One of the last-minute changes to the budget agreement substituted a 0.25 percentage point increase in each of the state’s basic income tax rates in place of a 5.0 percent income tax surtax. The enacted change would increase each of the tax rates for two or four years, depending on whether the spending cap that will appear on the May special election ballot is approved by the voters. For example, the 4 percent tax rate would be 4.25 percent under the new law and the 9.3 percent rate would go to 9.55 percent. As discussed in yesterday’s blog post, the increase would be cut in half – to 0.125 percentage points – if the Treasurer and Director of Finance certify that the state will receive at least $10.0 billion in “flexible” funds from the federal economic recovery bill. In contrast, the proposal under consideration until the final night of budget negotiations would have required all personal income taxpayers to add an amount equal to 5.0 percent of their tax liability for the two- or four-year period.
Because of this seemingly minor change, lower-income households will experience a much larger tax increase than under the previously considered proposal. The tax liability of a married couple with a taxable income of $40,000 will rise by 12.9 percent under the enacted policy, as opposed to 5.0 percent under the proposal previously under consideration. In contrast, the tax liability of a married couple with a taxable income of $150,000 will rise by 4.0 percent under the final agreement, instead of 5.0 percent under the original surcharge proposal. High-income earners will experience the most significant change – their tax liability will only rise by 2.9 percent under the enacted policy.
The bottom line: this late night change dramatically shifted the impact of the personal income tax increase downward on to low- and middle-income taxpayers, in contrast to a previously considered proposal that would have had a flat impact across the income distribution.
— Jean Ross