The Corner

The State of State Taxes

Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, isn’t sweating about tax increases in Republican-controlled states. Over the weekend the New York Times ran a story saying eight states with Republican governors were considering tax increases — something the Times calls “once-forbidden territory.” But the story noted that in several of those states, the tax increases would be balanced, or more than balanced, with tax cuts. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley says that the gas tax will go up only if the income tax goes down by more. A gas-tax hike in New Jersey may be coupled with abolition of the state’s estate tax. Kansas may see an increase in the liquor and cigarette tax, and while Norquist would prefer that didn’t happen, he notes that it would be part of a path to a future free of the state income tax. Trading one tax for another without raising taxes overall has never been out of bounds for Republicans.

In states where Republican governors are considering net tax increases, Norquist tells me, he thinks they stand a good chance of being thwarted. Nevada requires two-thirds of the legislature to sign off on a tax increase, and he thinks the newly Republican legislature will be more anti-tax than Governor Brian Sandoval. Alabama’s governor Robert Bentley is facing opposition to his proposed tax increases, too, and Norquist thinks he may back off. Michigan voters have to approve the tax increase favored by Governor Rick Snyder, and they have “a good track record of voting these things down.” In Utah, he thinks there’s a shot at beating a tax on e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, Norquist thinks tax cuts may take place in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The press, he says, is always selling the notion that Republicans are going to break with the party’s anti-tax orthodoxy. “I live through it every two years. It’s as certain as the spring rains.” I can attest to that: Ten years ago I wrote an article for NR about a spate of reports that state-level Republicans had caught tax-hike fever. “Is Grover Over?” was one of the headlines. He wasn’t, and isn’t, and neither is strong Republican opposition to tax increases.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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