State & Local Finance Initiative

Reforming State Gas Taxes: How States Are (and Are Not) Addressing an Eroding Tax Base

Nov. 6, 2014

The federal government and most states have per-unit gas taxes. Because they tax gallons purchased, and not a percentage of purchase price, revenues are falling across the country as Americans buy less gas. If states do not want to cut transportation projects they now have to increase tax rates or find new revenue sources. This brief examines the national trends affecting gas tax revenues and describes what different states are doing (or not doing) in response to an eroding tax base.

fed and state as percentage of price line graph

Temporary Taxes: States' Response to the Great Recession

Nov. 5, 2014

When the Great Recession created unexpected budget deficits, many states used temporary tax increases to maintain revenues for vital government services. There is a perception that temporary taxes become permanent taxes but the evidence on this point is mixed. In this brief, we look at 14 states and the District of Columbia that together enacted 25 temporary tax increase measures between 2008 and 2011.

Municipal Debt: What Does It Buy and Who Benefits?

Oct. 29, 2014

Traditional analyses of the incidence of exempting municipal bond interest from federal income taxation find the primary beneficiaries are high-income individuals. But in a new paper for National Tax Journal, State & Local Finance Initiative researchers report that households who consume a relatively large share of state and local public services, such as those with several school-age children, also receive significant net benefits.

State & Local Finance Initiative Blog Posts

Recent posts about state and local finance on Tax Vox (Tax Policy Center's blog) and Metro Trends (Urban Institute's blog).

 

All State & Local Finance Initiative Blog Posts

 
 
Publications for State and Local Issues

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A Work Tax Credit That Supports Puerto Rico's Working Families (Research Report)
Maria E. Enchautegui

Puerto Rico eliminated its work tax credit (WC) in 2014. The credit, which was established in 2006, delivered benefits to 45 percent of all tax filers in 2013 at a total cost $124 million. The maximum credit was $450. This report assess the experience with the WC from 2007 to 2013 and suggests elements for a possible redesign that rewards and stimulates work, reduces hardship, strengthens the tax base, and offsets regressivity in ways that are consistent with current tax reform proposals in Puerto Rico.

Published: 12/12/14
Availability:   PDF


Can California Teacher Pensions Be Distributed More Fairly? (Research Report)
Richard W. JohnsonBenjamin G. Southgate

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has been grossly underfunded for the past decade. State policymakers have responded by cutting plan benefits for new hires and raising teachers’ required plan contributions. These changes, however, have undermined teachers’ retirement income security. Only 35 percent of new hires will receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Most new hires would have better financial outcomes if they could opt out of the mandatory retirement plan and invest their contributions elsewhere. Additional plan reforms should focus on changing the benefit formula to distribute pensions more equitably across the workforce.

Published: 12/05/14
Availability:   PDF


Angel Investor Tax Credits (Article/Tax Facts)
Norton Francis

High net worth investors can reduce the cost of an investment in 29 states by claiming an "angel investor" tax credit. In most states, the credit is worth more than 25 percent of the investments and can be transferred to another taxpayer if it exceeds the investor's liability. States hope the credit will develop high tech clusters and generate economic activity.

Published: 11/25/14
Availability:   PDF


Reforming State Gas Taxes: How States Are (and Are Not) Addressing an Eroding Tax Base (Research Brief)
Richard C. Auxier

The federal government and most states have per-unit gas taxes. Because they tax gallons purchased, and not a percentage of purchase price, revenues are falling across the country as Americans buy less gas. If states do not want to cut transportation projects they now have to increase tax rates or find new revenue sources. This brief examines the national trends affecting gas tax revenues and describes what different states are doing (or not doing) in response to an eroding tax base.

Published: 11/06/14
Availability:   PDF


Temporary Taxes: States' Response to the Great Recession (Research Brief)
Norton FrancisBrian David Moore

When the Great Recession created unexpected budget deficits, many states used temporary tax increases to maintain revenues for vital government services. Because they are generally less disruptive than immediate spending cuts, temporary tax increases can be a useful tool for overcoming short-term deficits. There is a perception that temporary taxes become permanent taxes but the evidence on this point is mixed. States do allow temporary taxes to expire after the taxes have met their short-term revenue needs but some of the taxes are made permanent or extended. In this brief, we look at 14 states and the District of Columbia (DC) that together enacted 25 temporary tax increase measures between 2008 and 2011.

Published: 11/05/14
Availability:   PDF


Municipal Debt: What Does It Buy and Who Benefits? (Research Report)
Harvey GalperKim RuebenRichard C. AuxierAmanda Eng

This paper examines the incidence of the federal income tax exemption of interest on state and local bonds, applying a fixed-savings, simplified general equilibrium approach to estimate incidence effects on both the sources and uses of income. In contrast to traditional empirical work that allocates the benefit of tax exemption only to current holders of tax-exempt bonds based on current interest rates, we incorporate the fact that the existence of tax exemption causes the taxable interest rate to rise and the tax-exempt rate to fall. As a consequence, on the sources side, tax exemption can increase after-tax income for holders of both taxable and taxexempt bonds. On the uses side, consumers of both private and public goods are affected by the higher cost of funds to private and federal government borrowers, the lower cost of funds to state and local borrowers, and the lower cost of funds to private-sector entities with access to the proceeds of tax-exempt borrowing. Overall, higher income individuals remain the primary beneficiaries of tax exemption on the sources side with this new approach, but less so than under the traditional approach. On the uses side, households who consume a relatively large share of state and local public services, such as those with several school-age children, receive significant net benefits.

Published: 10/29/14
Availability: HTML | PDF


State Economic Monitor: October 2014 (Series/State Economic Monitor)
Richard C. Auxier

Most states ended the summer of 2014 on a positive economic note. Up from 14 states a year earlier, 25 states reported August unemployment rates below 6 percent. Every state but Alaska added jobs within the last year. But some troubling signs remain. Inflation-adjusted average weekly wages declined or did not change in 26 states. The latest issue of the State Economic Monitor describes economic and fiscal trends at the state level, highlighting particular differences across the states in employment, state government finances, and housing conditions. This issue also includes a special section on state minimum wages.

Published: 10/16/14
Availability:   PDF


Assessing Pension Benefits Paid under Pennsylvania's State Employees' Retirement System (Research Report)
Richard W. JohnsonBarbara ButricaOwen HaagaBenjamin G. Southgate

Pennsylvania’s pension plan for state employees receives a failing grade in the Urban Institute’s state and local pension plan report card, and ranks as the third-worst plan in the nation covering newly hired general state employees. The plan scores poorly because it is inadequately funded, it penalizes work at older ages by reducing lifetime benefits for older employees, and it provides few retirement benefits to short-term employees. Age-25 hires must work 32 years before they accumulate rights to future pension benefits worth more than their required plan contributions. Various pension reforms could distribute benefits more equitably across the workforce.

Published: 09/04/14
Availability:   PDF


Evaluating Retirement Income Security for Illinois Public School Teachers (Research Report)
Richard W. JohnsonBenjamin G. Southgate

The financial problems afflicting Illinois’s teacher pension plan have grabbed headlines. An equally important problem, though underappreciated, is that relatively few teachers benefit much from the plan. Long-serving teachers receive generous pensions, but only 18 percent of teachers remain employed for at least 25 years. Only 24 percent of those who complete at least five years of service receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Alternative plan designs, such as cash balance plans, could distribute benefits more equitably and put more teachers on a path to a financially secure retirement.

Published: 07/30/14
Availability:   PDF


State Economic Monitor: July 2014 (Series/State Economic Monitor)
Norton FrancisKim RuebenRichard C. Auxier

The latest edition of the Tax Policy Center's State and Local Finance Initiative's State Economic Monitor reports that states are still struggling to emerge from the lingering recession. The good news is that nearly all states experienced economic growth in 2013, and only one state has an unemployment rate above 8 percent. But few states have fully recovered from the 2007 downturn, and new problems are arising. State tax revenues were down in the first quarter, driven by a significant decline in income tax revenue, and a non-government forecast estimates that the revenue drop may become even more severe. The Monitor also reviews the health of other aspects of state economies such as total employment, real earnings, and housing. This edition’s special supplement highlights a new Urban Institute report on public pension plans.

Published: 07/09/14
Availability:   PDF

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ABOUT

State and local governments provide important services, but finding information about them—and the way they are paid for—is often difficult. The State and Local Finance Initiative provides state and local officials, journalists, and citizens with reliable, unbiased data and analysis about the challenges state and local governments face, potential solutions, and the consequences of competing options. We will gather and analyze relevant data and research , and also make it easier for others to find the data they need to think about state and local finances. A core aim is to integrate knowledge and action across different levels of government and across policy domains that too often operate in isolation from one another.


 

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Information about state and local tax rates, revenues, and expenditures.  Use our tables or make your own.

State Economic Monitor. A Quarterly publication examining economic and finance conditions in the states.

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State and Local Finance-Data Query System: Create your own tables of state and local government finance data with information going back to 1977.

Net Income Change Calculator: Examine how changes in hours worked or wages affect family welfare across all 50 states.

Welfare Rules Database: Explore welfare rules and regulations for all 50 states.

Childcare and Development Fund (CCDF) Policies Database. A comprehensive database of child care subsidy policies for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories and outlying areas.


 
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