A new report from the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, said total state revenues rose by about 17.6 percent last year. State rainy day funds — money that is set aside to cover unexpected costs — have reached “new record levels,” according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
Yet those rosy budget balances may not last if the economy slows, as expected. The Federal Reserve has begun raising interest rates in an attempt to cool economic growth, and there are growing concerns about the potential for another recession. Stocks fell for another session on Monday, with the S&P 500 down 3.2 percent, as investors fretted about a slowdown in global growth, high inflation and other economic woes.
Cutting taxes too deeply now could put states on weaker financial footing.
The Tax Policy Center said its state tax revenue forecasts for the rest of this year and next year were “alarmingly weak” as states enacted tax cuts and spending plans. Fitch, the credit rating agency, said recently that immediate and permanent tax cuts could be risky in light of evolving economic conditions.
“Substantial tax policy changes can negatively affect revenues and lead to long-term structural budget challenges, especially when enacted all at once in an uncertain economic environment,” Fitch said.
The state tax cuts are taking place as the Biden administration struggles to respond to rising prices. So far, the White House has resisted calls for a gas tax holiday, though Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in April that President Biden was open to the idea. The administration has responded by primarily trying to ease supply chain logjams that have created shortages of goods and cracking down on price gouging, but taming inflation falls largely to the Fed.
The White House declined to assess the merits of states’ cutting taxes but pointed to the administration’s measures to expand fuel supplies and proposals for strengthening supply chains and lowering health and child care costs as evidence that Mr. Biden was taking inflation seriously.
“President Biden is taking aggressive action to lower costs for American families and address inflation,” Emilie Simons, a White House spokeswoman, said.