LePage’s Anti-income Tax Crusade Contains Political Perils

Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s recent announcement he plans on eliminating the state’s income tax if re-elected may be heartening to some, but top conservatives in other states show just how difficult – and politically damaging – a task it is to achieve.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, abandoned his effort to get rid of the state income tax after his approval rating sunk like a stone.

“Here is what I’ve heard from you and from the people of Louisiana — yes, we do want to get rid of the income tax, but governor you’re moving too fast and we aren’t sure that your plan is the best way to do it,” Jindal said to lawmakers in his 2013 State of the State address in April.

The Republican Governors Association chair said while it wasn’t the reaction he was hoping for, he would respect it.

“Here is my response: ‘Ok, I hear you,’ ” he said. “So I am going to park my tax plan.”

National anti-tax groups had praised Jindal’s efforts, but it didn’t translate to support in-state, where many Republicans and business groups feared they would suffer from a greater tax burden under anti-income tax reforms.

A March poll said 63 percent of voters opposed his zero income tax proposal and only 38 percent approved of the job Jindal was doing, down from 51 percent in October.

But despite publicly announcing he was throwing the breaks on his tax elimination proposal, Jindal is reportedly still trying to work with lawmakers to find a more amenable way to achieve his goal.

As LePage pitches his anti-tax plan, it will be worth watching if he reveals any details about where he would make up the lost revenue or make cuts to state spending to balance the budget – and where his already low approval rating moves as a result.

There are currently seven states without income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas and Washington. Tennessee and New Hampshire only tax income on dividends and interest income above a certain threshold.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.