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State governments face a budget crisis of historic proportions, and in recent months policymakers have responded with unpopular and frequently myopic spending cuts to close budget gaps. But there are alternatives. A new report, The ITEP Guide to Fair State and Local Taxes, explains that policymakers in virtually every state have sensible tax policy tools at their disposal to help reform their underperforming tax systems.

With the scheduled end of temporary federal aid to state governments later this year, state lawmakers will face even more pressure to find real, long-term solutions. The report is designed to help policymakers to approach both the short-term and long-term fiscal challenges they face.

The ITEP Guide takes a hard look at why state taxes have underperformed in the recent economic downturn, and recommends strategies for reforming these taxes to make them better able to fund public investments in the future.

The report includes separate chapters discussing each of the major revenue sources on which state and local governments rely, including personal income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and corporate taxes. A common theme in ITEP’s analysis of each of these is that unwarranted loopholes make these taxes less fair, and less sustainable, than they should be.  

The report also recommends a variety of procedural tax reforms that would make it much easier for state policymakers to identify and evaluate these harmful tax giveaways in the future. These reforms include regularly publishing detailed “tax expenditure reports,” which list the cost and rationale for every tax break currently weighing down state tax codes, and “tax incidence analyses” to help measure the tax fairness impact of proposed tax changes.

To view the report or request a copy be mailed to you, please visit: http://www.itepnet.org/state_reports/guide2011.php.