State Taxes

According to a Census Bureau report (follow link to Excel spreadsheet), the states collected $782B in taxes in 2008. That is about 70% of what the federal government collected in federal income taxes. This doesn’t include local taxes.

The Census Bureau breaks them down into major categories: Property, Sales and Gross Receipts, Licenses, Income and Other.

Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming do not have a personal income tax. Texas, Washington and Wyoming do not have a corporate income tax.

13 states do not charge a property tax. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon do not charge a general sales tax. Alabama, Alaska and Arkansas do not charge an estate and gift tax. 16 states do not charge a severance tax, a tax on extracted resources like coal, oil and gas.

While Texas and Alaska do not charge on income tax, they don’t need to. Texas collects $4B in severance taxes, Alaska $7B. Together the two states collect almost 2/3 of all the severance tax collected by the states.

What did they spend all this money on? In 2008, Medicaid spending was estimated at $164B, a whopping 20% of state revenues. As unemployment continues to rise, Medicaid spending will also rise.

What steps are states taking to control these costs? As this Kaiser Family Foundation table shows, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Almost 2/3 of states have some pharmacy cost controls including approved manufacturers, use of generics where possible – routine controls that patients with health insurance encounter. Only 3 states have co-pays. The Federally mandated maximum copay for a Medicaid patient is $3, less than a Big Mac. As long as Health and Human Services designates such a low copay, most states probably will not bother to try and collect.

Only 8 states have any cost containment programs for long term care, which is 44% of Medicaid spending. As the population ages, this cost will increase dramatically. Only 3 states have any restrictions or reductions on benefits.

All of the states complain about the growing Medicaid expense and its impact on their budget. But what are they doing about it? Maybe we should ask our state representatives.

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