Question: When was the last time a Connecticut legislature was poised to adopt a state budget with a $2.3 billion surplus built into it?
Answer: Never, until now.
Democrats and Republicans alike were expected to vote for the $46.4 billion, two-year package when it goes before the House of Representatives on Tuesday. But even though about 5% of the funds appears to be left unspent, the anticipated surplus would become a payment into the state’s pension accounts.
That’s because the budget, which boosts spending 2.6% in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and by 3.9% in 2022-23, really is the first of its kind under a new system designed to bring stability to state finances.
Connecticut is four years into a savings program that limits spending of income tax receipts tied to capital gains and other investment earnings, but this is the first time since 2017 that analysts are projecting big revenues from Wall Street before legislators actually approve a budget.
However, the SALT cap didn’t so much go after “Democrats” as “affluent Democrats.” It only applied to people who itemize their taxes, which meant the 90% of Americans who take the standard deduction were unaffected. The deduction raised over $70 billion in just the first year, and roughly 56% of that money came just from the top 1% of taxpayers, living in a few states in particular.
The tax nastygram seemed directed at Trump’s hometown delegation. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in April of 2017 complained about the cost of protecting “Trump and his family here in NYC”; the SALT cap affected 19% of Maloney’s constituents in Brooklyn and on the Upper East Side, and taxpayers in that 19% each lost an average of $100,405 in breaks. Chuck Schumer, one of Trump’s fiercest critics, personally took over $58,000 in SALT deductions just in 2016.
Overall, 39 of the 40 districts most affected by the SALT cap were represented by Democrats. Of those, 28 came from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Also affected: Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, where residents lost an average of $53,471 of write-offs. Trump’s campaign promises to take on “elites” proved phony, except when he was able to effect this targeted partisan strike at the people he knew and hated the most: rich, socially liberal Democrats, especially ones from the tri-state area.
Mayors in blue states are lining up with Democrats in Congress to pressure the White House into restoring a tax break that was significantly reduced by former President Trump’s tax reform.
On Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.) joined officials from Albany; Columbia, S.C.; Philadelphia and San Diego to call for a repeal of the rule that limits state and local tax (SALT) deductions. They are calling for President Biden’s $3 trillion infrastructure proposal to include the repeal.
“No SALT, no deal,” Suozzi said on a conference call hosted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Taxed twice on the same income”: This is an argument sometimes brought out in favor of the state and local tax deduction, or SALT. But it doesn’t really hold water.
It’s not problematic for different taxes, funding different services, to use the same denominator. County and municipal governments often tax the same property, for instance, and local and state governments often impose sales taxes on the same transactions. In these cases, requiring one tax to be deducted before the other was calculated would just be silly, because legislators would simply increase the second tax’s rate enough to offset the loss, leaving everything back where it started.
With SALT, though, there’s no simple solution like that — federal tax rates apply across the entire nation, while state and local taxes vary from place to place. A federal deduction subsidizes places with high taxes by collecting less federal revenue from those places, while any overall rate increase will hit the whole country. Blue-state lawmakers like Nadler like SALT, and want to get rid of the cap on it, because they want that subsidy, not because it’s fair tax policy.
House Democrats from New York on Tuesday escalated their push for the repeal of the cap on the state and local tax deduction, threatening to oppose future tax legislation that doesn’t fully undo the $10,000 limit.
“As members of the New York Congressional Delegation, we urge you to insist on full repeal of the limitation on the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction passed by Congress in 2017 and signed into law by former President Trump,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “This issue is so critical to our state and our constituents that we will reserve the right to oppose any tax legislation that does not include a full repeal of the SALT limitation.”
Maryland’s Legislature recently overrode a gubernatorial veto and enacted a new tax on digital advertising — the first of its kind among the states. It was inevitable that somebody would break the ice. Last August, I explored the revenue implications for states and localities of a federal tax on interstate digital commerce. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated business migration to Internet platforms, making this the new frontier for tax policy.
Maryland legislators deserve credit for planting their semi-checkered state flag first, to stake their claim, but they are still far from the finish line. Anti-tax wonks point to a host of possible legal snags that could tie up the Maryland tax for some time. They complain that it’s unduly vague, imprecisely crafted, and invites double taxation. The social media goliaths are already protesting that it’s unconstitutional under the commerce clause, which gives Congress supreme authority to regulate interstate business. To salvage its tax, Maryland may find it necessary to make defensible amendments that can withstand judicial scrutiny. But rather than going it alone, the state could use some help from its peers eyeing digital ad taxes of their own.
States have been called the laboratories of democracy, and rightfully so. However, when it comes to national and international commercial activity that sweeps across state lines through complex multi-party transactions, let’s face it: Heterogeneity and administrative complexity are not desirable outcomes. Fifty separate labs tinkering with different tax formulas will drive companies nuts.
New York’s top business leaders are gearing up for a potential mass exodus as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers prepare to raise their taxes.
With the state budget set to increase the personal income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers as well as hiking corporate taxes, some executives who fled the city for Florida temporarily due to coronavirus pandemic lockdowns are considering permanent relocation, according to business leaders briefed on the matter.
Wealthy business leaders who have historically resisted moving at least some of their resources to Florida or other less-taxed states explained to CNBC that they are now seriously reconsidering as working from home becomes the norm, allowing more flexibility.
Most observers believe that the Treasury will interpret the law narrowly. Rather than seeking to claw back funds from any states passing tax cuts or credits, the feds are considered likely to challenge only those states that clearly use federal dollars to pay for them. “Nothing in the act prevents states from enacting a broad variety of tax cuts,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a response to the AGs. “It simply provides that funding received under the act may not be used to offset a reduction in net tax revenue resulting from certain changes in state law.”
But the fact that the law blocks federal money from being used even indirectly to pay for tax cuts has state officials not just worried but angry. “Democrats in Washington and in the White House are not going to tell me, or the Georgia General Assembly, that we can’t cut taxes for hard-working Georgians,” Gov. Brian Kemp complained at a news conference last month.
That prohibition lasts as long as the stimulus dollars are spent, which will be into 2024. And there are limits, Walczak notes, on where and how states can spend federal aid. They can use the money to address pandemic and health needs, for example. While those are clearly ongoing, much of the cost of vaccine supply and distribution has been underwritten by the feds. Other costs in these areas have already been addressed by last year’s federal CARES Act, which some states struggled to spend.
The New York tax burden is already punishing enough. New Yorkers pay a greater percentage of their earnings to the state than residents of any other state. The total tax burden, on top of federal taxes, amounts to 12.79 percent of income, according to a new study. Opponents of the latest tax increases claim that the state’s punishing rates are responsible for driving high earners and businesses away, and indeed the state consistently faced massive levels of net outmigration to other states even before the pandemic. That migration has included thousands of jobs in areas like financial services. Among the firms that have relocated significant jobs away from the city are Credit Suisse, Barclays, UBS, and AllianceBernstein, according to a recent Forbes article. Goldman Sachs has moved a big-money management division to Florida, and hedge fund manager Carl Icahn has decamped there as well. The Empire State’s taxes are one reason that former hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman said, “I suspect Florida will soon rival New York as a finance hub.”
“Professor Young’s wealth migration analyses don’t capture the full breadth of tax flight by million-dollar earners,” said Andrew Mikula, co-author of “Missing the Mark on Wealth Migration: Past Studies Drastically Undercounted Millionaires.” “High-net worth households that do financial planning could move to another state before they sell million-dollar assets. They fly under the radar in Cristobal Young’s work because most of them don’t earn more than $1 million in the year before they leave.”
The graduated income tax proposal advanced by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Service Employees International Union, and other union, advocacy, and religious groups, defines earnings as including salary and capital gains on the sale of assets, which makes net worth a critical component of households subject to the tax.
Thanks to the recently-passed $1.9 trillion spending package, the state of New York is set to receive a whopping $23.5 billion in federal bailout money. This is more than enough to make up for any revenue gaps incurred over the last year. But progressive lawmakers are nonetheless considering a slew of new business and personal taxes—prompting 250 top business leaders to pen an open letter this week warning that these punitive tax hikes could have drastic ramifications.
“Significant corporate and individual tax increases will make it far more difficult to restart the economic engine and reassemble the deep and diverse talent pool that makes New York the greatest city in the world,” wrote the leaders, whose ranks include the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, Blackrock, and Goldman Sachs. “Many members of our workforce have resettled their families in other locations, generally with far lower taxes than New York, and the proposed tax increases will make it harder to get them to return.”
Author(s): Brad Polumbo
Publication Date: 24 March 2021
Publication Site: Foundation for Economic Education