World-renowned economist Stephen Moore addresses AZ income tax initiative

Last Friday, world-renowned economist and author Stephen Moore sat down with business leaders to discuss the ballot initiative to double the income tax rate and the detrimental effects it would have on the state economy.

The initiative would increase the personal income tax rate from 4.54 percent to 8 percent for individuals who have a taxable income between $250,000 and $500,00 and for families who generate between $500,000 and $1 million. For individuals and families that make more than $500,000 and $1 million, respectively, the tax rate will jump to 9 percent – nearly double the original.

Moore believes that this will cause people in the top bracket to leave the state, meaning the state won’t receive any of their tax revenue. “People migrate on the basis of tax rates. It’s not the only factor, but it is certainly a big factor. People are moving from the high-income tax states to the low-income tax states,” Moore explains. “What will happen is you will lose millionaires and billionaires from the state, who pay a lot of the tax. If this initiative passes, you will lose revenue because these individuals will not pay the income tax.”

He highlighted Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey as states that have experienced a “state of economic catastrophe” since hiking up their income taxes. He notes that Connecticut increased their income tax rate in 2010 and lost just one billionaire – yet this one person created a $48 million hole in the state’s budget. In fact, the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research notes that between 2010 and 2015, the number of millionaires grew by 55 percent nationally, compared to just 27 percent in Connecticut.

Invest in Education hopes to generate $690 million from this initiative, but Moore points out that the fraction of money distributed between classrooms and administrators is not proportionate. He continues, “For every dollar we spend on increased education spending, 25 cents goes to classrooms and 75 cents goes to administrators.”

Additionally, Moore states that the initiative will dismantle small businesses, “We should label this the small business tax, because that’s what it is. $250,000? That’s like a business with three employees! This is a small business tax, and voters need to know that. It will crush your small business sector.”

In the end, Moore even admitted, “I have worked in economic policy for many years, and this has to be the single worst initiative that I have ever seen.” If the Invest in Education Act passes, it will only hurt economic growth, which can potentially remove tax revenue for teachers. Moore has analyzed Arizona as consistently having a top-ten economy, but he emphasizes that the approval of this initiative would be a major setback for the state.

Related: Three ballot initiatives that could harm Arizona’s economy

Ben Norman

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