We retired Tax Justice Blog in April 2017. For new content on issues related to tax justice, go to www.justtaxesblog.org
A few weeks back, we surveyed efforts to impose new restrictions mandating that a supermajority of legislators vote in favor of a tax increase before it can become law. The good news is that most of these efforts appear to have made little progress so far (though Wisconsin did pass a temporary version of this requirement in February). The bad news, however, is that this idea has now surfaced in New Hampshire.
As we’ve argued before, supermajority requirements are anti-democratic, as they empower a small minority of legislators to block the will of the majority. These requirements also reduce the ability of elected officials to deal with new challenges as they arise — such as a massive revenue shortfall caused by an economic recession, or an increase in government health care costs.
Supermajority requirements also make it much more difficult to enact meaningful tax reform since they prevent a majority of legislators from closing a tax loophole unless they either enlarge another loophole, or find a way to reduce tax rates in order to offset the revenue gain. Simply put, these requirements expand on the already enormous incentives lawmakers have to stuff state tax codes full of special interest goodies.
At the end of the day, voters have the ability to remove their representatives from office if they’re unhappy with their decision to raise taxes. Lawmakers considering supermajority requirements in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and other states should put some trust in democracy, and forgo enacting cumbersome limitations on the power of future elected officials.