This week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would help states fill their coffers, fund critical programs, and avoid damaging cuts by an over two-to-one margin in a bipartisan vote. Difficult to believe in this era of austerity and obstruction? The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to collect sales taxes on out-of-state online purchases, closing a loophole that currently gives online retailers a major advantage over in-state brick-and-mortar businesses. The bill has picked up support from some major retailers, including Amazon, as well as some conservatives, but is still expected to see strong opposition from anti-tax activists when it heads to the House. However, the bipartisan vote in the Senate this week may be one more indication of a slow-motion shift in the politics of taxation and spending underway in both D.C. and the states:
It wasn't so long ago that Colorado was considered a hotspot for ascendant conservative national movements, from the religious right to an anti-tax revolt to anti-immigrant extremism. But times (and demographics) are clearly changing, and quickly. With progressives empowered by recent elections, this session has seen Colorado's legislature advance, pass, and enact progressive legislation across a range of issue areas. And with the state's session drawing to a close in a matter of days, the wins are piling up. From voting rights to welcoming immigrants to enacting sensible gun laws and civil unions, the multiple progressive victories in Colorado this year provide a hopeful model and counter-example to the destructive agendas advanced by conservatives in statehouses across the nation in recent years. Here's how their session is finishing up:
Late this week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation by unanimous consent that would give the Federal Aviation Administration the ability to end furloughs of air traffic controllers, hoping to end a week of delays at airports across the nation that resulted from the automatic budget cuts in sequestration. These kinds of impacts were the intentional purpose of the blunt and painful automatic cuts of sequestration, which were originally intended to be so frightening that the possibility of their enactment would force an alternative federal budget compromise. Yet while business travellers might be breathing a sigh of relief as they fly home this weekend, the intentionally painful cuts to other critical programs are still being felt by states, kids, students, seniors, and other victims of sequestration -- and the pain they are feeling may soon get worse:
In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports and resources from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, AFL-CIO, National Employment Law Project, Demos, Institute for Women's Policy Research, and Texas Legislative Study Group.
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
Following a national debate over the Bush tax cuts that saw federal income tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans this January, state legislatures continue to diverge sharply on their approach toward taxes in the first few months of 2013. Anti-tax conservatives in some states, looking to hold fast to a Norquistian vision of tax cuts for the wealthy, are running into opposition. Meanwhile, other states are moving in the opposite direction on revenue for the first time in years. Reports this week show this divergence continuing, even as new research revealed the inefficacy of personal income tax cuts as a strategy for economic growth:
It's already March, but it felt a bit like Groundhog Day this week as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled — for the third straight year — a conservative House budget proposal steeped in austerity, divorced from reality, and as unpopular as ever. But another budget proposal was released this week that actually does redirect the debate away from austerity and toward job creation.
In contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:
On Friday, the across-the-board cuts of the federal budget sequester started to kick in. While planes have hopefully not fallen out of the sky (yet), as President Obama noted in a press conference on Friday, the pain will be felt incrementally, and it will be real to millions of Americans. What's worse, the self-inflicted damage to the economy predicted to result from the sequester is entirely avoidable, and in fact does little to reduce the deficit. State legislators from 46 states this week urged Congress to avert the sequester and make sure that "significant revenues" were included in any new deal. Here's more on that, and on how the cuts are set to hit the states in the coming weeks:
State legislators from 46 states are sending a clear a message to Congress: if the federal budget sequester is allowed to take effect as scheduled later this week, the results would be devastating for state economies.