Oregon Voters Could Make It Harder to Raise Revenue

Some two decades ago, Oregon joined more than a dozen states in passing a constitutional amendment that requires a legislative supermajority to approve tax hikes. Three years ago, the state Supreme Court and a subsequent legislative counsel opinion created what some say is a loophole. In November, voters could close it, making it harder for the state to raise revenue.

The Week in Public Finance: Will Oklahoma Finally Wean Its Budget Off Oil?

Oil prices fell to a two-month low this week. Any time they tumble, oil-dependent states like Oklahoma are on edge. More than most states with economies heavily reliant on oil and natural gas, its budget is extremely vulnerable to the ebb and flow of the oil economy.

A Second State Could Ban Service Taxes

More governments are looking to expand their sales tax to services like Netflix and yoga. Already, half of states tax fitness studio classes or memberships, while places like Chicago, Florida and Pennsylvania have all started taxingonline streaming services in recent years.

But there's a growing movement in conservative states to stop that trend.

The Week in Public Finance: How the New NAFTA Deal Impacts States

After President Trump threatened for more than a year to withdraw from NAFTA, auto-manufacturing states breathed a sigh of relief when he announced a renegotiated trade agreement earlier this month with Canada and Mexico.

A U.S. withdrawal from the 1994 pact would have resulted in the reimposition of tariffs on specific goods between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The impact would have been felt most acutely by states such as Michigan that do a lot of business with the two countries.

The Week in Public Finance: States Intent on Taxing Big Pharma Over the Opioid Crisis

Lawmakers want to raise taxes on pharmaceutical companies to help pay for the cost of the opioid crisis. But success has been elusive.
BY  OCTOBER 5, 2018

Pills being dispensed.
(Shutterstock)

 

SPEED READ:

  • Minnesota's "penny a pill" bill failed in the state legislature after heavy lobbying removed a key provision. The state plans to try again in 2019.
  • An additional 10 states all tried and failed to pass opioid taxes this session. Lawmakers in those states say they will try again nex year.
  • Only New York has successfully passed legislation, but the new law is on hold thanks to a lawsuit. 
 

States haven't been very successful at taxing drug companies to help pay for the opioid crisis. But that won’t stop them from trying again next year.

Minnesota State Rep. Dave Baker, a Republican who sponsored a failed “penny a pill” bill during this year's session, has said that he plans on a different focus in 2019: pharmaceutical licensing reform. Liquor stores and bars pay thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of selling alcohol, Baker noted this week at a conference on opioids in Minneapolis, but drug companies only pay a few hundred dollars in licensing fees.

The Week in Public Finance: Amid Rising Home Prices, 2 States Take Property Tax Proposals to Voters

Ballot measures in California and Louisiana seek to protect homeowners from huge property tax spikes.
BY  SEPTEMBER 28, 2018
For Sale sign outside of a home.
(Shutterstock)

 

SPEED READ:

  • Voters in California and Louisiana face ballot measures that would reduce their property taxes at a time when the median U.S. home price has risen by 40 percent in five years
  • California's Proposition 5 would help seniors, the disabled or people who are homeless as the result of a natural disaster.
  • Louisiana's Amendment 6 would phase in homeowners’ new property taxes over four years.
 

Home prices have risen, but when voters in two states head to the polls in November, they could at least reduce their property taxes.

The median home price has risen by 40 percent nationwide in the past five years and is still rapidly rising. The increase is blamed largely on a housing shortage. The problem has been especially acute in California, which -- along with Louisiana -- is considering property tax reductions this fall. 

The Week in Public Finance: Do Income Tax Caps Only Benefit the Wealthy?

North Carolina voters will weigh in on the rare policy in November.
BY  SEPTEMBER 7, 2018
The North Carolina Capitol (David Kidd)

For a summary of November's most important ballot measures, click here.

A proposed income tax cap in North Carolina survived a court challenge this week, leaving it to the voters to decide whether to lean in to what is a rare policy in state government.

The November ballot measure would lower the state’s income tax rate cap from 10 percent to 7 percent. That’s still above the state’s current flat income tax rate of just under 5.5 percent. But in the past, the rate has been as high as 8.25 percent for high-income earners.

Capping income tax rates is unusual. Georgia is the only other state that does so, with a 6 percent cap approved by voters in 2014.

While Feds Loosen Payday Loan Regulations, Colorado Voters Could Clamp Down

In a year when the federal government is dialing back financial regulations, Colorado could become the 16th state to limit the notoriously high interest rates on payday loans.
BY  AUGUST 30, 2018
(Shutterstock)

For a summary of November's most important ballot measures, click here.

As the federal government walks back historic regulations on payday lending, Colorado voters this fall will be asked to tighten them -- a sign that strong consumer protections are increasingly being left to the states.

Short-term loans, often called payday loans because they’re due on the borrower’s next payday, have average interest rates of 129 percent in Colorado. Nationally, rates average between 150 percent and more than 600 percent a year. A ballot proposal, which was certified as Initiative 126 by the secretary of state on Tuesday, would cap those rates at 36 percent. If passed, Colorado would be the 16th state, plus the District of Columbia, to limit payday loan rates.