Progressive States Network, June 23, 2011(excerpted)
…In no particular order, below are 13 positive, progressive pieces of legislation from around the states that advanced in 2011 and which represent some of the key policy solutions featured in PSN’s Blueprint For Economic Security. Some are more prominent, others less so, but all advanced policies that promise to continue gaining momentum across the nation in the years to come.
1. Oregon’s HB 2825: Increasing Accountability for Corporate Subsidies
Last month, Oregon’s legislature unanimously approved a bill to provide increased transparency of state spending on economic development subsidies. The legislation (HB 2825) would require the Department of Administrative Services to publish detailed information regarding the amount, purpose, and intent of tax incentives directed to corporate entities on the state's transparency website. State Rep. Phil Barnhart (D), who sponsored the bill along with State Rep. Kim Thatcher (R), commented that “spending on tax breaks should be treated the same as spending on programs,” and that “by putting this information online, as is currently the case with other areas of the budget, we move one step closer to that goal." Governor John Kitzhaber recently signed the bill into law.
The victory in Oregon mirrors legislative movement across the country to increase transparency in the budget process as states continue to experience the lasting impacts of the economic downturn. This past session, lawmakers in several states, including Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia, championed initiatives to augment accountability of state spending on corporate tax breaks, subsidies, and contracts—all measures that would aid in rebuilding prosperity in state economies in the years to come.
2. Illinois’ SB 2505: A Responsible Approach to Revenue Shortfalls
In January, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation to raise the state corporate and personal income tax. In explaining the need for the effort, Gov. Pat Quinn explained that the state's "fiscal house was burning." Faced with a revenue shortfall of $15 billion, legislators garnered the political will to enact sensible means to generate sorely-needed revenue. The plan is expected to raise approximately $6.5 billion over the next year and primarily consists of temporarily increasing the state's flat personal income tax, from 3 to 5 percent, and corporate tax, from 4.8 to 7 percent.
Several other states followed Illinois' lead this year and looked to enact revenue measures to alleviate fiscal pressures, including Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont. Connecticut stands out among states for looking towards more progressive means to closing shortfalls and supporting working families, through increasing the income and corporate tax, raising the tax on certain luxury items, broadening the sales tax base to include some services, and enacting a state-based earned income tax credit (EITC). As countless studies have shown, during an economic downturn, progressive revenue generation is far preferable to deep cuts, as it allows states to provide funding for public structures, save the jobs of teachers, nurses, and firefighters, pump money into the economy, and protect middle class families, children, and the elderly.
3. Oregon’s SB 889: Partnership Banks to Rebuild Prosperity in the States
Lawmakers in several states are considering proactive economic development policies to confront bleak fiscal and economic outlooks. One of the most innovative is the creation of partnership banks similar to North Dakota’s—the only state in the country to have its own bank. At a basic level, a partnership bank is capitalized by state money, publicly governed, can serve as a depository for state revenue, and returns a portion of its profits to the state. Rather than sending taxpayer funds to increase the profits of big banks, a partnership bank keeps deposits in-state. As such, it reduces state dependence on large financial corporations and allows states to invest dollars in local communities. Generally, the objectives of partnership banks are to:
- Team up with local banks to keep public dollars in the community
- Create jobs and encourage economic growth
- Increase state revenues and keep money in-state
- Strengthen local and community banks by improving access to capital
- Decrease debt costs for local government
- Provide more resources for small businesses
In several states—Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon (SB 889), and Washington—legislation was introduced to either create or assess the feasibility and economic impact of the establishment of a partnership bank. (For more information on partnership banks, see this report by Demos and this online clearinghouse maintained by Center for State Innovation.)
read more (and find out what the Progressives may be planning for the next session)
REALITY: HB853: State-Owned Bank to be run by Takamine, Abercrombie