Friday Roundup: Freight rail, states slow spending growth, gross receipts taxes get new life

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Crosscut (Ass’n of American Railroads op-ed): Washington state should embrace freight rail

A recent recommendation from the Washington state energy council to reject the expansion of Port of Vancouver speaks to a profound anti-business mentality by a vocal minority who continue to jeopardize not just the presence of freight rail in the state, but the businesses that depend on it….

Freight railroads directly employ more than 165,000 people in the U.S. and nearly 4,000 in Washington state. Recent analysis shows the sector supports 342,000 jobs in the state.

City Journal: Pillars of SALT

Consider, for instance, how newspapers have described the plan’s most controversial feature: the effort to eliminate or reduce the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). In high-tax states like New York and New Jersey, journalists have called it “an economic dagger” targeting middle-class residents and implying that as many as half of all households could face higher taxes…

doubling the standard deduction alone would offset three-quarters of the SALT deduction that the average New York taxpayer who itemizes would lose under the GOP tax plan, according to the Empire Center

It’s true that rich taxpayers in high-tax states would get socked. A Partnership for New York City study estimated that a family in New York making $10 million annually would pay $421,000 a year more in taxes under the Republican Senate bill, largely because of the lost SALT deduction. That’s compared with a tax savings of almost $72,000 for the same family in Florida, a state with no income tax, where SALT deductions won’t be missed. 

Governing magazine: State Spending Grows at Lowest Pace Since Great Recession

States’ general fund spending is projected to total $830.2 billion in fiscal 2018, which represents just 2.3 percent growth and the lowest spending increase since the Great Recession. Twenty-six states have already enacted budgets with general fund spending growth below 2 percent, and 15 states are cutting spending in fiscal 2018.

The new survey data was released Thursday by the National Association of State Budget Officers’ (NASBO).

National Association of Manufacturers: Retail Spending Grew Robustly in November

Retail spending grew at a robust 0.8 percent pace in November, extending the 2.0 percent and 0.5 percent rates seen in September and October, respectively. Overall, these data show that consumers are accelerating their purchases after slowing down somewhat in the summer months.

On a year-over-year basis, retail sales have risen 5.8 percent since November 2016, up from 4.9 percent in the previous report. With that said, sales of motor vehicles and parts—one of the largest retail segments—were off by 0.2 percent in November. Excluding automobiles, retail sales were up 1.0 percent in November, with year-over-year growth of 5.6 percent.

Tax Foundation: Trends in State Tax Policy, 2018

Just over a decade ago, gross receipts taxes appeared on the verge of extinction, with the antiquated form of taxation persisting (at the state level) only in Delaware and Washington. In recent years, however, several states have turned to this highly nonneutral tax, chiefly as an alternative to volatile corporate income taxes. Ohio, Texas, and Nevada all adopted gross receipts taxes in recent years, while eight states—California, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming—contemplated their adoption this year.