Topic: Business Climate
July 10, 2017

Many California cities have issued “pension obligation bonds” to cover rising retiree benefit costs with borrowing rather than tax money, based on the same assumption that arbitrage – betting that the difference between loan interest rates and investment earnings – can be a net winner. However, like Orange County and SANDAG, some learned that trying to predict global markets is dangerous. The largest single debt owed by the city of Stockton when it declared bankruptcy was a pension obligation bond. Hundreds of school districts issued “capital appreciation bonds” that postpone repayments for decades while the accumulated interest magnifies debt. Poway Unified in rural San Diego County became a poster child for financial irresponsibility when it was revealed that its $105 million bond would cost $1 billion to repay.


The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s “Small Business Tax Index 2017” ranks the states from best to worst in terms of the costs of their tax systems on entrepreneurship and small business. This year’s edition of the Index pulls together 26 different tax measures, and combines those into one tax score that allows the 50 states to be compared and ranked.

The 26 measures are: 1) state’s top personal income tax rate, 2) state’s top individual capital gains tax rate, 3) state’s top tax rate on dividends and interest, 4) state’s top corporate income tax rate, 5) state’s top corporate capital gains tax rate, 6) any added income tax on S-Corporations, 7) any added income tax on LLCs, 8) Section 179 expensing conformity, 9) average local personal income tax rate, 10) whether or not the state imposes an alternative minimum tax on individuals, 11) whether or not the state imposes an alternative minimum tax on corporations, 12) whether or not the state’s personal income tax brackets are indexed for inflation, 13) whether or not the state’s corporate income tax brackets are indexed for inflation, 14) the progressivity of the state’s personal income tax brackets, 15), the progressivity of the state’s corporate income tax brackets,16) property taxes, 17) consumption-based taxes (i.e., sales, gross receipts and excise taxes), 18) whether or not the state imposes a death tax, 19) unemployment taxes, 20) whether or not the state has a tax limitation mechanism, 21) whether or not the state imposes an Internet access tax, 22) remote seller taxes, 23) gas tax, 24) diesel tax, 25) wireless taxes, and 26) LLC fees.

The 15 best state tax systems are: 1) Nevada, 2) Texas, 3) South Dakota, 4) Wyoming, 5) Washington, 6) Florida, 7) Alabama, 8) Ohio, 9) North Carolina, 10) Colorado, 11) Arizona, 12) Alaska, 13) Michigan, 14) Indiana, and 15) Utah. The 15 worst state tax systems are: 36) Delaware, 37) Arkansas, 38) Maryland, 39) Nebraska, 40) Kentucky, 41) Connecticut, 42) Oregon, 43) New York, 44) Vermont, 45) Hawaii, 46) Iowa, 47) Minnesota, 48) Maine, 49) New Jersey, and 50) California.

June 23, 2017

As of Wednesday, businesses no longer have to submit physical LLC Statements of Information, as the records may now be submitted via the California secretary of state’s website. An LLC Statement of Information includes records such as the company’s name, location and type of business, as well as the addresses of chief executives and managers.

“We’re streamlining the process so that entrepreneurs can focus less on red tape and more on growing their business,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

June 23, 2017

As we noted when California inaugurated this policy, American federalism is based on the agreement that different states can pursue different policies (within Constitutional bounds) while retaining equal status within the union. California’s decision to escalate the culture war with “sanctions” against states with different political orientations represents a direct challenge to America’s federal structure.

This new order could have a major symbolic impact—for example, by making it difficult or impossible for University of California sports teams to compete against the University of Texas. And could lead to retaliatory measures by the targeted red states: They could, for example, up the ante not only by enacting reciprocal travel bans but also by refusing to cooperate with California’s government in criminal investigations, declining to share tax data, or prohibiting companies from selling products to California’s state government.

How long before a coalition of liberal states begins to collectively and systematically impose sanctions on conservative ones, or vice versa? To state the obvious: This has nothing to do with the legitimate democratic debate over the merits of the policies California is trying to sanction in the first place. Maybe some of these policies are reasonable compromises between LGBT rights and religious liberty; maybe others are unacceptable forms of discrimination. These are debates that need to be resolved by the courts, by federal civil rights agencies, and by the voters in those states. California’s brazen offensive dangerously short-circuits this process.

June 23, 2017

Illinois is grappling with a full-fledged financial crisis and not even the lottery is safe – with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner warning the state is entering "banana republic" territory. Facing billions in unpaid bills and pension obligations, the state is hitting a cash crunch that is rare even by Illinois standards. . . . But the problems are years in the making, caused in large in part by the state’s poorly funded pension system— which led Moody’s Investors Services to downgrade the credit rating to the lowest of any state. The state currently has $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and a backlog of unpaid bills worth $13 billion.

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Nov. 17, 2017 / Andrew Khouri

Nov. 17, 2017 / The Editorial Board