The book first outlines the historical development of New Jersey's state constitution from to the present and explains the highlights of the process of state constitutional development, leading to the current New Jersey constitution. Next, each section of the current constitution is analyzed, including its origins, general intent and purpose, and important judicial interpretations illustrating the types of situations in which the section can come into play, including references to key academic analysis of each section.
Careful explanation is provided, with illustrations from cases, of the complex and evolving relationship between rights guaranteed by the U. Constitution and rights guaranteed by the New Jersey constitution. In many instances, New Jersey's rights can be more protective than those included in the Federal Constitution. Finally, the book provides a thorough bibliographical essay reviewing the evolution of the New Jersey constitution. The Oxford Commentaries on the State Constitutions of the United States is an important new series that reflects a renewed international interest in constitutional history and provides expert insight into each of the 50 state constitutions.
Each volume in this innovative series contains a historical overview of the state's constitutional development, a section-by-section analysis of its current constitution, and a comprehensive guide to further research.
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Under the expert editorship of Professor G. Alan Tarr, Director of the Center on State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers University, this series provides essential reference tools for understanding state constitutional law.
During the Redeemer period, Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas also adopted constitutional property tax limits that remain in force today. Georgia, too, adopted a limit during the Redeemer period, which remained in force for decades but was repealed in There are today in Mississippi thousands of people who pay no taxes, but who enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship. These people will be glad of an opportunity to share in the responsibility of maintaining the government of the state in which they live. This is not to say that Mississippi adopted its sales tax solely to shift tax burdens more heavily to Black residents.
Like many states during the Depression, Mississippi was deeply in debt and desperate for new revenue, and many of its property owners were in default. The tax required African American residents to pay more as a share of their income than white residents, and it helped hold down property taxes that were paid primarily by white people. The tax thus reinforced racial inequities in a state where Jim Crow laws and various forms of violence and intimidation were pervasive.
The lowest-income fifth of Mississippi households pays about With African American residents in Mississippi more likely than white residents to have low incomes, the disparate impact of the sales tax adds to the policy-driven barriers that Black people face. While the policies discussed above had, and continue to have, racially harmful effects, race was not an explicit factor in determining the amount of tax that residents paid, and white and Black residents have faced the same sales tax rates.
Some states and localities, however, did use race explicitly in defining how much individual taxpayers would pay, with deliberately discriminatory results. These policies are no longer on the books and are recognized today as legally impermissible, but at the time they had significant, harmful effects on people of color.
The history of school funding is rife with examples of states and localities using tax-and-spending policies and practices to advantage white families at the expense of children and families of color, at times openly and explicitly. Since Black families in Kentucky had far less property wealth than white families — at that time many Black people were only a generation or so removed from slavery — this ensured that Black children would attend separate and very unequally funded schools.
Another historical example of explicitly racist state fiscal policies comes from California. During the gold rush years of the s, California imposed a special tax on immigrant miners. The tax fell on immigrant miners of European descent as well as those from China and Latin America, but for a period in and , the state imposed an additional tax solely on immigrant miners ineligible for citizenship, mainly Chinese and Latinx miners who were legally barred from becoming U. Racial discrimination in state and local tax policies historically has occurred not only through the policies themselves but also through how tax authorities administered those policies.
For example, property assessment for tax purposes is an arcane and often opaque process, conducted by taxing authorities who control the information required to make assessments of property values and to judge whether those determinations are fair. In the rural South during the Jim Crow era, these authorities were typically white politicians representing the interests of overwhelmingly white voters, since nearly all Black people were blocked from voting. As historian Andrew Kahrl writes:. Whether or not they knew it or could prove it, black property owners in the Jim Crow South were often taxed at a higher effective rate than their white counterparts to support public institutions and services that African Americans were denied access to or were provided on a separate and unequal basis and to pay the salaries of public officials who did not represent and were unaccountable to black citizens.
In short, African Americans were taxed more for less. States and local governments could also use tax assessments as a political tool to sustain the status quo by punishing Black people who protested Jim Crow laws or other discriminatory systems. In one year, Black property owners in the town saw their assessments increase by more than 50 percent overall. Some local property assessors in the North also produced discriminatory assessments. One reason was that when neighborhoods transitioned from white to Black, property values declined because white people, a large share of the housing market, no longer wanted those homes , yet tax assessments did not account for this decline in value.
There may not have been an intention to overtax Black homeowners, but that is what occurred. See Figure 3. Given that level of economic power, states could be a potent force for expanding opportunity and enhancing equity. How states choose to raise revenue and how and where they choose to spend it has major implications for who moves ahead and who is left behind.
State fiscal policies can, and often do, help to promote opportunities and enhance equity. For example, some states tax high incomes or large inheritances and use some of that revenue to target college scholarships to low-income students, or to finance medical care for low-income children.
One example is Minnesota, which in adopted a new income tax rate on very high incomes and used the revenue in part to help more low-income children attend high-quality preschool programs. But states could be doing much more through their fiscal policies to reduce racial and ethnic income disparities, reduce poverty, and expand economic opportunity. While the specific needs of states vary, lawmakers can pursue fiscal policies that tax the best-off households to a greater degree than households with low or modest incomes, raise revenue for investments that can help overcome racial inequities — including investments that help low-income families and children of all races — and remove artificial revenue-raising constraints such as supermajority requirements to raise taxes.
State and local tax systems typically worsen racial and ethnic inequities. In 45 of 50 states , state and local tax systems effectively require lower-income households to pay a larger share of their income in taxes than high-income households. And since households of color are more likely to have low incomes, they tend to pay larger shares of their incomes in state and local taxes than white households do. Nationally, the poorest fifth of households pay a much larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the top 1 percent, on average.
See Figure 4. In eight states, the poorest fifth of households pays three times more of its income, on average, than the richest households do. In Washington State, Florida, and Nevada, the poorest fifth pays five times more of its income in taxes than the top 1 percent does. Other states with especially inequitable systems, such as Illinois and Pennsylvania, have flat-rate income tax systems, under which tax rates do not rise with income.
The states with overall tax systems that are based on ability to pay — California, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia — have relatively robust income taxes. Some states have taken steps in recent years to increase income taxes for very high-income households. On the other hand, the elections swept in a wave of governors and state legislative leaders who, with the assistance of groups such as the arch-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, engaged in a sustained and unprecedented attack on state income taxes.
These political leaders and conservative activists called for eliminating state income taxes in states such as Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Five states — Kansas, Maine, Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — succeeded in passing especially large income tax cuts.
West Virginia Constitution
Two states — Kansas and Michigan — enacted tax cuts slated to take place in coming years that would ultimately eliminate the state income tax altogether. In , Kansas repealed a portion of these tax cuts, including those scheduled for future years. In recent years, national proponents of eliminating state income taxes have targeted Southern states in particular.
This would mean that the region stretching from Florida through Texas and Louisiana could become a vast state income-tax free zone. These attacks on state income taxes have only succeeded to a degree. But the attacks that did bear fruit have made racial inequities worse. The tax cuts in North Carolina, for example, reduced the taxes of the highest-income state residents by 1. White North Carolinians comprise two-thirds of state taxpayers, but received 81 percent of the tax cuts.
In contrast, Black North Carolinians comprise 22 percent of state taxpayers but received 10 percent of the tax cuts. See Figure 5. Black residents now pay a larger share of state taxes than before, while white residents pay a smaller share. People of Hispanic or Latinx heritage also pay a larger share than before. People of Asian heritage pay somewhat less. States can improve their personal income tax systems in a variety of ways. Some states need to reverse course on excessive income tax cuts enacted in the past.
Others need to reject flat-rate income taxes in favor of a system based more on the ability to pay. Since the s, wealth has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a relatively small share of households in the United States. Families of color face particularly high barriers to accumulating savings and buying homes or other assets. As noted earlier, the median net worth of white families is more than ten times that of Black families and eight times that of Latinx families.
State and local governments could do a much better job of using tax policy to lessen barriers to more broadly shared prosperity, especially barriers caused or exacerbated by the high concentration of wealth in the United States. Currently, the estate tax is the only major state tax that is paid almost entirely by the wealthy.
Yet the large majority of states lack such a tax. Only the very wealthiest taxpayers pay estate taxes where such taxes exist; in the states with such a tax, only 2. A concerted attack on estate taxes over the last two decades — most significantly, the elimination under President George W. Bush of a federal tax credit that supported state estate taxes by providing a credit for those taxes against any federal estate tax owed — has resulted in a sharp drop in the number of states with the tax.
In , every state had an estate tax. Today, just 12 states plus Washington, D.
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See Figure 6. States with an estate tax can avoid further increasing inequality by resisting calls to reduce or eliminate the tax. Due largely to various structural barriers to opportunity, African American and Latinx workers are far more likely than white workers to earn poverty-level wages. These state tax credits build on the success of the federal EITC in part by helping working parents pay for things that allow them to be employed, like child care and transportation.
And while state and federal EITCs serve a larger number of white households than of households in any other racial or ethnic group because there are more white households in the United States , they serve a larger proportion of people of color. EITCs also have a disproportionate impact in reducing poverty rates among households of color. The EITC may play a particularly important role in helping children of color improve their math achievement, complete high school, and enroll in college, the research suggests. This would give low-income working households in these states the full value of the tax credit for which they qualify, irrespective of whether the tax credit exceeds their state income tax liability.
Moving to refundable credits would particularly help households of color, given their disproportionate concentration at the lower end of the income scale. States that already have refundable EITCs can increase the size of the credit.