The 50 laboratories of democracy were in full swing last year as free market policies swept through the nation in the name of tax cuts and education reform.
Though these types of victories don’t usually receive the same level of media attention as the fights on Capitol Hill, they are significantly more meaningful to the states that adopt these policies by way of an increase in both economic development and population. A sure sign that people continue to pay attention to their pocketbooks and vote with their feet.
Starting with the continuation of the historic Tax Cut Movement which began in 2021, 12 states cut income taxes in 2023. The year began with Kentucky making a rate reduction in January and setting itself on the path to personal income tax elimination, should revenue triggers be met.
Notably, even deep blue Connecticut enacted personal income tax cuts, proving that the Tax Cut Movement can and should be a bipartisan cause. Other states cutting taxes include West Virginia, Montana, Utah, Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
The cuts seen in 22 states since the start of the Tax Cut Movement in 2021 have been the product of surpluses created by prudent state fiscal practices and unprecedented levels of tax revenues. However, this doesn’t prevent the Budgetary Doomsdayers from crying foul when lawmakers begin to discuss how to return over-collected tax dollars to hard-working taxpayers.
One common Doomsdayer refrain is that tax cuts will “harm the children,” as the money used for cuts will be taken from education spending. However, this completely ignores the fact that several states, such as North Carolina, have simultaneously increased teacher pay and cut taxes.
North Carolina, which is 2nd overall in Economic Outlook in Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, is just one of numerous policy examples of tax cuts leading to enhanced economic conditions and more prosperity for all — which usually means far more revenue generation than projected. North Carolina ranked 26th in Economic Outlook (as recently as 2011) but has moved up dramatically due to continued efforts to reform its tax code and become more economically competitive.
As celebration-worthy as the historic 2023 tax cuts are, an incredible eight additional states enacted education freedom accounts that allow parents to choose the educational options that best meet the needs of their individual children.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the education freedom movement has picked up steam. The full switch to universal school choice started in West Virginia in 2021 and continued with Arizona in 2022 before the windfall of wins for families and children last year.
It started in Iowa in 2023 — where many free-market policy successes seem to get their start these days — with the leadership of ALEC alumnus Governor Kim Reynolds, ALEC Board of Directors Member Speaker Pro Tem John Wills and Senate President Amy Sinclair. The movement then continued in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Utah.
It’s also worth noting that South Carolina, Nebraska and Montana each made significant steps toward full universal education freedom.
Last year was a great year for free market policy wins across the nation. Wins for the free market are ultimately wins for the hardworking taxpayer, and the momentum at the state level is in stark contrast to the seemingly permanent gridlock that has besieged our federal government in Washington, D.C.
With this momentum in the states, we at ALEC are incredibly excited for 2024.David McNew/Getty Images
We believe that, with policy solutions like those found in our newly published Essential Policy Solutions for 2024, the “50 Laboratories of Democracy” will continue to lead the way on free market policy reforms that lead to a more prosperous America.
Jonathan Williams is Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council. He is coauthor of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index. Follow him on X @TaxEconomist.
Nick Stark is Director of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council. Follow him on X @NJStark7.
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