MuniLand

A conservative revolt on cutting taxes

Voters and legislators in two very red states, Oklahoma and North Dakota, have recently defeated conservative initiatives to eliminate important taxes. Among some Republicans, there seems to be a realization of the need to pay taxes to fund essential services like schools and police and firemen, and of the need to find other sources of revenue once a given tax is repealed.

North Dakota has become the first state in the nation to propose and subsequently defeat a constitutional amendment banning property taxes. The proposal, Measure 2, would have given all local revenue decisions to the state legislature without detailing how the process would work. It was overwhelmingly rejected – by 77 percent of voters. This comment in the Bismark Tribune seems to capture the reasoning of voters on the issue:

I voted “no” on M2 because it was too vague and when I inquired supporters on how funding gets reacquired they kept stating that politicians will be forced to rethink the budget when, in reality, politicians always get funding by raising taxes. There is no such thing as a vacuum in government budgets and this argument relies on common sense in government actually taking effect. If Mandan elects a grocery personality with dubious managerial skills (I worked for the guy, he severely lacks leadership), then I have serious doubts that politicians will “rethink” anything.

My message to the Tea Party, whom I am affiliated with: go back to the drawing board and write a bill that is explicit in detail and is based on economics and not blind ideology with a Thomas Jefferson quote attached. Don’t gripe, just rewrite it, make it more specific, and don’t treat voters like scared sheep.

In Oklahoma, several weeks ago the legislature surprisingly defeated a proposal to eliminate the state income tax. Oklahoma is among the reddest of red states, and both chambers of the legislature are controlled by Republicans. The Tulsa World‘s associate editor, Janet Pearson, credits a progressive think tank, OK Policy, with the defeat of income tax repeal:

America’s only economic boom

In an April 2008 study, the U.S. Geological Survey increased its estimates of the size of recoverable oil reserves in the Bakken Formation — an area stretching across Montana and North Dakota — by a factor of 25. The press release for the study said:

North Dakota and Montana have an estimated 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation. A U.S. Geological Survey assessment, released April 10, shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered compared to the agency’s 1995 estimate of 151 million barrels of oil.

The Bakken Formation estimate is larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the lower 48 states and is the largest “continuous” oil accumulation ever assessed by the USGS. A “continuous” oil accumulation means that the oil resource is dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences. The next largest “continuous” oil accumulation in the U.S. is in the Austin Chalk of Texas and Louisiana, with an undiscovered estimate of 1.0 billions of barrels of technically recoverable oil.

Operation Twist, or Operation Shout?

Op Twist and demand

The Federal Reserve announced further efforts to stimulate the U.S. economy yesterday by reapportioning the maturity of the bonds in its $2.6 trillion portfolio. The operation has been dubbed “Operation Twist” because it twists the yield curve by raising short-term rates and lowering long-term rates. This is another attempt by the Fed to goose consumers into spending and borrowing at higher levels in the hopes that it will increase demand and get the national economic engine running at a higher speed. Reuters reports:

The Federal Reserve’s latest effort to push down long-term U.S. borrowing costs may not do much for the central bank’s main worry — persistently high unemployment that could leave lasting scars on the economy.

Economists are increasingly anxious that the 9.1 percent jobless rate in the United States could become entrenched, as the skills of those out of work atrophy and their connections to the job market wane, sidelining them and chipping away at the U.S. economy’s capacity to produce.

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