Taxes and tax cuts

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The City of Winnipeg has released its proposed operational and capital budgets for 2014. As in previous years, it is hard to see the vision in this budget or the direction it is taking. Many believe there is no long-term plan guiding political decisions, but one theme does persist: business taxes (and hence scarce revenues) are lowered at the same time as expenditures needed for the sound management of the City are cut. In this budget, already scarce City of Winnipeg workers are forced to take days off without pay.
This commentary was also published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Oct 17, 2013. The opposition’s unproductive filibuster of the provincial 2013 budget increase in the PST has left many aspects of the budget undebated. One is its failure to provide for improvement in the Employment & Income Assistance Program (EIA – aka “welfare”) in the face of a well-documented pressing need. In contrast, the budget eliminates the Education Property Tax (EPT) for all seniors in 2015 – a measure which has very little basis and two and a half times the price tag.
This article is based on a speech delivered in 1995 at a CCPA conference in Ottawa by U.S. economist James Tobin, who died in 2002 at the age of 84. A prominent supporter of Keynesian economics and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1981, Prof. Tobin is now widely known for his suggested imposition of a tax on foreign exchange transactions. Such a tax, he argued, would reduce speculation in the international currency markets, which he saw as dangerous and unproductive.
We have argued previously that British Columbians are open to tax increases, and that the province would be well advised to increase revenues so that we can invest in services that improve our quality of life (such as affordable child care, seniors care and better public transit). It also needs to ensure everyone — especially those at the top and corporations — pays a fair share.
These are certainly interesting times. For all the faults in last week's BC budget (and there were many), it's worth noting that the conversation about taxes has fundamentally shifted, and in a welcome direction.
TORONTO – A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-Ontario) lays out a compromise solution to political gridlock over how to pay for the region’s $2.5 billion in planned public transit expansion. Toronto’s $2.5 Billion Question: GTA and Hamilton Public Transit Expansion Revenue Options, by economist Hugh Mackenzie, weighs the full range of tax options and finds a sweet spot among provincial and municipal taxes that would foot the bill. 
This study lays out a compromise solution to political gridlock over how to pay for the $2.5 billion in planned public transit expansion in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. The paper examines the full range of funding options, including areas for potential contributions from municipal, provincial and federal governments, and also attempts to balance the debate by considering both sides of the ledger — capital and operating expenses.
As happens in elections, the claims and accusations are flying about “who is the better fiscal manager.” The Liberals created a “Spend-O-Meter” purporting to show the NDP’s spendthrift ways. The NDP responded with a “Debt-O-Meter” showing how the Liberals have racked up the provincial debt in their time in office. And while these gimmicks may make for entertaining politics, they oversimplify and often misrepresent the real issues. Time for a reality check on BC’s deficits, debt and spending.
In our report Progressive Tax Options for BC, we present many possible scenarios for reforming our tax system to increase revenues and make the system more fair. These images illustrate three of these scenarios. Click on the images below for larger versions.
During November 2012, Europe erupted in anti-austerity demonstrations, with protestors clashing violently with police in Spain and Portugal, where general strikes were declared. Millions of EU workers participated in the demonstrations, which have spread to Italy, France, and Belgium. Greece has also been paralyzed by many intermittent strikes over the past three years, understandably so since it is one of the countries most brutally hammered by the austerity measures imposed by the European Union.