By Stephen Slivinski
On March 12, the state senate in Oklahoma passed a bill that would immediately turn the state’s income tax into a flat tax, cut the tax rate in half, and strip away the extraneous tax credits and special carve-outs. Then, over a 10-year period, it would slowly phase the income tax out of existence by cutting the rates each year until they reach zero.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, special interests filed a ballot initiative for November that would extend the “temporary” sales tax increase passed by voters in 2010. Additionally, the initiative will lock-in automatic future increases in education spending, burdening taxpayers with ever-higher tax bills. Passage of this initiative will also guarantee that Arizona’s average state and local sales tax rate remains the second highest in the nation.
There is another path, however. The Speaker’s “jobs bill” (HB 2815), which has already passed the House, would eliminate the capital gains tax in Arizona, something no state with an income tax has yet done. In addition, the House has also passed HB 2123, which creates a tax-reform commission that will consider proposals to eliminate the income tax altogether, and issue recommendations by October.
This year, voters and policymakers will have a clear choice on what path tax policy in Arizona should take. Should we choose the path of high tax rates, a tax base with all sorts of special carve-outs, and business as usual at the Capitol? Or should we choose the path that lowers tax rates, makes the tax code more sane, and sets the state up for robust job growth and entrepreneurial activity that could make the state an economic powerhouse?
The choice is clear. Oklahoma has taken its first step down the right path. Arizona should too.
Stephen Slivinski is a senior economist with the Goldwater Institute.
Wall Street Journal: The Heartland Tax Rebellion
Oklahoma State Senate: Statement on the Passage of Tax Reform Bill SB 1571