Sacramento Bee op-ed: State’s Job Growth Defies Predictions After Tax Increases, by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):
Dire predictions about jobs being destroyed spread across California in 2012 as voters debated whether to enact the sales and, for those near the top of the income ladder, stiff income tax increases in Proposition 30. Million-dollar-plus earners face a 3 percentage-point increase on each additional dollar.
So what happened after voters approved the tax increases, which took effect at the start of 2013?
Last year California added 410,418 jobs, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2012, significantly better than the 1.8 percent national increase in jobs. California is home to 12 percent of Americans, but last year it accounted for 17.5 percent of new jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows. ...
These results may surprise those who have heard that tax increases are job killers. Taxes can do that – if what is being taxed directly applies to job creation. For example, a 10 percent increase in payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare and state disability) would probably hamper job growth, said David Neumark, chancellor’s professor of economics and director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine.
Neumark said he asks his students, “Does raising income tax rates reduce hiring?” “The answer is no. What firms care about when deciding how many workers to hire is the marginal product of workers and the marginal cost of those workers. So if you are an employer and your personal income tax rate is increased, that does not raise the marginal cost of your workers, but it may encourage you to work a little less hard,” Neumark noted, applying standard economic theory.
Some research into tax rates indicates that high rates have the opposite effect: People may work harder, trying to make more money to achieve a desired after-tax income and may slough off if tax rates are lowered. This is known to be the case for people who have a savings target for money to leave their children and are subject to estate taxes – they save more to leave the after-tax sum they prefer, but save less when the tax is lowered or no longer applies to them.
The empirical evidence also shows that the best-paying jobs tend to be clustered in states (and countries) with high taxes. The same tends to be true of wealth creators, including the most money-motivated among scientists, and existing wealth holders not actively engaged in business. ...
Neumark noted that there is one group of million-dollar-plus income Californians who could easily leave – retirees. “If you have a California business, it’s pretty hard to leave or to move the business, and costly, too,” Neumark said. ...
Daniel Wilson, a Federal Reserve Bank economist in San Francisco, has been studying the job migration patterns of so-called star scientists, especially those who hold many patents. His preliminary data show a tendency for such star scientists to move to Washington state, which has no income tax, but not to Texas, which also does not tax incomes. That seems to indicate a preference among such high performers for public amenities and, perhaps, the climate and outdoor options of the West Coast.