Progressive Think Tank Offers Tax Policy Reforms for Southern States: Virginia Receives Mixed Reviews

Lost amidst the recent General Assembly budget battle was an announcement by the Center for a Better South – a nascent progressive think tank covering the Southeastern US – on the publication of its first policy book. (Disclosure: I write for the Center’s ThinkSouth blog but was not involved with the production of this work). “Doing Better: Progressive Tax Reform for the American South” features a state-by-state assessment of tax policies and offers up 11 suggested tax reforms for Southern states to pursue. The book was written by senior staff at the nonpartisan Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

In the press release for the book, Center president Andy Brack states, “The South of today isn’t the same as the South of our parents and grandparents. We live in a more dynamic Sunbelt that has transformed from the goods-based, mule-driven days of the 20th century into a knowledge- and service-economy that competes globally. Unfortunately, our state governments generally haven’t adapted to the new economy. Their structures have outdated tax components that need to be modernized for today’s market. State lawmakers should look at their taxing structures holistically – at income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and more – and develop better ways to be fairer to everyone,” According to the author’s scorecard, Virginia has addressed 5 of the 11 suggested reforms.

In light of the recent estate tax rollback and the upcoming brouhaha over possible new tax revenues for transportation investments, this book may provide additional insight to inform policymaking. While the political culture of the Commonwealth is somewhat cautious when it comes to regional cooperation and criticism beyond the Virginia border (except Wall Street bond raters it seems), Virginia’s lawmakers, bureaucrats, policy wonks, and other observers would be wise to review this book to glean any useful information that it may provide. In the absence of a significant policy shop to call their own after the closing of Public Policy Virginia, Virginia progressives may want to examine the book for tax policy alternatives and new messaging. I will be offering my own assessment of the book and its strategies over the coming weeks.

For more information about the Center, check out this interview that I did with Andy some months back.

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3 responses to “Progressive Think Tank Offers Tax Policy Reforms for Southern States: Virginia Receives Mixed Reviews”

  1. Insider Avatar

    Oh my God!

    They scored us down because we don’t have more sales taxes. They want Virginia to tax services, and eliminated tax holidays. Oh, and our cigarette tax isn’t high enough either.

    They say we should “modernize” the income tax, but all that means to them is increase it, by adding another bracket.

    Then it gets flat-out wrong saying that Virginia doesn’t connect property taxes with ability to pay, when several programs exist for real estate tax relief for many who are in financial hardship, seniors or the disabled.

    I’ll tell you, if that’s failing their test, I’d hate to pass.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Conaway: How do you distinquish ‘progressive’ from ‘liberal’?

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Conaway, thanks for linking to this resource. I can’t say that I saw much on the Center for a Better South website that I agreed with — an interview with the dean of the Vanderbilt law school was particularly nauseating — but it’s reassuring to see that Southern “progressives” are at least thinking about new approaches and new solutions.

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