Income tax repeal, investments in renewable energy on state ballots this year

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While tax measures are less prominent on most state ballots this year, Question Number 1 in Massachusetts asks voters to cut the state income tax from 5.3 to 2.65 percent on January 1 and eliminate it entirely by 2010. North Dakota voters are being asked to cut their income tax by 50 percent and the corporate tax by 15 percent, largely because they enjoy a revenue surplus from a tax on oil drilling, The Wall Street Journal reports. The income tax repeal measure in Massachusetts is not expected to win approval.

Concern for the environment and the cost of energy are reflected in other ballot initiatives. A constitutional amendment in Minnesota would set aside a percentage of the sales tax in for environmental and arts funding. In Colorado, Amendment 58 would eliminate an oil and gas industry tax credit, which would leave the industry owing $321 million in additional taxes next fiscal year, the Journal reports. Colorado would set aside the anticipated revenue for college scholarships, wildlife preservation and renewable-energy development. A Florida amendment would prohibit tax assessments for residential improvements that increase renewable energy use or resistance to wind damage.

Other tax measures requiring the attention of voters in the following states are:

  • Colorado – Proposal to make permanent the existing suspension of spending limits under TABOR. Tax increases would still be approved by the voters; extra revenue in Colorado would no longer be returned to taxpayers, but would go to a state education fund instead. An increase in sales taxes is also on the ballot in Colorado.
  • Maine – Repeal of a 2008 law that increased excise taxes on beer, wine and soda.
  • Missouri – An increase in state tax on casinos to 21 percent and elimination of the $500/two hour loss limit for individual gambling losses.
  • Oklahoma -- An amendment that would require a person or a business to file an application before receiving a tax exemption.
  • Oregon -- A measure that would allow unlimited deductions for federal income taxes on state income tax returns.

Bond proposals for infrastructure projects and amendments allowing state pension funds to invest in equities, placed on state ballots earlier this year, may seem strange to voters in light of the current turmoil in the stock and credit markets. In Montana, where voters are asked to permit state money to be invested in the stock market, according to the Associated Press, voter information pamphlets say that "aggregate stock values are expected to appreciate, while bond values do not." Some of California's bond proposals assume that the state will pay a 5 percent interest rate; interest rates are expected to be higher.

South Carolina initiatives propose that the state employee benefit trust fund and post-employment benefit trust funds be invested and reinvested in equity securities, and in Utah, voters will vote on a similar measure that applies to state school funds.

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