Americas red-blue divide is growing more pronounced in state
governments, and this rise of one-party politics along with
increasing revenues is pushing states to consider bold changes in
Republicans now control the legislature and governorship in 24
states, with several moving forward on plans to eliminate their
income tax a holy grail of the conservative movement.
Meanwhile, Democrats control 13 states, with several angling to
raise taxes to finance new government spending an idea that might
have been seen as politically toxic even a year ago.
The opposite approach to taxes highlights the polarization of
state politics, which has been building for the past decade but
reached an apex after the 2012 election. The 37 states controlled by
one party is the highest number since 1928, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
But it also suggests how American attitudes on taxation may be
shifting. While Republicans appear to be doubling down on their
conviction that low taxes drive economic growth, Democrats
willingness to raise taxes suggests that, at least on the left,
there is a fresh openness to at least some higher taxes after
decades of virtually no support for new taxes across the American
In some ways, tax policy is one of the leading indicators of
legislatures shifting away from the middle, regardless of single-
party control, says Josh Goodman, staff writer for Stateline, the
news service for the Pew Center on the States.
On the right:
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is proposing reductions to personal
income taxes for the second year in a row, despite the fact that
last years tax cuts put a $700 million hole in the budget.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) wants to eliminate all personal
and corporate income tax this year while keeping the sales tax as
low as possible. In the coming weeks, he will meet with legislators
to work out the details of his prior to the legislative session in
Gov. Dave Heineman (R) of Nebraska is proposing similar measures.
He proposed that the state close business sales tax exemptions,
accounting for $5 billion revenue losses per year, which he said
will pave the way for the elimination of individual and corporate
North Carolinas Senate President Phil Berger (R) is considering a
proposal that would eliminate income taxes while increasing sales
taxes, especially on services.
Those moves contrast strikingly with proposals and new laws in
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) wants to increase income
taxes and cut sales taxes in order to spend $34.8 billion more on
education and transportation.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) proposed to decrease local
property taxes and the sales tax rate while increasing the income
tax rate for high-income earners as well as closing tax loopholes.
His plan would add $2.1 billion to revenues and cover the projected
$1.1 billion deficit in the state's fiscal year 2014-15 biennial
During a special legislative session in May 2012, Maryland Gov.
Martin OMalley (D) signed a law that raised income taxes on
individuals making over $100,000 and a new top rate of 5.75 percent
on income over $250,000.
In California, voters approved Democratic Gov. Jerry Browns
Proposition 30, which included a temporary income tax hike to get
the states budget out of the red.
The economics of taxes is fiercely debated.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public
policy think tank founded by former Ronald Reagan economic adviser
Arthur Laffer, advocates that states eliminate income taxes and put
rigid limits on spending as a strategy to promote economic growth. …