Industrial Recruiting. The absence of a state income tax in Tennessee was cited by Nissan Corporation as one of the quality of life factors it considered for its workers when it decided to build a large plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, to produce the Nissan Altima and other vehicles. Similarly, the absence of a state income tax and the quality of life for workers was cited by General Motors in its decision to locate the Saturn production plant outside Nashville, Tennessee. Just last month, Toyota announced that it would build a $100 million dollar parts factory in Tennessee. When was the last time any major automotive manufacturer announced plans to build a plant in Connecticut? If the citizens of Connecticut believe the comments of state Senator William Nickerson that the introduction of Connecticut’s state income tax encouraged business and economic activity, then they can marvel at Connecticut’s current economic plight and the disarray in the state budgeting process.
Tennessee is a long state in the shape of a parallelogram with common borders to eight states: Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Each of the eight states bordering Tennessee has a state income tax. Each of the states bordering Tennessee pledged to keep their state sales taxes low in exchange for having a state income tax. In fact, each of these states has raised its sales tax rates slowly over time along with raising the rates on income taxes. The very piece of advice offered by polemics at governing.com and Governing Magazine, that critics of income taxes were flat out wrong when they charged “that once it was installed, it would just be raised and raised again until it didn’t pay to get out of bed and go to work” has indeed been borne out by evidence with each of Tennessee’s border states.
The citizens of Tennessee view with a mix of contempt and amusement the newspaper stories coming from its neighboring states that, once again, politicians have had to face tough choices and raise the state income tax rates. In 2001, with talk of raising the state income tax rates even higher in North Carolina, angry citizens used to drive by the state capitol building in Raleigh and just blow their horns. The same was true in Tennessee in the late 1990s when the lame-duck governor, Don Sundquist, tried to force the legislature to adopt a state income tax. Do the members of the CCM want their constituents so angry with them that they are blasting their horns and shaking their fists in protest, or do they want a calm and rational discussion about the state budget and its priorities?
High Tax States. Like it or not, Connecticut borders Massachusetts. Ever since Michael Dukakis was the standard bearer for the Democratic Party’s 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts has been repeatedly dubbed “Taxachusetts” in articles appearing in the national press. The rest of the country views Massachusetts and its neighbors in the Northeast as demanding a very high level of state and local public services, and taxing the daylights out of its citizens to pay for these expenditures. At this juncture in December 2003, it is important for Connecticut to try to distance itself from the woes of its neighbors with government spending barely under control and foster instead a new image of government accountability.
Once again, the CCM cannot learn about government accountability from either Governing Magazine or governing.com. The special report on state tax systems decries giving voters and taxpayers any direct or meaningful say in tax and spending plans. As evidence that ordinary citizens are irrational and automatically vote down any tax increase, governing.com offers the following evidence. “In the first half of the 20th century, many voter initiatives focused on new programs and increased spending. But in the last half of the century, the pendulum moved in the other direction. A study of voter behavior by Bill Piper, of the Initiative and Referendum Institute, shows that from 1978 to 1999 there were 130 tax initiatives on statewide ballots. Roughly two-thirds of them were anti-tax – cutting, eliminating or limiting taxes in some way. Of these, 41 passed. The numbers for more recent times are quite dramatic. A whopping 67 percent of all ‘anti-tax’ initiatives on the ballot between 1996 and 1999 passed.”
Where governing.com finds evidence of taxpayers killing off any reasonable compromise with a tax increase, others would see our democratic ideals alive and at work. Why were politicians bombarding the citizens with 130 tax initiatives on statewide ballots? Why didn’t politicians wait for the public outcry for government services to match the politician’s spending preferences? Does anyone believe that the 130 tax initiatives were good ideas and would have benefited the statewide societies as a whole? The Florida legislature passed a state income tax, and the citizens of Florida went into open revolt. The Florida income tax was hastily repealed, and this experiment in unrepresentative government wasted millions of Florida taxpayer dollars to set up and then dismantle the state income tax apparatus.
The rest of this article can be found at http://riskmgmt.biz/lawnews/ctbudget.htm
Dr. Michael A. S. Guth, Ph.D., J.D., is a consulting economist, legal brief writer, and law newspaper Editor-in-Chief. He writes a variety of articles on constitutional law, elder care, consumer credit card debt, appellate court term reviews, and law and society. See http://riskmgmt.biz/ for an introduction to his legal work, and http://riskmgmt.biz/lawarticles.htm for a listing of many of his articles. Dr. Guth writes legal articles and briefs for other law firms, and he assists pro se parties (those without a lawyer) in preparing documents they can file in court such as motions pertaining to child custody, visitation interference, and child support defense.