Ariz. Legislature sends sales tax hike to ballot

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposed temporary sales-tax increase to help close future budget shortfalls is headed to a May 18 special election ballot.

The House on Thursday approved, 34-25, a Senate-passed resolution to refer the one-cent, three-year sales tax increase to voters.

“This is just a small step in doing something to turn this budget situation around,” said Rep. Cloves Campbell, D-Phoenix. “The bottom line is we’re in big trouble.”

The action on the sales-tax referral came on the fourth day of a special session called by Brewer for action on the state’s budget crisis.

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The one-cent sales tax increase would produce roughly $1 billion annually to reduce big shortfalls projected for the next several years. For the year beginning July 1, the state faces a projected shortfall of at least $2.6 billion on spending of $9.5 billion. [Read the full article]

The publishing world is too slow for Laurence J. Kotlikoff. On a frigid January day, the 58-year-old Boston University economist is pecking away at his computer keyboard in his airy office overlooking the Charles River. Kotlikoff’s forthcoming book, Jimmy Stewart is Dead, calls for a radical — and swift — reorganization of the financial system. So rather than wait for the book’s Feb. 22 publication date, Kotlikoff is e-mailing PDF versions to dozens of economists, journalists, and policymakers. “We have miscreants running the financial system left, right, and center,” says Kotlikoff. “Nobody is calling the (Obama) Administration to task and saying, ‘You guys are putting a Band-Aid on cancer.'”

Kotlikoff would drain the risk-taking out of commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, and insurance companies — turning them into boring, narrow intermediaries akin to mutual-fund firms. [Read the full article]

A budget-balancing package of tax increases pending in the state House grew by $90 million Thursday.

The Taxation and Revenue Committee endorsed a proposal to eliminate an income tax deduction for some taxpayers, a move that would generate $90 million next year.

About one-fourth of New Mexico’s tax filers will pay more under the proposal — an average of $271 per tax return, according to the state’s tax agency.

The bill goes to the House floor for consideration and becomes part of a package of tax measures that will provide more than $400 million next year to help balance the state budget and minimize spending cutbacks for public education and other governmental services.

The House is expected to debate the tax proposals on Friday along with a $5.6 billion budget bill.

New Mexico’s personal income tax system allows the same itemized deductions that are used for federal tax purposes. [Read the full article]

Tennessee Republican legislative leaders said Thursday they’re opposed to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s proposal to tax cable TV to save some government jobs and pay for higher education.

The tax is part of a state revenue plan Bredesen says would generate about $50 million a year. He wants to earmark that money for higher education and to preserve 200 jobs among prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers and foresters.

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But Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and several other Republicans said in a press release that increasing Tennesseans’ cable bills is not the way to balance the budget.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said the budget should not be balanced “on the backs of the taxpayers.”

“The weakened economy means lawmakers must be vigilant to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient and effective manner,” he said. [Read the full article]

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