GOP governors: It’s Numberwang !

Does anyone wonder how Vermont GOP Governor Phil Scott’s fellow “fiscally responsible” Republican governors have done keeping their state’s fiscal houses in order? numberwanged

Well, as early as last spring US News&World Report noted that at least a half dozen Republican-governed states that had been running “real life experiments” with Laffer inspired tax and budget cuts were “awash in red ink, facing nine- and ten-figure deficits heading into the new fiscal year.”  So mostly, It’s Numberwang!

In Kansas, as of early this past year, Governor Sam Brownback’s program of budget and tax cutting had created a state budget that’s nearly $1 billion in the red, forcing deep cuts in education, social programs and some services.

Now, with Trump about to be in control of the White House and GOP majorities in the US Congress — all poised to do god-knows-what in terms of tax “reform” at the national level, some GOP red states are now considering the unthinkable — raising taxes to correct severe budget shortfalls.

The GOP tax ideas run the board from raising gas taxes, shifting from property taxes to some combination of sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, and internet sales taxes, and/or raising taxes on alcohol or cigarettes (sin taxes). That’s quite a menu of choices, but not surprisingly for states enjoying Republican rule, raising income taxes on the wealthy or perhaps capital gains taxes seem to be off the table. You may notice too that most of these suggested revenue enhancers under consideration would have a heavier impact on lower-income earners — those already under stress from GOP cuts to education and social services.

And with Republicans’ “real life” Laffer-curve experiments knocking budgets out of whack and their resulting looming fiscal disaster, can you guess what is about to happen in states that now have newly elected GOP governors and majority legislatures?  Well … In New Hampshire and Iowa, states now wholly run by Republican governors and legislatures, leaders say they will work to reform the tax code by condensing the number of individual tax brackets or by cutting corporate tax rates.

It’s almost unbelievable, but it appears that states currently on reasonable financial footing but now under Republican control are about to swallow the same GOP tax-cut medicines that failed so spectacularly elsewhere. With President Trump and GOP control at the federal level the Laffer dose could be double strength.

Here in Vermont Democrats control the legislature which likely may save us from a full-scale GOP Numberwanging.

But why take foolish chances? Keep an eye on Phil Scott. He may just be settling in but right off has drawn a line in the sand — promising to veto any budget that grows faster than wages or the state economy in the previous year.

The Numberwang game: Once finished, becomes “WangerNumb”, where the players, in a more tense situation, say numbers until one gets “WangerNumb.” In the end, one contestant loses (almost always the same contestant) and is tortured in a way such as being arrested by the police.

Makes about as much sense as the numbers games Republican governors are playing.

 

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