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    Entries in tax policy (22)

    Friday
    Jun092017

    The Week in Public Finance: Kansas' Experiment Ends, Alaska Still Has No Budget and Keeping Track of Debt

    BY  JUNE 9, 2017

    Kansas is rolling back its controversial 2012 income tax cuts after the Republican-controlled legislature this week succeeded in overriding a veto by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

    The state is facing a $900 million budget shortfall and has struggled under budget deficits since the tax cuts went into effect. With the new legislation, the state’s income taxes will increase, although most tax rates will still be lower than they were before the 2012 cuts. The increases are expected to generate more than $1.2 billion for the state over the next two years. Opponents of the action call it a $1.2 billion take hike on Kansans.

    On Thursday, the ratings agency Moody's Investors Service applauded the legislature's move, calling it "a significant step" toward achieving a sustainable budget.The action comes four months after lawmakers failed to override another Brownback veto preserving a tax loophole that lets scores of business owners pay no income tax.

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    Friday
    Mar312017

    The Week in Public Finance: Bad Balancing Acts, Best Taxpayer ROI and Double Taxation

    BY  MARCH 31, 2017

    Race to the Bottom?

    New Jersey’s pension problems and Illinois’ lack of a budget continue to dog their reputation in the eyes of creditors.

    In New Jersey, Moody's downgraded the Garden State one-notch this week to A3, citing the state’s “significant pension underfunding, including growth in the state's large long-term liabilities, a persistent structural imbalance and weak fund balances.”

    It’s the 11th downgrade by a credit rating agency during Gov. Chris Christie’s more than seven years in office. Overall, New Jersey’s credit rating has fallen four notches under Christie’s watch, from what’s considered high investment grade to borderline medium grade. Meanwhile, the state's unfunded pension liability has climbed to $136 billion, which mean it has less than half of what it needs to pay its retirees down the road.

    For its part, Illinois is the only state rated lower than New Jersey.

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    Friday
    Mar032017

    The Week in Public Finance: Oil State Woes, Why 401(k)s Might Not Be For All and More

    BY  MARCH 3, 2017

    Oil State Woes

    Oklahoma's credit rating was downgraded this week, making it the third oil state in just one month to suffer such a blow. S&P Global Ratings pushed Oklahoma's rating down to AA, citing the state's chronically weak revenue. The downgrade comes as news broke this week that the state is facing a nearly $900 million shortfall.

    "Collectively the state's financial position has deteriorated to a point that further precludes the state from building up reserves in subsequent fiscal years,” says S&P credit analyst Oscar Padilla, who adds the state is now more vulnerable to regional or national economic weakness.

    This is Oklahoma's third consecutive year with a deficit, and the second straight year of a so-called revenue failure, when collections fall more than 5 percent below estimates.

    The action follows downgrades in two other oil states last month: Moody’s Investors Service downgraded West Virginia and Louisiana one notch each. States that rely on oil and energy for significant portions of their economy have had to grapple with revenue shortfalls since the price of oil dropped drastically a year and a half ago.

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    Friday
    Feb242017

    The Week in Public Finance: Pensions Protest Bathroom Bills, a Billion-Dollar Showdown in Kansas and More

    BY  FEBRUARY 24, 2017

    Pension Funds Mess With Texas

    The country’s largest public pension systems and investors are pressuring Texas officials not to approve a so-called bathroom bill introduced in January. The legislation targets transgender individuals by requiring them to use the public restroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate.

    Pointing to North Carolina, which lost hundreds of millions in business from canceled sporting events, concerts and conventions after its bathroom bill became law last year, the group warned in a letter that Texas could meet the same fate. Already, the National Football League and the NCAA have said that the siting of future events in Texas would be jeopardized if lawmakers move forward.

    The more than 30 signatories on the letter include comptrollers, controllers and treasurers of California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as major firms such as BlackRock and T. Rowe Price. Collectively, the group represents more than $11 trillion in assets.

    The Takeaway: Threats like these aren't new. Called social divesting, stewards of major pensions have increasingly urged corporate boards in recent years to make policy changes, such as pressuring energy companies to move away from fossil fuels.

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    Thursday
    Feb232017

    The Real Price of College

    Most states don't keep track of how much they give to students and their families in tax breaks. That could be hurting their ability to make college affordable for all.
    BY  FEBRUARY 23, 2017

    How much does higher education cost? Surprisingly, that's a question most states can't answer.

    Every state, of course, knows what it plans to spend on higher ed each year, which generally accounts for about 10 percent of a state's budget. But few places track what they give up in tax breaks to help defray the cost of college for taxpayers, according to a new Pew Charitable Trusts report. Since many states default to the federal government's qualifications for these tax breaks, most don't know how vulnerable they are to changes at the federal level.

    Phillip Oliff, one of the report's authors, says states should be regularly looking at both sides of the equation -- tax breaks and direct spending -- when considering how they pay for and promote education policy. "Then they can think about whether the full package of support is being used as effectively as possible to promote their policy goals," he says.

    In a review of the 41 states and the District of Columbia that tax personal income, just nine states and the district assess their higher education-related tax expenditures. These expenditures include special deductions, tax credits and exemptions that allow tax filers to reduce their declared taxable income. California, for instance, spent $10.8 billion on higher education in 2014, the year for which Pew has comprehensive data. But its estimated foregone revenue from higher education tax expenditures nudges the state's total cost up to $11.2 billion.

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