Archive for the ‘State & Local Issues’ Category

Voters Hate Gas Tax Hikes—That’s a Problem for States

On Election Day, Massachusetts voters proved once again that increasing the gas tax is a political loser. And that’s a problem. As I explain in a new Tax Policy Center brief, the federal government and most states have per-unit gas taxes. That is, they tax the number gallons purchased, not the purchase price (as sales […]

What Will Next Week’s State Ballot Measures Tell Us About Taxes?

While most national attention is focused on which party will control the Senate and who will win the 36 gubernatorial races, many states also have fiscal initiatives on their ballots. And a few may provide some clues to how the public feels about the trade-off between taxes and government services. Many of the 16 tax-related […]

Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships

Jean Tirole is an influential, respected, and by all accounts gracious man who won this year’s Nobel Prize in economics. Bertha is a 7,000-ton tunnel boring machine that’s been stuck under Seattle for nine months—but is still tweeting—as state officials and a private contractor battle over who should pay to get her out. What do […]

How Michigan Blocked a $1 Billion Tax Windfall for Corporations

For all the talk of political gridlock, it is amazing how quickly a state legislature can act when $1 billion in unexpected corporate tax refunds are at stake. The lawmakers are in Michigan. And their pistons were fired up following an unfavorable state Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit brought by IBM. The case involved the […]

Nearly All States Play the Lottery, But None Are Big Winners

Wyoming residents no longer have to cross the border to purchase Powerball tickets. On Aug. 24, Wyoming became the 44th state to legalize a lottery. Proponents laud these games as an easy source of funds for schools and other public services. However, lotteries are often a bad bet: Revenues are relatively modest but their problems […]

Do Sales Tax Holidays Ever Make Sense?

Politicians love sales tax holidays as good campaign fodder. Retailers celebrate them with gaudy signs announcing tax-free shopping, and consumers line up to take advantage of the deals. But economists and policy analysts across the ideological spectrum condemn them as poorly targeted tax policy that produces little economic benefit. Is there any fiscal justification for […]

State Taxes and the April Surprise

In recent months, several governors have complained about the April, 2014, surprise in state tax revenues. They say they were shocked when personal income tax payments fell far below expectations. They shouldn’t have been. What happened? In part, in an effort to beat an upcoming increase in capital gains taxes, investors accelerated realizations into tax […]

What’s The Matter With Kansas And Its Tax Cuts? It Can’t Do Math

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his state legislature have embarked on a wonderful natural experiment. Once again we are testing the question: Can tax cuts pay for themselves? The answer– yet again– is a resounding no. We’ve tried this experiment time and again. And tax cut proponents such as economist Art Laffer continue to insist they […]

Close But No Cigar: The Politics of Class, Race, and Taxes

This week, the District of Columbia City Council approved a major tax reform bill. And, as it happens, some important—but unspoken– issues of race and class are underlying key changes to the revenue code. Earlier this year, the DC Tax Revision Commission proposed a broad rewrite of the city’s tax code, including two modest but […]

U.S. Taxes Have Changed A Lot Since 1929

U.S. taxes today bear little resemblance to the taxes collected before World War II. Income and payroll taxes have replaced tariffs and excise taxes at the federal level while property taxes have become less important for state and local governments. And while the feds collected just one-third of all revenue before the war, they now […]