenue from 2016 to 2018 due to the cuts, that’s a big “if.” ITEP data show the tax cut will put an average of just $29 back into the pockets of middle-income households, while the top 1 percent of Oklahoma earners will get an average benefit of $2,009 each.

A bill that would cut income taxes in Arizona if online shoppers lose their ability to evade sales taxes passed in the House after being defeated twice in the same chamber.  Sponsored by state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, the income tax cut proposal will only go into effect if Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act (which has little chance of happening soon).

 

Following Up
Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget faces a tough road in the legislature; Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has said it fails to “invest in the future,” while other state officials have claimed that the cuts proposed by the governor would endanger everything from the lottery to elections.

Texas: The budget drafted by leaders of the state’s House Appropriations Committee reportedly includes more money for public schools than the Senate budget does. The Senate plan would cover additional costs from surging school enrollment, but would direct more revenue to tax cuts than the House proposal.

South Carolina: A Senate panel headed by Sen. Ray Cleary approved a bill that would increase the gas tax by 20 cents over five years and index the tax to inflation. The measure is expected to be vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley, who has said she will not approve an increase in the gas tax unless it’s paired with a big cut in the state’s income tax.

 

States Ending Session This Week:
New Mexico (Saturday)

 


State Rundown 3/9: Revenue Strikes Back


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled his budget last Wednesday, and while it calls for some distressing cuts to state services it also includes a worthy tax policy shift that would help working families. The governor wants to double the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit over three years. Currently, low-income families with three or more children can receive up to $937 under the credit; Baker’s proposal would increase this figure to $1,873. To pay for the EITC expansion, Gov. Baker would phase out the state’s film tax credit, which state reports have found to be inefficient and a waste of taxpayer money. One Department of Revenue report concluded that in 2012 the majority of credits went to just three movies, at a cost of $60.1 million. Attempts to curb the film credit by Baker’s predecessor Deval Patrick were unsuccessful.

Some Texas municipalities fear that state officials have pushed through too many tax cuts, according to a recent Bloomberg Business article. The disconnect, according to some political observers, arises from the popularity of conservative messages around taxation at the state level and the focus on providing services at the local level. While state spending has fallen – Texas is ranked 48th in per-capita spending according to the Kaiser Family Foundation – local governments have borrowed to pick up the slack. According to figures from the state government, local borrowing has increased by 75 percent since 2005 to fund public works necessary for managing economic and population growth.

A South Carolina lawmaker has a new plan that he says will raise an additional $800 million for roads and highways in the state. State Sen. Ray Cleary’s bill would increase the gas tax by 10 cents and index it to inflation, raise the sales tax cap on car purchases from $300 to $1,400, close some sales tax exemptions, and increase fees for licensing and registration. He estimates the changes will cost South Carolina drivers $65 more each year on average. Cleary’s plan would raise revenue, while a proposal offered by Gov. Nikki Haley would result in a net revenue loss. Haley called for an increase in the gas tax coupled with an income tax cut in her state of the state address earlier this year.

 

Following Up:
Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal met mixed reviews from state editorial boards. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette though his budget was unrealistic and partisan, while The Philadelphia Inquirer called his plan ambitious and a necessary departure from his predecessors.

Mississippi: House Speaker Philip Gunn used a bizarre biblical analogy to assert that his plan to eliminate the state income tax would not lead to lost revenues. Opponents of his plan remain unconvinced.

Florida: House and Senate leaders appear to be on a collision course over balancing the state budget, jeopardizing Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals to cut taxes and increase education spending.

 

Things We Missed:
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his budget last Wednesday – read it here.

Governors’ Budgets Released This Week:
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (Thursday)

States That Will End Legislative Session This Week
Arkansas (Thursday)
Utah (Thursday)
West Virginia (Saturday)
Wyoming (Monday)

 

 

 


State Rundown 3/4: Other, Less Controversial Speeches before Legislatures


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his budget proposal this week, delivering his state of the state address before a joint session of the state legislature. Wolf’s proposal would largely shift the responsibility for funding  public education from local property taxes to the state sales and income tax. The flat personal income tax rate would increase from 3.07 to 3.7 percent, and the sales tax rate would rise from 6 to 6.6 percent and would apply to additional goods and services. These changes would bring in an additional $3.9 billion in general fund revenue, most of which would be dedicated to reducing property tax bills by an average of $1,000 per household. About $540 million in new revenues would go to public schools and universities. Wolf also proposed a new severance tax on oil and gas extraction that would replace the state’s one-time impact fee on drilling new wells, with new revenues also earmarked to public education. In a bid to gain bipartisan support, Wolf also proposed significant corporate income tax cuts paid for by closing loopholes and continuing former Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to phase out the state’s capital stock and franchise tax. (Stay tuned to the Tax Justice Blog for our take on the plan.)

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley presented his budget proposal to the state legislature this week under the cloud of a $700 million deficit. The governor proposed $541 million in tax increases across eight areas, including the corporate and individual income taxes, excise taxes on tobacco products, and sales and rental taxes for cars. The cigarette tax would increase by 82.5 cents per pack, with commensurate increases for other tobacco products, bringing in $205 million in additional revenue. Increasing the tax rate on automobile sales and rentals from 2 to 4 percent would increase revenues by $231 million. The governor’s finance director assured legislators that the proposed changes would still leave Alabama near the bottom in rankings of tax revenues per capita, but Bentley’s plan will do little to address the regressive nature of the state’s tax system.  (Stay tuned to the Tax Justice Blog for our take on the plan.)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was the third governor to give a state of the state address today, pitching a combination of tax cuts and spending increases to leery legislators. Scott touted his “Keep Florida Working” budget proposal, which includes $673 million in tax cuts from a variety of sources, including the tax on communication services, sales taxes on college textbooks, and taxes on businesses and manufacturers. The bulk of the cuts -- $470.9 million in lost revenue – come from decreasing the tax rate on communication services (cell phones, cable, and satellite television) by 3.6 percent. Scott also pushed for more education funding and a tuition freeze on postgraduate education at state universities.

A new report from the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center reveals that tax cuts pushed by Gov. Pat McCrory (who is expected to release his budget plan this week) and the state legislature have hurt economic growth by starving the state of needed revenues. According to the report, if tax levels in the state were at pre-recession levels, North Carolina would have $3.2 billion additional dollars to invest in early childhood education, access to higher education, anti-poverty measures for senior citizens, affordable health care, wage subsidy programs and court access. The Budget and Tax Center also points out that even though middle- and low-income families saw their overall tax responsibility increase, the massive cuts for wealthy individuals left the state with an annual $1 billion budget gap.

 

States Starting Session This Week:
Alabama (Tuesday)
Florida (Tuesday)

State of the State Addresses This Week:
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (watch here)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (watch here)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (watch here)

Governors’ Budgets Released This Week:
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (read here)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (read here)
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (Thursday)

 


State Rundown 2/27: Gas, Sugar and Dodgers


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Iowa lawmakers passed, and Gov. Terry Branstad signed, a measure increasing the state’s gas and diesel taxes by 10 cents this week. The increase will generate about $200 million in new revenue each year that will help cover a shortfall in transportation funding. A recent poll showed Iowans almost evenly split on the measure, though the proportion of those in favor has grown by 19 percentage points since 2011. The increase could go into effect as early as this Sunday and will result in Iowa’s gas tax rate no longer being at its all-time historic low.

Two Illinois legislators recently introduced a measure that would tax high-sugar beverages. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Mattie Hunter and State Rep. Robyn Gabel, would introduce a penny-per-ounce excise tax on beverages with over 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. It would produce $600 million in new revenue each year, to be earmarked toward programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity as well as prevention services in Medicaid. If passed, the measure would be the second tax on sugary drinks in the United States; the city of Berkeley, CA introduced such a tax via a ballot measure last year.

Integrity Florida released a report on corporate tax dodgers this week using ITEP data. They found that Florida taxpayers subsidized the seventeen Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state, via state government contracts and direct subsidies, to the tune of about $2.5 billion. Meanwhile, these same companies have paid just over $945 million in all state taxes nationwide (including taxes paid to states other than Florida). In fact, even though Florida’s state corporate income tax rate is 5.5 percent (among the lowest in the country), the most profitable Fortune 500 companies have been paying less than half that rate. The report’s authors recommend more transparency around corporate profits and tax payments.

More business owners are taking advantage of a Kansas tax feature than previously predicted, further endangering the state’s fragile revenues. State lawmakers eliminated income taxes for owners of limited-liability corporations and S corporations as a part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan in 2012. The measure was expected to benefit 191,000 business owners, but 333,000 have since claimed the loophole at a cost to the state of $206.8 million. The governor’s staff, who originally claimed the feature would spur economic growth, says the increase in filers represents new businesses opening shop. Opponents say it’s unfair to exempt business owners from income taxes while requiring their employees to pay income tax, and that the exemption should be discontinued given the state’s $700 million deficit this fiscal year.

 

Governor’s Budgets Released This Week:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (read here)
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (read here

 


State Rundown 2/19: The Budget Balancing Act


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget on Wednesday to mixed reviews.  The proposal does not include any new revenues despite a $7 billion budget gap, and relies heavily on slashing state spending. Democratic legislators, including powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, pushed back against the governors’ budget. They argue that his proposed cuts, including $1.5 billion in Medicaid spending reductions and hundreds of millions of dollars cut from social services and transit, would hurt low-income working families the most. Rauner has also proposed $600 million worth of cuts in local government aid (while paradoxically pushing for a freeze in local government property tax rates) and $387 million in higher education cuts. ITEP’s recent Who Pays report found that the bottom 20 percent of Illinois taxpayers pay almost three times more of their income in state taxes than the top 1 percent. The governor’s budget will make an unequal situation worse by slashing programs that many of the less fortunate depend on.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who likes to tout his bona fides as a “fiscal conservative,” decided to address his state’s $238 million deficit by not paying its bills. Walker made the decision this week to defer over $100 million in debt payments, opting instead to restructure the debt to the tune of an additional $19 million over the biennium. Many observers have pointed out that Walker’s $2 billion in new tax cuts since taking office – most of which went to the wealthy and corporations – are to blame for the state’s current budget woes. Meanwhile, progressive Wisconsinites slammed Walker for continuing to refuse $345 million in federal dollars to expand Medicaid, arguing that accepting the money could reduce the deficit and help reverse $300 million in higher education cuts proposed by the governor. Walker has also supported cuts to the state park system, science positions in state government, and recycling programs, to the consternation of many.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy outlined an ambitious budget on Wednesday that combines tax cuts, spending increases and new revenue to address a $1.3 billion deficit. Malloy wants to lower the sales tax from 6.35 to 5.95 percent to support low-income and middle-class families, but also repeal a sales tax exemption on clothing set to take place in July. On the business side, the governor would make a 20 percent surcharge on the corporate profits tax permanent, reduce the size of business tax credits for research and development and capital purchases, and eliminate the $250 business entity tax on small businesses. Altogether, Malloy’s changes to business taxes would increase revenue by $300 million. The rest of the deficit would be made up for with deep cuts elsewhere; Medicaid and mental health services would be especially hard hit, and the budget for state parks would be cut by 25 percent. Malloy affirmed his commitment to avoiding cuts in state aid to municipalities.  He also did not propose using rainy day funds to close the state’s budget gap.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, not to be outdone by his lieutenant governor, unveiled a budget proposal with $4.2 billion in tax cuts for businesses and property owners. Half of these cuts would come through a reduction in the state’s business franchise tax – $1 billion more than what the Senate budget proposes – and the other half would come from property tax cuts. Abbott pledged that his budget would make whole any school districts impacted by his property tax cuts. Critics feel that the tax cuts are an irresponsible move, given the state’s worsening economic climate.

State of the State Addresses This Week:
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (watch here)

Governors’ Budgets Released This Week:
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (amendments offered)
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (read here)
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (speech here)
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (read here)

 


State Rundown 2/13: Snow Way Forward


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is facing a blizzard of criticism in the wake of a series of massive snowstorms that have revealed the inadequacy of public transit in Boston. The MBTA – which runs the city’s fleet of subways, busses, commuter trains and ferries and currently faces $9 billion in debt and a $3 billion backlog in maintenance – was forced to suspend service on Tuesday after riders were stranded on a train for two hours. Yesterday, the MBTA’s embattled general manager resigned, but not before revealing in a press conference that the governor hadn’t spoken to her directly about her agency’s woes. Baker, who ran on an anti-tax platform, recently proposed cutting the state’s transportation budget by $40 million (including $14 million from the MBTA), but insisted that it wouldn’t impact service. Given the depth of the problems exposed over the past week and the ire of disgruntled passengers, Baker may have a hard time selling his proposed cuts.

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves introduced the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act, which is mostly a package of tax cuts aimed at business and corporations. His measure would eliminate the 3-percent income tax on the first $5,000 of taxable income, which would benefit working families. However, the proposal would also cut taxes for business owners and eliminate the state’s franchise tax on property and capital owned by corporations. Reeves’s plan would cost Mississippi $400 million in revenue every year, and over half of that money would go back to corporations – the franchise tax brings in $242 million in revenue and accounts for 45 percent of corporate tax revenue in the state. As the Mississippi Economic Policy Center points out, corporate tax cuts are unlikely to make Mississippi more competitive since the state has failed to adequately invest in the quality of its workforce.

The latest revenue forecast out of North Carolina shows that the state will collect $271 million less than estimated due to lower-than-expected income tax receipts. This measure is higher than the $199 million shortfall projected in December. State officials have blamed weak growth in wages for the gap, but the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, using ITEP data, points to the 2013 tax plan as the real culprit. The income tax cuts included in the plan will cost the state almost $1 billion this fiscal year, almost twice what the plan was originally estimated to cost.

The Arizona House considered a bill this week that would force the state to cut income taxes if Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax on online purchases. The bill failed by a close margin on Tuesday, but received a reconsideration vote after one was requested by sponsor Rep. J.D. Mesnard. The Arizona Children’s Action Alliance came out against the bill, arguing that it would tie the hands of future legislators and eliminate a possible revenue source. Citing ITEP data, they note that two-thirds of the income tax cuts would go to those with incomes above $94,000. With the combined impact of lower income taxes and higher sales taxes, 80 percent of Arizona taxpayers would see a net increase in their tax bill.

Following Up:
Oklahoma: A tax exemption for manufacturers and wind farms came under fire as being too generous before a House committee this week. 

 


State Rundown 2/10: Semi-Encouraging News


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Rumors abound in Springfield that a gas tax increase could be in the works. Though Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has downplayed reports that he supports such a measure, in his state of the state address last week he said the state needs to “restructure” its motor fuel tax to pay for infrastructure investments. Leaked documents from Rauner’s business allies detail possible fixes, including a 13-cent increase in the gas excise tax and increasing the cost of registering, titling, and driver’s licenses.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed his proposed middle-class tax cut into law on Friday after the measure passed both chambers of the legislature by wide margins. The bill passed with a proposed capital gains tax measure intact. The exemption for capital gains will fall to 40 percent from 50 percent – less than the 30 percent proposed in the Senate version of the bill, but still a significant improvement in making the state’s tax system fairer. The tax cuts exclude the 40 percent of Arkansans earning less than $21,000 per year. If no additional changes are made, the disparity between the tax rate paid by low-income workers and other Arkansans will worsen; Arkansas ranks 11th in the Who Pays Inequality Index.

Oklahoma lawmakers have turned their sights on a glut of tax credits and incentives that cost the state more than $1 billion annually. Facing a $300 million shortfall, some legislators argue that many of the incentives, though well-intentioned, do not perform well or live up to their promises. Leaders in the House and Senate have proposed a four-year review process for tax credits and incentives. Meanwhile, policymakers have taken the Kansas lesson to heart and pushed proposals to slash the state’s income tax to the backburner.

 

Governor’s Budgets Released This Week:
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (Tuesday)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Wednesday)

 


State Rundown 2/5: State of the States


| | Bookmark and Share

Click Here to sign up to receive the 
State  Rundown in your inbox.

SRLogo.jpg

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan fleshed out his plans to cut taxes in his state of the state address this Wednesday, vowing to seek reductions for small businesses, some retirees, motorists and the repeal of the so-called “rain tax,” a contentious stormwater management fee. Faced with a significant budget deficit, Hogan was forced to pursue more piecemeal tax cuts than he suggested during the campaign, though the measures face stiff opposition from the Democratic-controlled legislature. Two of the measures particularly rankle environmentalists; Hogan wants to repeal a law indexing the state’s gas tax to inflation, and his attack on the stormwater fee will shortchange efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Democrats say the governor’s plans will cost $30 million a year in lost revenue, while the governor’s staff says the cost will be closer to $27 million. Additionally, Hogan proposed legislation to make it easier to open charter schools in Maryland, as well as a tax break for people who donate to private and religious schools. ITEP has argued that such tax breaks, also known as “neovouchers,” unfairly divert public money to private education. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed a similar tax credit in his budget.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory used his state of the state speech to tout his “North Carolina plan,” which would expand Medicaid in North Carolina but seek a waiver for some of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions. The governor made sparing references to taxes in his speech, despite the fact that revenues in the Tarheel state have fallen under projection thanks to tax cuts he signed in 2013. Also left unmentioned was the push by some lawmakers to repeal the state’s capital gains tax, a measure that McCrory has partially supported as a way to lure “innovation-related companies” to the state. Some advocates criticized the governor for failing to push for reenactment of the state’s EITC, which expired in 2013.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker further cemented his conservative-warrior persona in his state of the state speech, slashing higher education budgets by $300 million to help solve a $650 million budget deficit over the biennium (which will inevitably mean higher tuition bills). Walker’s budget also includes a property tax cut of $5 per year for the average taxpayer (according the governors’ office) to the tune of $280 million for the state, to be enacted by sending more state aid to local districts but earmarking that aid for tax cuts. K-12 spending, meanwhile, would remain flat. Walker’s budget has earned the governor steep opposition; faculty and students at the University of Wisconsin decried the governor for proposing the deepest higher education cuts in state history while also giving $220 million in state money to the NBA for a new stadium. Some lawmakers point out that many of the cuts would be unnecessary if Walker and his legislative allies had not squandered last year’s $1 billion surplus on property and income tax cuts. Even some conservative lawmakers are worried that Walker’s cuts to higher education will lead to huge tuition spikes, despite the two-year tuition freeze included in the governor’s budget proposal.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pushed for a property-tax freeze in his state of the state address, arguing that local governments need to cut expenses and waste or consolidate services in order to make it happen. The governor previously called for expanding the sales tax base to include services in order to bring in more revenue and make the state more competitive. Given that the state faces a projected $11 billion shortfall over the next two years, it has left us head scratching as to why the governor avoided talking directly about how to resolve the state’s revenue crisis.

 

Following Up:

  • Maine: As expected, Gov. Paul LePage used his state of the state address to make a case for his tax reform proposal, arguing that the state should adopt a constitution amendment that commits future revenue growth to income tax cuts. LePage appears to be following a broader national strategy for Republican governors to cut income taxes and raise sales and other taxes on a promised “path to prosperity.”  
  • Ohio: Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal received pushback from school districts concerned that his new funding plan will unfairly redistribute state resources. The governor and his staff claim the plan will send more money to poorer districts, but school officials have criticized the opacity of his funding formula. Look to the Tax Justice Digest next week for full coverage of the plan, including an analysis of who wins and who loses.
  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to veto any budget that does not include tax cuts for businesses, arguing that cutting or eliminating the state’s franchise tax would stimulate job growth.
  •  

     


    State Rundown 2/2: Groundhog Day on Tax Cuts


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Maine Gov. Paul LePage plans to borrow from the Sam Brownback playbook, announcing his intention to eliminate his state’s income tax in three steps (we saw how that worked out for Kansas) at tomorrow’s state of the state address. The governor’s current budget proposal would reduce the current top income tax rate from 7.95 to 5.75 percent, and would also slash corporate tax rates and eliminate the state’s estate tax altogether. The governor proposes to pay for these tax cuts by broadening the sales tax base and increasing sales tax rates and reducing state aid for municipalities. Eliminating the state income tax would result in the loss of half of the state’s $3 billion in annual revenue, necessitating deep cuts or major tax shifts to more recessive revenue sources. 

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal would lower income tax rates, eliminate the income tax for about one million business owners and increase the personal exemption allowed for Ohioans making under $80,000 a year. The plan would wipe out income taxes for 98 percent of business owners who report their profits as personal income, as businesses with annual gross receipts of less than $2 million would be eligible. Taken as a whole, the governor’s plan is a revenue loser despite several proposed regressive tax increases. The governor proposes increasing the state sales tax, increasing the state’s cigarette tax, increasing the tax on business activity, broadening the sales tax base and increasing the severance tax. Republicans and Democrats in the legislature are both likely to oppose the governor’s proposal as a tax shift, though for different reasons: Republicans want to reduce overall revenue, while Democrats oppose the governor’s plan on fairness grounds.

    The budget proposed by the Texas Senate includes over $4 billion in tax cuts, with $3 billion going to school property tax relief and the other $1 billion going to tax breaks for businesses via a cut in the franchise tax. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate and is the rare example of a powerful lieutenant governor, used the Senate’s proposal to make good on his campaign pledges to cut taxes. Opponents of the Senate plan point out that, with oil prices declining, the state’s current surplus should be invested in needed services or saved for rainier days. "Just because this session they have a $7.5 billion cash balance and a projected increase in revenue doesn't mean that two years from now they won't be scraping for money just to keep up the current level of services," argued Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. State lawmakers have still not fully restored $5.4 billion in education spending cuts enacted in 2011, and more than 600 school districts have sued the state over inadequate funding.

     

    States Starting Session This Week:
    Nevada
    Oklahoma
    Oregon

    State of the State Addresses This Week:
    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (read here)
    Maine Gov. Paul LePage (Tuesday)
    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Tuesday)
    Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (Wednesday)

    Governor’s Budgets Released This Week:
    Ohio Gov. John Kasich (Monday)
    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (Monday)

     

     


    State Rundown 1/29: You Put a Tax Cut In, You Take a Tax Cut Out


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    In the latest twist out of Arkansas, a House committee stripped Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed middle-class tax cut of a capital gains tax measure added just last week in the Senate. The governor’s proposal as passed by the Senate would have reduced the exemption on capital gains from the 50 percent exclusion passed in 2013 to the 30 percent exclusion in effect previously. The House bill would restore the 50 percent exclusion for one year, and then allow the exclusion to fall to 40 percent after that. The House version of the governor’s bill will cost $9 million more each year than the Senate bill. The move is likely to further alienate progressive groups in Arkansas, who previously offered tepid support for the governor’s plan while criticizing its omission of the working poor. Progressives were further angered by the governor’s budget proposal, which did not include promised increases in funding for pre-kindergarten. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families notes that “Even before the 2013 capital gains tax cut, Arkansas already had one of the most generous capital gains structures in the nation.”

    While many politicians and businesspeople decry inverted companies as unpatriotic for avoiding their US tax liability while taking advantage of all our country has to offer, a legislator in Virginia has other ideas. Sen. Ryan McDougle recently introduced a bill that would create a $5 million corporate income tax exemption for companies that have used an inversion to lower their US tax liability. Qualifying companies would need to make a $5 million capital investment in Virginia to open a facility or other business operation, and would be eligible for the exemption each year for five years. It’s just the latest move in the depressing race to the bottom on corporate taxes.

    A Maryland state senator has offered a bill that would repeal a stormwater fee he once supported. Sen. James Brochin wants to get rid of the so-called “rain tax,” a hot issue in the last gubernatorial campaign, because he claims local jurisdictions have applied the fee unevenly and put businesses at a competitive disadvantage (this aspect of the law was a part of the bill at the time the senator voted for it). Brochin also regrets supporting a bill that indexed the state’s gas tax to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), saying, “If you took the CPI idea and you had passed it in 1993, 21 years later the gas tax would be $1.86 [per gallon]." His math is a little fuzzy. Indexing MD’s gas tax to inflation (CPI) since 1993 would mean the base rate would go from 23.5 cents to 38.5 cents.  On top of that, there’s a 5 percent sales tax on gas phasing-in that would add about 12 cents a gallon to the gas tax at today’s prices, for a total gas tax of 50.5 cents, not $1.86.  For the tax rate to hit $1.86, gas prices would have to be $29.50 per gallon – which won’t happen anytime soon.

    Maine Gov. Paul LePage is expected to push his tax cut package in next week’s state of the state address. Under the governor’s proposed budget, individual and corporate income tax rates would be cut, the estate tax would be eliminated, and the sales tax would be broadened and increased. The governor described his plan as a way to move the state from an income-based tax system to a “pay-as-you-go” consumption-based tax system. In other words, the state would shift the way it funds public investments from relying on a progressive personal income tax to a broad- based sales tax which falls disproportionately on low- and middle-income families.

    A bill to enact a property tax circuit breaker credit in Nebraska received a hearing in the state legislature today. The proposal, offered by Sen. Kate Bolz, would offer property tax rebates up to $1,200 to couples who make under $116,000 a year or individuals making under $58,000.  It is designed to target relief to residents whose property taxes or rents are high relative to their incomes. ITEP analyzed the bill and found that two-thirds of the benefits of the property tax circuit breaker credit would go to the bottom 40 percent of Nebraskan taxpayers.

    Following Up:

    • North Carolina: NC Policy Watch drew attention to a new Berkeley study that shows the federal capital gains tax cuts under President George W. Bush failed to stimulate the economy. State leaders are pushing to eliminate North Carolina’s capital gains tax to increase investment.
    • Minnesota: A Senate committee voted to consider proposals to phase out the state’s tax on Social Security benefits as part of a larger tax package yesterday. Seniors and the Minnesota AARP voiced support for the measures, while some legislators balked at the price tag.
    • Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant’s plan to cut taxes drew more opposition, most recently in a Clarion-Ledger op-ed: “Bryant exuded optimism that the state's economy was in the best financial condition ever. He didn't dare mention that the primary source of income for Mississippians is transfer funds–namely federal funds.”

    Things We Missed:

     

     


    State Rundown 1/27: All Tax Cuts Are Not Created Equal


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Some North Carolina lawmakers may push to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax under the guise of promoting economic growth, according to a recent report by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. The tax is levied on income from the sale of stocks, artwork, vacation homes, and other fancy items – so this isn’t a middle class tax cut we’re talking about. ITEP crunched the numbers for the report and found that eliminating taxes on capital gains would reduce state revenue by $520 million, and 60 percent of the benefits would accrue to taxpayers making $1 million or more – just one percent of North Carolina’s taxpayer base. The idea is even more appalling when you consider that all income growth in the state between 2009 and 2012 went to these same earners, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

    Leaders of both parties unveiled tax cut plans last week in Minnesota, but the beneficiaries of these plans would differ greatly. Gov. Mark Dayton wants to introduce a tax credit for child care expenses that would expand an already existing program to cover families making up to $124,000 a year. Under the plan, which would cost $100 million over two years, the maximum credit would be $2,100, and the governor predicts that the typical family would receive a credit of $481. Meanwhile, state Sen. David Senjem has sponsored a bill to phase out Minnesota’s tax on some Social Security benefits over the next decade.   The lion’s share of this tax cut would go to better-off elderly taxpayers, since social security is already fully exempt from Minnesota tax for seniors with income below $25,000 ($32,000 for married couples) and partially exempt for all seniors. His plan would cost $127 million over two years..

    Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant pledged to consider any tax cut proposal that reaches his desk in last week’s state of the state address, saying “In short, put a tax cut on my desk, and I will sign it.” The governor has proposed a nonrefundable earned income tax credit for working families with income limits that match the federal EITC.. The governor claims the credit would give Mississippians a tax break of $100-400 a year, would cost $79 million, and would only be available in years where revenue growth is sufficient and the state’s rainy day fund is full. An ITEP analysis found that the governor’s nonrefundable EITC proposal would give a tax break to only 9 percent of the poorest Mississippians, but a refundable credit would reach 45 percent of low-income people. Not everyone in the state is enthused by the governor’s plan; one legislator called the cuts “political hogwash” and blasted the governor for not investing more in infrastructure. The Sun Herald criticized the governor for unfounded optimism in his speech, writing “At the risk of reveling in the bad, as Bryant put it, we believe no honest State of the State at this point in its history should sugarcoat this state's miserable rankings in the education of its children, the health of its residents and the income level of its work force.”

     

    State of the State Addresses This Week:
    Hawaii Gov. David Ige (watch here)
    Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (Wednesday)
    Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (Wednesday)

    Governors’ Budgets Released This Week
    Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (Tuesday)
    Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (Tuesday)
    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Tuesday)
    Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (Wednesday)


    State Rundown 1/22: Twists, Turns and Intrigue


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Although it significantly cut income taxes over each of the last three legislative sessions, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly heard the first of 30 bills this week aimed at income tax cuts, One proposal would reduce all personal income tax rates to zero and collapse the state’s current five income brackets to one. The governor’s income tax plan would reduce personal income tax rates by 10 percent and corporate income tax rates by 4.8 percent across the board. Another proposal currently before Senate would reduce the income tax rate on the bottom income bracket from 1.22 percent to 0 percent, eliminating the tax liability for 170,000 North Dakotans. The tax cut would cost $151 million a year and expire after two years. Sponsors of the bill argue that the tax cut would provide relief to renters, who have seen rents skyrocket as a result of the oil boom. Other legislators have suggested a more targeted approach, through an income tax credit for renters. 

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed an increase in the state’s gas tax in her state of the state Wednesday. Previously, the governor pledged to veto any increase in the state’s gas tax, which has not changed since 1987. The catch (and there’s always a catch) is that Haley will not support a gas tax increase without an income tax cut for top earners (from 7 to 5 percent).  Hiking gas taxes while cutting the top income tax rate would result in a tax shift from well-off South Carolinians to middle income and working families. State legislators had varied reactions to the governor’s plan; while Republicans were enthusiastic, Democrats pointed out that the plan would result in a net revenue loss of $117 million.

    A state Senate committee approved Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s tax plan Wednesday  with an amendment that would eliminate a planned capital gains tax cut. The amendment, offered by Sen. Bill Sample, would reverse a measure passed in 2013 to increase the exemption on capital gains from 30 percent to 50 percent and eliminate the tax on capital gains above $10 million. The amendment reduces the total cost of the governor’s tax plan to $93.4 million, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. Local political prognosticators have noted the unorthodox nature of a Republican governor and legislature introducing a bill with tax increases.

    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of bills last week related to a ballot question that voters will decide on in May.  If approved, the package will generate $1.2 billion per year for roads and $300 million per year for schools by raising sales taxes, gas taxes, and vehicle registration fees.  In sharp contrast to Governor Haley’s proposal for South Carolina (described above), this package includes an income tax cut targeted toward low-income taxpayers, rather than the wealthy.  If approved, the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would rise to equal 20 percent of the federal credit.

     

    Following Up:

    MontanaDebate over tax cut measures continues in the legislature, and Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget director opposed the measures in committee hearings, saying they would endanger the state’s surplus. The Montana Budget and Policy Center, citing ITEP numbers, said that the top 1 percent of Montana taxpayers would see a tax cut of $2,200, while low-income Montanans would see a cut of just $12.

    New Hampshire – Gov. Maggie Hassan has announced she opposes  proposed corporate tax cuts, saying that the bills currently before the state senate would create a significant budget hole. It is uncertain if Hassan will veto the bills should they reach her desk.

    New York – In a stunning turn of events, state assembly speaker and Cuomo ally Sheldon Silver was arrested this morning on corruption charges. The charges stem from investigations related to the Moreland Commission, which the governor shut down prematurely last year amid controversy. Needless to say, this development will have an impact on Gov. Cuomo’s legislative agenda.


    State Rundown 1/20: Plenty of Tax Cut Proposals


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Legislators in Montana have a full plate this week, including several proposals to cut taxes. One plan would cut state income taxes by 5 percent across the board at a cost of $79 million in lost revenue, while a more modest proposal would cut income tax rates at a cost of $26 million. An ITEP analysis found that the rate cuts in both plans would overwhelmingly benefit high-income taxpayers; in each case, the top 20 percent of taxpayers would receive roughly two-thirds of the tax cut.

    Two proposals in the New Hampshire Senate would lower the business enterprise and business profits taxes. Sponsors of the proposals have argued that the state’s corporate tax rates deter investment, but as the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute points out business tax cuts are an ineffective economic development strategy. One bill proposes a reduction in the business profits tax rate from 8.5 to 8 percent. The profits tax falls on businesses with gross receipts over $50,000, though only one percent of filers actually pay it after credits are applied. The other bill would reduce the business enterprise tax, which is levied on businesses’ wages, dividends and interest, from a rate of 0.75 percent to 0.675 percent. Combined, the two measures could cost $35 million in lost revenue each year. Opponents of the cuts complain the lost revenue would mean fewer services and worse infrastructure.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will address state legislators and interested citizens in a joint State of the State and budget address this Wednesday. A key element of his budget proposal is a $1.7 billion property tax circuit breaker credit that would be available to homeowners and renters if their property tax payments exceed 6 percent of income. The circuit breaker would phase out for homeowners with $250,000 or more of income and for renters at $150,000 (13.75 percent of their rent would be considered property taxes). The governor estimates that over 1.3 million New Yorkers would receive an average credit of $950 if his plan is fully implemented. The governor may also express his support for a bill that offers tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate money to public schools or scholarship programs for poor and minority students to attend private schools. The bill is contentious, as some see it as a way to divert state money to private education.

     

    Things We Missed:

     

  • Last week, we reported that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo released her budget proposal. She has decided to release her budget instead in early March.
  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal released his budget proposal last Friday; an overview can be found here.
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley released her budget proposal last Monday; an overview can be found here.
  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave his State of the Commonwealth speech last Wednesday; you can read a transcript and watch the speech here.
  • Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber gave his State of the State address last Monday; you can read a transcript and watch the speech here.
  •  

     

    States Starting Session This Week:
    Alaska
    Hawaii
    New Mexico

    State of the State Addresses This Week:
    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (watch here)
    New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (watch here)
    Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (Wednesday)
    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (Wednesday)
    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Wednesday)
    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (Wednesday)
    Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Thursday)
    Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (Thursday)

    Governor’s Budget’s Released This Week:
    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (Monday)
    Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (Wednesday)
    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Wednesday)


    State Rundown 1/16: Kumbaya Caucus


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Newly-elected Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson continued a well-established tradition in the Natural State by beginning the legislative session with a proposed tax cut. Hutchinson’s plan would cut personal income tax rates by one percent for those making $21,000 to $75,000 a year, and would cost $137.8 million once fully implemented (according to Hutchinson's office). The governor has yet to outline how he will pay for his tax cut. His plan will offer virtually no relief to the 40 percent of Arkansans who make less than $22,600 and currently pay a percentage of their income in state in local taxes that is twice as high as that paid by the wealthiest Arkansans, according to the most recent edition of ITEP’s Who Pays report. Legislators predicted that the cuts would receive broad bipartisan support.

    North Carolina lawmakers began their legislative session yesterday with the usual pledges of bipartisanship meant to muffle the sharpening of knives. The state’s Republican legislature could face a showdown with Gov. Pat McCrory over Medicaid expansion, a policy that the governor now says he is open to considering. At their traditional press conference, the leaders of the House and Senate reiterated their opposition to expanding Medicaid to cover 500,000 additional North Carolinians, but were non-committal on other issues likely to dominate the session – business incentives, teacher pay and local taxes, among others. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger defended previously enacted corporate and personal income tax cuts, saying they are contributing to an improving economic environment despite revenue collections falling $190 million below state projections. This is after state projections were already adjusted downward by close to the same amount last year, so the state is actually bringing in $400 million less than originally anticipated.

    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urged lawmakers to find money to invest in the state’s transportation system, saying $1 billion was needed to simply maintain the current system. While the governor did not specify where the funding should from, he highlighted the inadequacy of the state’s gasoline excise tax, signaling his openness to a tax increase. Georgia’s excise tax has not increased since 1971, while fuel efficiency has almost doubled. The prospect of a transportation plan passing the legislature is dicey; Republicans are likely to oppose increasing taxes or fees, while Democrats could balk at a plan that doesn’t include funding for mass transit. Democrats enjoy leverage on the issue since their votes could be necessary to overcome Republican opposition.

     

    Following Up:

    Arizona – A judge ordered lawyers for the Legislature, governor and Arizona public schools to enter into settlement talks over a lawsuit brought by the schools against the state. Gov. Ducey previously called for a resolution in his State of the State address.

    New Jersey – Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address received mixed reviews for being light on details (the governor did not mention his state’s transportation crisis and punted on unfunded pension liabilities) and targeted toward a national audience. Christie did, however offer dissonant platitudes about the need to make investments and also cut taxes. Perhaps next he will boldly declare his intention to rub his tummy and pat his head at the same time.

    Nebraska – The Nebraska Cattlemen Association is monitoring the property tax cut proposals emerging in the legislature after Gov. Pete Rickett’s pledge to offer Nebraskans property tax relief in his State of the State address. They have shown particular interest in Sen. Al Davis’ plan to pay for property tax relief through new local income taxes.

    Tennessee – As predicted, plenty of legislators hate Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage to 200,000 Tennesseans. House Republican leader Gerald McCormick is particularly unenthused, saying he would sponsor the governor’s bill but only because it’s his job (cue heavy sighing and eye-rolling).

     

    Things We Missed: 

    New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee and Gov. Susana Martinez both released their budget proposals this week. State revenues are expected to continue sliding due to falling oil prices, and less generous spending is expected. (Thanks to Ellen Pinnes for the tip!) 


    State Rundown 1/12: When Your Mouth Writes a Check Your State Can't Cash


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Welcome to the State Rundown, your source for the latest in state tax policy! This week, 21 states begin their legislative sessions, including a number of states where newly-elected conservative governors will have to grapple with big budget deficits. Presidential contenders Scott Walker and Chris Christie will deliver highly-anticipated State of the State addresses as well. Here are the top stories we’ll be following this week:

     

    Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who campaigned on a pledge to cut income taxes, will likely shift his focus from tax cuts to spending cuts in his State of the State address today. His pledge last week not to raise taxes in his inaugural address was widely seen as a concession that promised tax cuts were untenable given the state’s $500 million deficit this fiscal year and projected $1 billion shortfall in FY 2016. Ducey will instead announce a statewide hiring freeze and his intention to push for a resolution to a long-standing school funding dispute.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will attempt to use his State of the State address to stop his recent slide in the polls and seize the initiative on two issues that threaten his legacy – public employee pension reform and transportation funding. So far the governor has been mum about the contents of his speech, but New Jersey political watchers anticipate Christie will defend his decision to cut back on promised payments to state pension plans. A bipartisan commission appointed by the governor has yet to release recommendations on how to deal with tens of billions of dollars in unfunded health benefits and pension liabilities. Christie must also contend with a nearly insolvent transportation fund that will go broke in July without additional funding. Some observers speculate that the governor will call for a state gas tax increase, which, after adjusting for inflation, is currently at its lowest level in history.

    Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, who identified property tax cuts as his first priority in his inaugural address last week, may also welcom efforts in the legislature to push for income tax cuts as well. Business leaders in the state have made it clear that income tax cuts are their main concern, and the state’s projected budget shortfall makes it unlikely Nebraska could afford both property tax cuts and income tax cuts. The release of the Governor’s budget this week will provide more details on his vision for tax cuts. Proposals already circulating in the legislature include reducing the taxable value of agricultural land, capping property taxes, taxing land based on profit generated instead of market value, or increasing the size of the state’s property tax credit fund.            

    Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam could be a victim of his party’s success in the last election, as conservative state lawmakers could push the governor farther to the right than he would like during the legislative session that starts this week. Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, and some lawmakers plan to push to cut or eliminate the Hall Tax over the governor’s objections. The Hall Tax is a six percent tax on income from dividends, interest and capital gains – and a rare progressive feature in a tax system that leans overwhelmingly on the poor. Haslam has repeatedly rebuffed calls from conservative groups to push for repeal, arguing that the $300 million in revenue gained from the tax each year would be difficult to replace. His stance could be complicated, however, by his push to have Tennessee accept Medicaid expansion under his Insure Tennessee plan. Expansion could bring $1.14 billion in new spending and 15,000 jobs to Tennessee, but is a lightning rod among conservatives who oppose the Affordable Care Act. The governor could decide that he lacks the political capital to fight for Insure Tennessee and the Hall Tax at the same time.

     

    States Starting Session This Week:
    Arkansas
    Arizona
    Colorado
    Delaware
    Georgia
    Idaho
    Illinois
    Iowa
    Kansas
    Maryland
    Minnesota
    North Carolina
    South Carolina
    South Dakota
    Tennessee
    Texas
    Utah
    Virginia
    Washington
    West Virginia
    Wyoming

    State of the State Addresses This Week:
    Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (watch here)
    Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (watch here)
    Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (Tuesday)
    Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (Tuesday)
    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Tuesday)
    South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (Tuesday)
    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (Tuesday)
    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Tuesday)
    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (Wednesday)
    West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (Wednesday)
    Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (Wednesday)
    Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Thursday)
    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (Thursday)
    Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (Thursday)
    Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (Thursday) 

    Governor’s Budgets Released This Week:
    Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (Monday)
    West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (Wednesday)
    Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (Thursday)
    Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (Thursday)
    Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (Thursday)
    Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (Thursday)
    Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Friday)


    State Rundown 1/8: All Eyes on the Governors


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Click Here to sign up to receive the 
    State  Rundown in your inbox.

    SRLogo.jpg

    Happy New Year and welcome back to the State Rundown, your statehouse insider and source for all things state tax policy related. We’ll provide a preview of the week’s big debates every Monday afternoon, as well as a follow-up post on Thursday afternoons. Eighteen states began their legislative sessions this week, so let’s hit the ground running!

    California Gov. Jerry Brown was sworn in Monday to a history-making fourth term, delivering his annual State of the State speech at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Brown touted his success in leading California through the Great Recession, turning a severe budget deficit into surplus and presiding over impressive economic growth. However, budget fights over the state’s high speed rail project and temporarily enacted sales and income tax increases, set to expire in 2018, loom this session.

    North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple struck a defiant tone in his State of the State address Tuesday, despite the threat to his spending plans posed by the continuing slide in oil prices. The governor announced plans to increase state support for counties by $1 billion and pledged to make further tax cuts a priority this legislative session. Since 2009, North Dakota has cut taxes by $4.3 billion, and some lawmakers are pushing to eliminate the state income tax. A property tax reform measure has a likelier chance of passage, however.

    Lawmakers in the Rhode Island House of Representatives want to pass a major and costly tax cut for Ocean State retirees. Yesterday, a bill was introduced to exempt all state, local and federal retirement income, including Social Security benefits and military pensions, from the state’s personal income tax. An initial ITEP analysis of the bill found that the lion’s share of the benefits would go to well-off elderly taxpayers.  Since some social security income is already exempted from Rhode Island taxes, fixed-income seniors already owe no personal income taxes on those benefits and often have no other retirement income. 

    The bad economic news keeps coming for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics on employment growth in metropolitan areas shows that the governor’s tax cuts have failed to produce jobs – in fact, Kansas City, Missouri added jobs at four times the rate of Kansas City, Kansas, right across the state line. Back in 2012, Gov. Brownback promised Johnson County business leaders that steep tax cuts would draw economic activity from Missouri. In another setback for the governor (and victory for Kansas schoolchildren), a state judicial panel ruled that Kansas inadequately funds public schools. The ruling could mean that state leaders need to pony up another $548 million in school funding when they already face a $1.1 billion deficit. Of course, these are self-inflicted wounds that could be reversed through a prudent fiscal policy.

    Newly-elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is on a gloom-and-doom tour, hoping to drive home just how terrible his state’s finances are and prepare voters for the worst. The governor will inherit a budget short by $1.4 billion, and some state agencies are expected to run out of money in a month. The state’s budget deficit is expected to almost double to $12.7 billion. Rauner, who ran on a platform of lower taxes and higher school spending, has his work cut out for him. A temporary income tax increase is slated to expire this month, which will mean $5 billion less in revenue for a state that desperately needs it.

    States Starting Session this Week:
    California
    Connecticut
    Indiana
    Kentucky
    Massachusetts
    Minnesota
    Mississippi
    Missouri
    Montana
    Nebraska
    New Hampshire
    New York
    North Dakota
    Ohio
    Pennsylvania
    Rhode Island
    Vermont
    Wisconsin

    State of the State Addresses this Week:
    California Gov. Jerry Brown (watch here)
    North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (watch here)
    Maine Gov. Paul LePage (watch here)
    Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (watch here)

    Governor’s Budgets released this Week:
    California Gov. Jerry Brown (Friday)
    Maine Gov. Paul LePage (Friday)


    State Rundown 12/10: The Best Laid Plans (and Reports)


    | | Bookmark and Share

    houseofcards.jpgKansas Gov. Sam Brownback bowed to reality yesterday and unveiled his plan to close the state’s self-inflicted budget gap. In true Sam Brownback fashion, his solution is to stiff highway projects and pensioners rather than reverse his disastrous tax cuts. The plan has been criticized by state leaders on both sides, since keeping your state’s roads in poor condition and your senior citizens poor is bad for economic development. Brownback’s proposal also includes smaller, though significant cuts for early childhood education programs, further showing the governor’s willingness to rob Kansas’s future to pay for unnecessary tax cuts today.


    A new report commissioned for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by his lieutenant governor claims that the state’s high taxes and complex tax code are a drag on economic growth. While no recommendations are made within it’s pages, the report’s conclusion represents a consensus among state business and political leaders who were included in the meetings. Not surprisingly, this consensus leaves out the thoughts of advocates for public services, educators and other Wisconsinites who must have missed the invitation to the 23 meetings held across the state. Walker seems to be taking a page from Indiana Gov. John Pence’s playbook, after Pence held a tax reform conference this past summer open to Art Laffer and Grover Norquist, but not the public.


    Meanwhile, Maryland legislators held a hearing recently to discuss the fate of its tax incentive program for film production, after a damning report showed the program brings in only 10 cents for every dollar spent. The bulk of the $62.5 million in credits went to just two shows, “Veep” and “House of Cards.” The credits first generated controversy early this year, when House of Cards threatened to stop production in the state unless lawmakers put up more money. This crisis was averted after Kevin Spacey agreed to schmooze with lawmakers and pose for photos at an Annapolis wine bar. Frank Underwood would be proud.


    A new report from the North Carolina legislature’s top economist reveals that state revenues are $190 million short of what was previously projected (this is on top of a previous downgrade in revenue availability for the year by $200 million). Fiscal experts in the state say the gap was caused by weak individual income tax collections and falling paycheck withholdings in the wake of last year’s tax overhaul. ITEP and our allies at the North Carolina Justice Center have been sounding the alarm for months over the huge tax cuts passed for the wealthy, arguing that their cost was wildly underestimated. Let’s hope state lawmakers don’t make up for missing revenue by cutting crucial services and making things worse.


    A report commissioned by a pro-business group claims that “tax reform” would boost business in Iowa. The state tax code, according to its authors, is too cumbersome and complex, leaving investors too confused to set up shop in the state. The Chamber Alliance, which commissioned the report, will lobby the state to simplify (read: fewer brackets) and reduce (lower rates) corporate and personal income taxes. Apparently the $4.4 billion in property tax cuts and $90 million in annual income tax relief passed by state legislators last year hasn’t been enough to make the state competitive.


     


    State Rundown 11/14: Here Comes the Judge


    | | Bookmark and Share

    USSupremeCourtWestFacade.JPGNew data out of Kansas shows local property tax rates falling after an infusion of state cash for struggling school districts. After the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that cuts in state aid to schools created “unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities” between districts, $134 million in funding was restored, with the greatest relief going to those districts most in need. The case, Gannon v. State, began with a lawsuit brought by a coalition of Kansas school boards. A portion of the lawsuit, concerning general aid to schools, is still pending.


    The United States Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case that could have ramifications for states’ ability to tax income earned outside their borders. The case, Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Brian Wynne, will determine if state residents are entitled to tax credits on certain income earned outside the state. Right now, Maryland taxpayers can deduct taxes paid in other states from their Maryland state income tax, but the rule doesn’t apply to portion of state income tax collected on behalf of counties. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that this is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause because it discriminates against interstate commerce.


    A coalition of school districts, parents and civil rights advocates sued top officials in Pennsylvania this week, alleging that state funding for K-12 education underfunds public schools and denies students in poor districts equal educational opportunities. They want the state’s Commonwealth Court to strike down the funding formula as unconstitutional and require a more equitable replacement. According to the plaintiffs, some districts are underfunded by as much as $4,000 per student and the disparities in per-pupil spending between low-income and high-income districts is almost $20,000. In 2011, state officials reduced state education funding by $860 million, leaving districts to rely on inequitable property tax revenues to close the gap.


     


    State Rundown 10/30: Ballot Measures and Bad Policy


    | | Bookmark and Share

    IMG_012214capitol_br59.J_7_1_AQ2T51MO_L72370298.JPGNPR has the latest on Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s implosion, noting that since his tax cuts were enacted neighboring states have seen more robust job growth, and that revenue shortfalls have been double what state officials originally projected. Politico’s Morning Tax reports that, because the state must balance its budget each year, legislators have been forced to raid highway and reserve funds, as well as close the only school in the town of Marquette. Art Laffer, architect of the Brownback cuts and supply-side partisan, told NPR that it would be nonsense to expect people to quickly adjust to Kansas’ new tax codes, and that it could take a decade to see the promised results -- so great news for Kansas schoolchildren! His take is a departure from state revenue secretary Nick Jordan, who predicted two years ago that the state would see noticeable growth in three years. Maybe 2015 will be the charm?

    Speaking of disastrous tax cuts, Chris Fitzsimon of North Carolina Policy Watch wrote an op/ed in The Courier Tribune on the insanity that is North Carolina fiscal policy. He assails lawmakers for their 2013 tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, noting, “Just three months into the new fiscal year, North Carolina has a revenue shortfall of just over $60 million and it may balloon to ten times that much before next June.” Quoting ITEP data, Fitzsimon warns that “the cost of the Robin Hood in reverse tax cut could reach $1.1 billion this year.” The cuts, initially projected to cost $513 million this year, will actually cost $704 million -- a difference of $191 million, more than enough to pay for the $109 million in education funding that the legislature cut this summer. Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent of North Carolinians received, on average, a $10,000 tax break. I guess we found out where the money for teacher’s raises went.

    Zach Schiller of Policy Matters Ohio has an op/ed in The Cleveland Plain Dealer opposing Gov. John Kasich’s proposed elimination of the state income tax. His case is convincing (and not just because it features ITEP data): over the past decade, Ohio has cut its income tax rates by almost 30 percent, just to see job losses of 2 percent while national employment increased by 4 percent. Moreover, shifting the tax burden from income to sales would give the wealthiest Ohioans tens of thousands of dollars in tax cuts while increasing taxes for the bottom fifth. Schiller gets it: “Proponents of income-tax repeal need to explain: Why should we add to growing income inequality and further slant the state and local tax system against low- and middle-income Ohioans so that the affluent can pay less?”

    A new poll shows that the number of Massachusetts voters who support ballot Question 1 -- a repeal of a law indexing the gas tax to inflation -- is rising. A month ago, support for repeal stood at 36 percent, while 50 percent said they would vote no on Question 1. Today, support of and opposition to the ballot measure are equal, at 42 percent. Opponents of Question 1 argue that letting the value of gas tax revenue to erode over decades, as has been the case in numerous states, leads to higher costs in the long run since necessary maintenance is deferred. They also argue that taxes set as a rate already increase with inflation, so the approach outlined in the law is not a novel one. Supporters of Question believe that taxes should not increase without legislators publicly voting to do so.


    State Rundown 10/10: Lottery Bust, Music Credits on the Table


    | | Bookmark and Share

    iStock_000019480533XSmall.jpgIn a development sure to shock you, the Oklahoma State Lottery has not fixed Oklahoma’s education funding woes (in other news, water is wet). The Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that the combination of the economic downturn and ill-advised tax cuts has reduced education funding by more dollars than the lottery, created in 2003, has raised. For example, last year the lottery brought in $70.1 million, while the Legislature passed an income tax cut projected to cost $237 million. The kicker is that the bottom 60 percent of Oklahoma families will get just 9 percent of the benefits from this tax cut, while lotteries have a notoriously regressive impact.

    For the fourth time in six months, tax collections in Kansas fell way short of revenue projections -- $21 million short, according to state officials. The shortfall would have been twice as large if not for a big increase in corporate income tax receipts, as individual income tax receipts were $42.4 million less than estimated. The report is a blow for Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration after July and August revenue met official estimates, suggesting that the worst was over. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that “the state could burn more rapidly through cash reserves and force the 2015 Legislature to take a scythe to the budget in January.”  The governor said his tax cuts were “like going through surgery. It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards." It looks like the patient is back on life support.

    A music industry lobbying group is pushing the New York state legislature to pass a tax incentives bill similar to the state’s film credits program, according to The New York Times. If the group, New York Is Music, gets its way, $60 million in tax breaks will be available to studios, record companies and other firms involved in creating music. Businesses would be entitled to a 20 percent credit on expenses related to music production. Supporters claim that high rents in New York City and the attraction of incentives in other states mean the measure is vital to the health of New York’s music industry. The truth, however, is that incentives merely subsidize already-planned economic activity rather than promoting new business, and that they rarely pay for themselves. For more, check out this ITEP report on state tax incentives.

    California Democrats hope to use the upcoming 2016 election to advocate for the extension of sales and income tax increases, according to The Sacramento Bee. Proposition 30, which increased the sales and income tax for the state’s highest earners, was passed in 2012 as a temporary measure. Supporters of extending the tax increases, including state superintendent Tom Torlakson and the California Federation of Teachers, argue the revenue will be critical to maintaining investments in education and the social safety net. Critics argue that lawmakers would be acting in bad faith if they sought to extend Proposition 30, which was sold as a temporary measure, and that the measure has hurt the state’s business climate. Gov. Jerry Brown, who supported Proposition 30 when it was introduced, has not taken a position on its extension. 

    Got a great state tax story you want to share? Send it to Sebastian at sdpjohnson@itep.org for the next Rundown! 


    State Rundown 9/30: The Gas Tax Cometh?


    | | Bookmark and Share

    WP-Gas-Pump-1.jpgPolitical leaders in New Jersey could be close to figuring out a fix for the state’s transportation funding crisis. The Transportation Trust Fund is set to run out of money soon, and Gov. Chris Christie has declared that all options are on the table -- including, perhaps, an increase in the gas tax, which is currently second lowest in the nation (it has been more than 20 years since the tax was increased). The pledge represents a softening of the governor’s position; he has opposed any increase in the gas tax in recent years, and has also raided the trust fund to balance the state budget. State lawmakers could also consider indexing the gas tax to inflation, as they’ve done in Massachusetts, or applying the state’s sales tax to gasoline purchases, as advocated by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a leading nonpartisan think tank in the state.

    The president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce recently announced that his group would support the first state gas tax increase in over 25 years (lowest in the nation -- take that New Jersey). Otis Rawl says the chamber will push for a 1-cent-per-year increase for the next 10 years to address the state’s crumbling infrastructure, citing a poll that shows a majority of the state’s Republican voters would support such a measure. Both candidates for governor are on the record as opposing an increase in the gas tax, though their alternatives haven’t been well-received by state leaders. Incumbent Nikki Haley (R) has been criticized for refusing to reveal her “secret” plan to fix the state’s roadways, while challenger Vincent Sheheen would rely on anticipated revenue increases from the state’s general fund.

    An analysis from Wyoming finds that the state’s 10-cent increase in the gas tax has not been entirely passed to consumers. The Casper Star-Tribune found that after the tax on gas and diesel was increased by 10 cents in 2013, the price of unleaded gasoline increased only 5 cents per gallon in 2014 while the price of diesel increased by 8 cents. Gov. Matt Mead (R), who signed the tax increase, has long argued that infrastructure investment is the conservative approach, since maintenance costs increase with less investment.

    Transportation spending is a big issue in the Michigan governor’s race, with challenger Mark Schauer (D) calling out incumbent Rick Snyder (R) for his failure to convince state legislators to fix the states’ potholes and bridges. Snyder supports an increase in the state’s gas tax and wants to hike vehicle registration fees, while Schauer opposes an increase on the grounds that the governor has already raised taxes on ordinary Michiganders to pay for business tax cuts. Michigan’s gas tax is which is one of the nation’s highest at ten cents above the national average, but state road spending per driver is far below average. Meanwhile, the sale of tire and wheel insurance has skyrocketed across the state.

    If you have a great state news item that we missed here, please send it to Sebastian at sdpjohnson@itep.org so we can spread the word.


     


    State Rundown 9/24: Tax Cuts, Tax Cuts and More Tax Cuts


    | | Bookmark and Share

    monopoly.jpgThe Kansas dogpile continues, with the Washington Post editorial board launching the latest broadside against Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cut fiasco. “Few if any governors, “it writes, “have undertaken such an extreme trial-by-revenue-deprivation in a state so clearly lacking the economic means to withstand it.” The board also notes that both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s have downgraded the state’s credit rating, since they feel that budget is not “structurally aligned.” That’s fancy credit agency talk for Kansas is broke.

    In Ohio, where state officials have apparently never heard of Kansas, enthusiasm for needless tax cuts continues unabated. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich, running for a second term, promises that if reelected he will make further income tax cuts a top priority. To make his case, he employed the canard that high income tax burdens have forced people to leave the state. Kasich has already cut income taxes by 10 percent -- though, the “relief” hasn’t been evenly distributed. An analysis by ITEP and Policy Matters Ohio found that 70 percent of Ohio taxpayers will get an average tax cut of less than $100, while the top 1 percent of earners will pay $8,262 less, on average. Even worse, those making under $19,000 will actually pay more in taxes, after taking into account a sales tax hike meant to offset cuts elsewhere.

    The tax debate started by Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana continues, as the governor gears up for the upcoming biennial legislative session. Tax reform is high on his agenda. Pence held a tax conference to bat around ideas to make Indiana’s tax system more competitive in June; some observers were dismayed that Art Laffer and Grover Norquist had speaking slots, while the general public (you know, the people affected by tax changes) were barred from attending. Meanwhile, the state superintendent is asking for more money so she doesn’t have to charge families for school textbooks.

    Both candidates for governor in Arkansas are trying to one-up each other with voters by touting their plans for big tax cuts. Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson has pledged to cut the income tax by $100 million in his first year as governor, with the end goal of eliminating the tax entirely. Democratic candidate Mike Ross wants to cut the income tax by $575 million -- but gradually, and only if the state can afford it. According to Ross, Hutchinson’s plan is fiscally irresponsible and would put Arkansas on a glide path to Kansas’ budget woes. Hutchinson claims that Ross is making big promises to voters without being specific. Neither plan would make Arkansas’ tax system less regressive; as it stands, the bottom 20 percent currently pay an effective tax rate nearly twice that of the top 1 percent. For more coverage of the race in Arkansas, check out our recent blog post

    If you have a great state news item that we missed here, please send it to sdpjohnson@itep.org so we can spread the word. 


    State Rundown 9/19: Income Tax Debates and Film Tax Credits


    | | Bookmark and Share

    tax.news-article.jpgA new report from Standard and Poor’s that shows progressive income tax systems are better for state revenue could provide a boost to tax reformers in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe. Massachusetts is one of seven states with a flat personal income tax rate, and a bipartisan commission recently found that the state’s overall tax system places a greater burden on lower- and middle-income taxpayers than it does on the wealthy. They’ve recommended that the state adopt a graduated income tax structure -- a move that would require a voter-approved constitutional amendment. Similar proposals have been defeated at the polls five times, most recently in 1994. For our take on the S&P report, check out this blog post from our director, Matt Gardner.

    Meanwhile, Tennessee voters will soon decide whether to ban their state legislature from ever imposing a state tax on all personal income (Tennessee currently taxes interest and dividend income). The measure is largely superfluous, since there is little chance state lawmakers would ever consider a broader income tax. The last attempt to introduce a tax on personal income, in 2002, resulted in strident protests, including a brick thrown through the governor’s office window. Lawmakers ended up passing a sales tax increase instead, the last time any general tax increase was passed in the state. In last year’s Who Pays report, Tennessee ranked in the bottom ten states for tax fairness.

    The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association (LFEA) commissioned a study on the economic impact of the state’s film tax credit incentive program. They’ve tapped HR&A Advisors, a consulting firm that has done similar analysis of film tax credits for the Motion Picture Association in Massachusetts and New York. The results of the state’s own studies, commissioned by Louisiana Economic Development, show that film credits were a net loss to the state in 2012, and each dollar collected on film credits cost $4.35 in state revenue. In 2010, the state spent $7.29 for each dollar collected. The LFEA study is sure to come up with much rosier numbers.

    California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill that would triple funding for the state’s film and television tax credit program. The measure is meant to keep film and television production from leaving the state, and is the culmination of a yearlong campaign by entertainment industry lobbyists. Hollywood has been hammered by aggressive competition from other localities – like New York, Vancouver and Atlanta, where incentives were more generous – and new business models, like Netflix and HBOGo. While the measure enjoys broad support, not everyone is happy about the tax credits: the state’s public education unions fear the measure will reduce the money available for schools, while others have questioned the effectiveness and transparency of the credits. 


    State Rundown 9/17: Virginia Gas Tax, Tesla's Sweetheart Deal


    | | Bookmark and Share

    TESLA1.jpgVirginia’s gasoline tax will increase by 45 percent on January 1, 2015 if Congress fails to pass a law (the Marketplace Fairness Act) granting states the power to collect sales tax on online purchases. The increase, passed by lawmakers as part of a 2013 transportation spending plan, will cost motorists about 5 more cents per gallon. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia congressman and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is responsible for holding up the internet sales tax legislation, allegedly due to the deep pockets of his tech company supporters. Goodlatte’s opponents have accused the congressman of backing the interests of his donors over those of his constituents.

    The New York Times reports that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) faces a revolt from his base over the deep and painful tax cuts he pushed for two years ago. The article quotes staunch conservative voter Konrad Hastings: “[Brownback] is leading Kansas down. We’re going to be bankrupt in two or three years if we keep going his way.” The state’s projected budget shortfalls are in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and over 100 Republican state officials have endorsed Gov. Brownback’s challenger, Paul Davis (D).


    Using ITEP data, financial services website Wallet Hub released its ranking of the most and least fair state tax systems of 2014. To rank the states, Wallet Hub conducted a national survey, which found that both liberals and conservatives believe a progressive tax system is most fair. Then they compared this against ITEP’s finding that the average local and state tax burden is hugely regressive. Washington took the prize as the least fair state using Wallet Hub’s methodology, while Texas and Florida had the dubious distinction of being states where the top 1 percent are most undertaxed while the bottom 20 percent are most overtaxed. Congrats, I guess?


    Nevada has agreed to a $1.25 billion economic incentives package for Tesla Motors, which plans to build a high-tech battery factory outside Reno. The figure is more than double the $500 million Tesla CEO Elon Musk was asking for, and amounts to almost $200,000 per anticipated job created. The deal contains “clawbacks,” clauses that allow states to demand repayment of giveaways if the promised investment is not forthcoming, but experience shows that these clauses are rarely invoked. California Gov. Jerry Brown, who fought for the factory but resisted ponying up millions in incentives, noted that the deal would be good for his state anyway since Tesla Motors is still headquartered in Palo Alto.


     


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


    | | Bookmark and Share

    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.


    State Rundown, Sept. 2: Big Oil Wins In Alaska, Hollywood Wins in California


    | | Bookmark and Share

    Palindrillcollage.jpgOil companies won big in Alaska with a narrow defeat of Ballot Measure 1, which would have repealed the generous regime of tax breaks the legislature gave to oil companies last year. The measure’s defeat was narrow even though those who oppose the measure outspent its proponents by 25 to 1, with BP alone contributing more than $3.5 million to defeat the measure. While the effort to repeal the tax was largely spearheaded by state Democrats, Ballot Measure 1 earned the strong endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who advocated returning to the oil tax regime that was set in place while she was governor.

    Lawmakers in California have brokered a deal that would more than triple the state's film tax credits from $100 million to $330 million annually, thus providing a massive windfall to the state film industry. The move comes in spite of warnings from the state's non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office that it would only further aggravate the race to bottom among states vying for film production and recent studies showing that the economic and fiscal benefit of film production credits have been substantially overstated.  Rather than expanding the state's film tax credit, California should follow the lead of states such as North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico and others that have been backing off their credits. 

    Policy Matters Ohio released a report last week that calls the state’s recent expansion of the EITC inadequate and “out of step with nearly all other state EITCs.” Only 3 percent of Ohio’s poorest workers will benefit from the expansion, which raises the state’s capped EITC from 5 percent to 10 percent of the federal EITC, and average additional saving is just $5. Ohio’s EITC credit is also non-refundable, meaning that it can only reduce tax liability, not be put toward a tax refund. Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) has pledged to use the state’s budget surplus to enact more income tax cuts, rather than increasing support for working families.

    In Iowa, gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch continues to push for an increase in the gas tax to address funding shortfalls for improvements and repairs on the state’s roads and bridges. Under Hatch’s plan, the state gas tax would increase by 2 cents a year for five years. According to an ITEP report, the purchasing power of Iowa’s gas tax (adjusted for inflation) hit an all-time low this year. 

    Finally, a new report from 12billion.org reveals that “airlines get state tax breaks on more than 12 billion gallons of jet fuel through obscure tax codes,” costing states over $1 billion in revenues every year. Thanks to the tax breaks, airlines pay effective fuel tax rates that are far lower than those paid by motorists; in California, car drivers pay an average of 50 cents in taxes per gallon of fuel, while airlines pay about 27 cents. 

    Sign Up for Email Digest

    CTJ Social Media


    ITEP Social Media


    Categories