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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.
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— 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.
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