Short take: How rare is raising taxes among the states?

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2011 - 8:04 PM

Minnesota will be an outlier among the states if it raises general taxes this year — or so goes a Republican talking point heard Monday from Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch at a panel discussion at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School.

Only four other states are considering tax increases this year, she said.

That may be so, though most legislatures around the country are still in session, and anything is possible while they are.

But plenty of states have already raised taxes to cope with the Great Recession, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Since fiscal 2008, 43 states have raised one or more general-fund taxes. (Gasoline taxes are not included in that count.)

Interestingly, that includes Minnesota, which NCSL tags for a $63 million increase in “miscellaneous” taxes last year and a $44 million increase in income taxes in 2010, despite former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s insistence on a “no new taxes” regimen. 

By NCSL’s count, 36 legislatures have raised taxes on either general sales or sales of tobacco, alcohol or both, and 20, including Minnesota in 2010, have raised personal income taxes since fiscal 2008. 

The state tax rankings that politicians love to cite generally lag behind legislative action by at least two years. Minnesotans likely won’t know where the 2008-10 recession has landed their state in the Great American Tax Competition until recovery has taken a firm hold.

But lawmakers shouldn’t think that their counterparts in other states aren’t raising taxes. Many already have.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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