More states decreased taxes than raised them this year, and the total increase among the 27 states was an unusually low $600 million, according to the National Conference of Legislatures.
The organization, in a survey of state tax policies, said 13 states raised taxes and 14 lowered them, with most revisions relatively minor.Traditionally, a tax change is considered "large" only if it results in at least a 5 percent increase or decrease in revenue. By this standard, the only "large" increases this year were reported in Arizona and Louisiana, and the only "large" decreases came in South Dakota and Utah, according to the conference.
The survey is part of a broader report to be released this week at the conference's meeting in Reno, Nev.
"To a considerable extent, 1988 tax actions are related to the tax policy followed last year," the conference said. "The large number of tax increases last year helped to improve financial conditions and thereby avoided the need to increase taxes this year."
The organization also said the $600 million tax increase this year is smaller than those in most recent years.
In 1985, the survey said, there was a tax reduction of $1.3 billion. All other years since 1981 had tax increases of at least $1.1 billion, which came in 1986. The next smallest increase in this decade was a $2.3 billion rise in 1984.
State tax collections exceed $260 billion per year, according to the conference.
The survey said income taxes were reduced in 10 states and increased in two; motor fuel taxes were hiked in nine states; and sales taxes - either through a higher rate or broader base - went up in five states while being lowered in three others.
The most significant tax increases this year came in Arizona, Louisiana and West Virginia, although they were spared major tax hikes in 1987. Citizens in Utah, South Dakota and Kansas saw the biggest tax reductions after seeing taxes increase in 1987.
Arizona and Massachusetts were the only two states to increase income taxes. Arizona also hiked a number of other taxes including property and motor fuel taxes.
Louisiana and West Virginia were the only states to increase their sales taxes significantly. Louisiana's sales tax went up 2 cents on food, utilities and drugs; and West Virginia's rate jumped 1 cent for a 13-month period.
Arizona and parts of Washington state increased taxes on hotel-motel rooms. Washington also increased its tax on hazardous waste.
Here is a list of state tax changes enacted this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The first figure is the total increase in millions of dollars with a negative sign indicating a decrease. The second figure is the tax change as a percentage of state tax revenue in 1987.
State Chg Pct.
Arizona +190 +5.3
Delaware -11 -1.1
Florida -28 -0.3
Hawaii -5 -0.3
Idaho +13 +1.6
Illinois +18 +0.2
Indiana +46 +1.0
Iowa +59 +2.2
Kansas -56 -2.6
Kentucky +53 +1.5
Louisiana +320 +9.6
Maine +11 +0.8
Massachusetts +115 +1.4
Maryland -4 -0.1
Minnesota -8 -0.1
Missouri +11 +0.3
Nebraska -12 -1.0
New Hampshire -2 -0.4
North Dakota -8 -1.4
Oklahoma -6 -0.2
South Dakota -36 -8.4
Tennessee +28 +0.8
UTAH -147 -10.5
Vermont -13 -2.2
Virginia -4 -0.7
Washington +31 +0.5
West Virginia +74 +4.2
The figures reflect tax changes taken this year and generally go into effect in 1989. The figures count only actual increases in 1989 and do not count continuation of temporary tax increases that otherwise would have expired.