This week, state legislators from across the nation are converging on Atlanta, Georgia for the annual Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures - and Progressive States Network will be there as well!
With 2013 legislative sessions largely adjourned in statehouses across the nation, this is the fourth in a series of issue-specific session roundups from Progressive States Network highlighting trends in different policy areas across the fifty states.
Earlier this year, the conservative theory of austerity was thoroughly debunked, with leading economic experts concluding that there is not “even a shred of evidence” that austerity promotes growth and that it instead worsens economic downturns. Despite the conclusions of empirical research, state policymakers have proposed widely divergent ideas about how best to collect and invest taxpayer dollars in 2013. Some states raised revenue to help stimulate a robust economy over the long term by investing in education and other infrastructure. Other states bought the conservative snake oil and refused to fund critical programs and services that contribute to a prosperous and sustainable economy. Below are some highlights and significant trends we saw in state tax policy over 2013 legislative sessions.
As of this week, more than half of the fifty states had already seen their 2013 legislative sessions adjourn. In many of those that are still going, budget debates are front and center as lawmakers race to the finish line. In some states, issues that had previously been pushed to the backburner are back on the front one, in others, major provisions are being inserted into the budget at the midnight hour, and everywhere, final showdowns are shaping up as sessions wind down.
Echoing the protests that took place in state capitals in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere in 2011, the last few weeks have seen a drumbeat of resistance to the actions of a conservative legislature in a different region of the nation. North Carolina's General Assembly this spring has been the site of growing weekly rallies against the extreme agenda advanced by conservatives this session.
This week saw the case for budget austerity at both the state and federal levels continue to rapidly fall apart. A new Congressional Budget Office report showed that the federal budget deficit problem may not actually be that much of a problem anymore, and debates over what to do with budget surpluses began to percolate in the states as treasuries started to count tax revenues that came in last month, even as the pain from sequestration cuts also continued to be felt in all fifty states:
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.