Tax-Hike Proponents Refuse to Pay More Themselves

Published June 1, 2007

Tax Me More accounts, also known as voluntary contribution accounts, have brought in precious little revenue to date, vividly demonstrating the hypocrisy behind many calls for higher taxes.

“Setting up a Tax Me More fund is like putting bacteria under a microscope to see how it really behaves,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Whenever a tax hike is on the table or a tax cut is being considered, the big spenders inevitably fall back on the argument that taxes are not high enough or that taxpayers are willing to pay more in taxes. One glance through the microscope at how much taxpayers voluntarily fork over to government shows that big spenders are tossing around a diseased argument.”

Arkansas, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Virginia have Tax Me More accounts, which allow taxpayers to pay extra if they think their tax bill should be higher. Lawmakers in Kentucky, Maine, and Utah this year have laid groundwork for similar accounts.

Arkansas, Massachusetts Lead

Arkansas became the first state with a Tax Me More fund after then-governor Mike Huckabee (R) created an account by executive order in December 2001.

In 2000-2001, Massachusetts’s Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) led the charge to repeal the state’s “temporary” income tax rate increase in a 2000 referendum. To address those who argued they don’t mind paying more, the legislature added a checkbox on the 2001 income tax forms allowing taxpayers to decide whether to pay the old 5.85 percent rate or the new 5.3 percent rate.

Chip Ford, CLT’s director of operations, spearheaded the effort. “Those of us who campaigned and voted to ‘keep the promise’ on the 2000 ballot, to make the 1989 ‘temporary’ state income tax hike finally temporary by ending it ourselves, now pay lower taxes,” he said. “Our opponents, who throughout the ballot campaign insisted they ‘don’t need or want’ a tax cut, now don’t need to take it.”

Funds Stay Dry

The Massachusetts Tax Me More fund, like those in the other states and for the federal government, has been virtually dry, revealing the unwillingness of taxpayers to voluntarily pay more in taxes.

In Maine earlier this year, state Rep. Scott Lansley (R- Sabattus) offered “An Act to Create a Voluntary Tax Account,” which was tabled.

On February 1, Lansley testified before the state House’s Joint Standing Committee on Taxation, “[T]hose that feel we do not allocate enough money to worthwhile causes such as Land for Maine’s Future, welfare for the needy, or health care can now designate whatever amount they wish. Also, this is a designated account and not money just dumped into the general fund as is currently done.”

More States Considering Bills

Kentucky state Rep. David Floyd (R-Bardstown) introduced a bill to create a voluntary contribution account allowing donations from taxpayers and requiring the state’s Department of Revenue to enable taxpayers to make contributions with their income tax payments.

Floyd said his bill is a call to all those who do not support tax cuts to walk the walk.

In Utah, state Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper) began the 2007 legislative session with a Tax Me More bill. The measure passed the state House by a vote of 43-31.

“In addressing tax policy, we have given the vocal minority an opportunity to reject tax relief. Now we can gauge the resistance to tax cuts in real dollars!” Hughes said.

Elizabeth Karasmeighan ([email protected]) is state government affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform.