Document Type



Legislation | Taxation-State and Local | Tax Law


A problem with temporary tax study commissions is that by the time their findings are released, changes in the political environment may have rendered their suggestions worthless. Permanent standing commissions are needed. The temporary crisis of the current pandemic, an opportunity for tax reform, illustrates this point.

In this article, Professor Pomp argues for the creation of a permanent state body tasked with managing tax reform. It would perform research and analysis, educate legislatures about how current law operates, initiate proposals, and draft legislation. Being permanent, such a body would be proactive enough to respond to a temporary crisis.

In the absence of institutionalized tax reform, states reacting to the pandemic have embraced changes to their tax systems motivated by emotion and politics rather than reason and sound policy. These changes are implemented before they can be fully vetted.

A permanent commission could subject proposed tax incentives to rigorous scrutiny and only approve policies that survive cost-benefit analysis. Such a procedure might have saved Wisconsin from the Foxconn failure. Such a body could also help to implement combined reporting by preparing draft legislation and revenue implications in state-specific contexts. Furthermore, a commission familiar with local politics could also anticipate and counter unwise movements to eliminate specific taxes before they gain traction.

Pomp calls for a sales tax on food, with a credit to low-income persons, arguing that current exemptions deprive states of billions that could be directed towards addressing the root causes of poverty. Under federal law, no state sales tax can be imposed on food. But this does nothing to deal with food insecurity. The current exemption for food found in most—but not all—states, is dealing with a problem using a shot gun and not a rifle. There is much waste in using an exemption when its benefits go to those who do not need it. Such a proposal would be far more palatable to legislatures if a permanent commission were in place to provide state-specific drafts, revenue analysis, and marshal the arguments in its favor and debunk the arguments against it..