Since he took office earlier this year, New Jersey Gov. Chris
Christie has waged an ideological war on state employees and programs,
and advocated for unsustainable and costly privatization schemes. Even
in light of overwhelming public opposition
to privatization and the significant pitfalls associated with these
types of initiatives, the Governor established a privatization task
force by executive order in early April, seeking to identify $50 million in savings.
Although the recession may have technically subsided at the national
level, states are still reeling from historic budget shortfalls,
stubbornly high unemployment, and significant revenue declines and will
continue to face fiscal challenges in the upcoming year. The lingering
effects of the downturn have forced state lawmakers to consider
extreme fiscal measures to confront budgetary constraints. What’s
more, states have already utilized a substantial portion of the federal
funds available for state fiscal relief through the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
These dire circumstances merit progressive tax and budget policy as a
means to provide essential services, make critical investments in
long-term growth areas, support working and middle-class families who
have been disproportionately hit by the impact of the downturn, and
ensure that all taxpayers are contributing their fair share.
As this Dispatch will detail, these votes mirror actions taking
place in both conservative and progressive states and localities around
the country. In 2009 and 2010, states have enacted a wide-ranging set
of revenue increases to cope with cumulative 2010 and 2011 deficits of
approximately $375 billion. Although revenue forecasts are improving,
states are still reeling from historic declines in the past year.
What is remarkable is that the anti-tax movement has wracked up such
regular failures in the crisis, as even many state leaders previously
signing "no taxes" pledges have reneged on them. Instead, popular
demand for new revenue to avert budget cuts has driven legislative
movement on progressive tax and budget policy.
Adding to the general public support has been research consistently
showing that progressive revenue increases during a downturn is a better
alternative to cuts in order to promote growth and protect vulnerable
populations suffering during the recession.
Finally, this Dispatch will outline some of the effective
messaging and research to demonstrate to voters that progressive
measures and tax increases are economically sound and go to the programs
they want preserved -- the critical step in the success of revenue
Last week, the Massachusetts House unanimously passed the
Revenues and Expenditures Transparency Act, H
2972, to create a searchable, online database that details state
spending and revenue sources. Lawmakers also approved an amendment to
create greater taxpayer accountability by providing increased
transparency around some business tax credits. As House Chairman of the
Joint Committee on Revenue Rep. Jay Kauffman explains,
"[p]ublic access to the way we raise and spend money is essential,
enabling us to make more-informed decisions for the tax-paying
constituents who elect us to serve on their behalf."
Dealing with the aftermath of the steepest economic contraction since
the Great Depression, including declining tax revenues and massive
fiscal gaps, states cannot afford to hand out enormous subsidies,
wasteful tax credits or lavish contracts with little to show in return.
In response, states across the country have embraced corporate
transparency to assure taxpayers are getting value for their money.
Last Tuesday, Oregonians overwhelmingly approved
two ballot initiatives that ratified legislative action last year to
increase high-end personal income and corporate taxes. The failure of the anti-tax movement in Oregon
is one more in a long stream of right-wing initiatives
rejected by voters at the ballot box. In fact, progressive revenue
generation as part of a balanced approach to addressing state deficits
has been popular with both voters and legislatures for years. This Dispatch
will provide both the facts and messages to debunk opposition to smart
revenue options, while outlining a few of the best revenue approaches
to filling budget holes.
Portending a sharp increase in corporate political spending, the Supreme Court has ruled (Citizens United v. FEC)
that corporations enjoy the same speech rights of citizens when it
comes to advocating the election or defeating political candidates.
Elected officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have
denounced the ruling as striking at the heart of our democracy by
putting corporations on an equal footing with real people when it comes
to basic constitutional rights.
Progressive States Network hosted a national conference call on Friday, December 4th at 1:00pm EST with experts and legislative leaders to discuss Corporate Transparency in the State Budget, one of the policies included in PSN's 2010 Shared Multi-State Agenda. Speakers discussed the need for transparency and disclosure, policy
details, and best practices for building campaigns and moving corporate
transparency initiatives in the states.