Washington Post Wonkblog: The Interesting Thing That Happened When Kansas Cut Taxes and California Hiked Them, by Jim Tankersley & Max Ehrenfreund:
In 2012, voters in California approved a measure to raise taxes on millionaires, bringing their top state income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. Conservative economists predicted calamity, or at least a big slowdown in growth. Also that year, the governor of Kansas signed a series of changes to the state's tax code, including reducing income and sales tax rates. Conservative economists predicted a boom.
Neither of those predictions came true. Not right away -- California grew just fine in the year the tax hikes took effect -- and especially not in the medium term, as new economic data showed this week.
Now, correlation does not, as they say, equal causation, and two examples are but a small sample. But the divergent experiences of California and Kansas run counter to a popular view, particularly among conservative economists, that tax cuts tend to supercharge growth and tax increases chill it.
California's economy grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tying it with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year. That was up from 3.1 percent growth for the Golden State in 2014, which was near the top of the national pack.
The Kansas economy, on the other hand, grew 0.2 percent in 2015. That's down from 1.2 percent in 2014, and below neighboring states such as Nebraska (2.1 percent) and Missouri (1.2 percent). Kansas ended the year with two consecutive quarters of negative growth -- a shrinking economy. By a common definition of the term, the state entered 2016 in recession. ...
Few, if any, economists would say today that the recovery has been sufficient for all Californians. But almost no one can say that raising taxes on the rich killed that recovery. Or that given a choice of the two states' economic performances over the past few years, you'd rather be Kansas.
(Hat Tip: Ted Seto.) For more, see Joseph Bankman (Stanford) & Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), California Dreamin': Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis, 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 405 (2014):
This essay makes three claims about the current state of tax law and academic tax scholarship in America: (1) the federal budget imbalance, caused by the failure of both political parties to raise the tax revenues needed to fund the nation’s spending priorities, is unsustainable and threatens our nation’s future; (2) tax scholars need to shift our focus from technocratic work to systemic solutions to the existential threat posed by this fiscal gap; and (3) California’s response to its seemingly intractable budget problems provides a template for resolving the federal budget stalemate in Washington, D.C.
Two years ago, both California and the nation were imperiled by long-term, structural, budget imbalances. California has reduced that peril by raising (already high) personal tax rates on the wealthy. The political success of that approach suggests that at the national level, Americans might be willing to support higher rates to maintain government services and move toward fiscal solvency.
The fiscal crisis highlights a problem with the dominant conception of legal tax scholarship. Under that conception, scholarship is (or should be) apolitical and confined to subjects about which the writer can demonstrate mastery. Unfortunately, the most pressing problem in the field is inescapably political and requires the scholar to address some issues about which no one can master. If we hew to a restrictive definition of scholarship, we limit our voice on a subject about which we have much to say.