Personal Finance

Voters approved these state tax increases

While President-elect Donald Trump has proposed the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan, voters in several states approved tax increases on Tuesday.

The largest potential state tax hikes came in the form of levies on recreational marijuana sales in at least three states. Voters in California approved a tax increase on top earners and Maine may follow suit.

Meanwhile, voters rejected grander tax proposals. A Washington state measure to tax carbon emissions and a Colorado proposal to raise taxes to create a state-run, single-payer health-care system failed at the ballot box.

William Britt (L) and Al Moreno (R) celebrate after Californians voted to pass Prop 64, legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the state, in Los Angeles, November 8, 2016.
Jonathan Alcorn | Reuters

"Even as voters defied expectations in the presidential race, they largely eschewed experimentation in tax policy," said Jared Walczak, a policy analyst with the Center for State Tax Policy at the Tax Foundation.

Pot taxes

California, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, while Arizona voters rejected a similar measure. A ballot proposal for the legalization and taxation of recreational pot in Maine is too close to call. (Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved medical cannabis initiatives.)

States that approved recreational pot sales may see a significant boost to their tax revenues. Marijuana Business Daily estimates that the approved ballot measures could eventually lead to an additional $8 billion in annual retail cannabis sales.

The state tax rates on recreational pot are high.

  • California will tax marijuana at $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. When people buy cannabis at licensed retailers, they will pay 15 percent at the point of retail sale plus the general state sales tax rate of 6.25 percent and local sales tax rate that starts at 1.25 percent and runs as steep as 3.75 percent.
  • Massachusetts will levy an additional excise tax of 3.75 percent and allow municipalities to levy an extra tax of up to 2 percent on pot. That is on top of the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.
  • Nevada will tax the wholesale value of cannabis at 15 percent. That is in addition to the state tax rate of 4.6 percent and local sales taxes that can go as high as 3.55 percent.

If approved, Maine would tax the sale of the recreational marijuana at 10 percent.

Income taxes

California will continue to have the highest state individual income tax rate in the nation at 13.3 percent, extending a temporary tax that was enacted in 2012.

"An extension of temporary individual income tax increases sailed to an easy victory despite the governor's opposition, a reminder that it is very difficult for states to wean themselves off a temporary tax increase," Walczak said.

A ballot measure in Maine to increase the state's top individual income tax rate from 7.15 percent to 10.15 percent for incomes above $200,000 is too close to call. If it passes, Maine would have the second-highest state income tax rate in the country, behind California.

Soda taxes

Voters approved four local soda tax initiatives, but efforts beyond those cities fizzled.

Three California cities — Albany, Oakland and San Francisco — along with Boulder, Colorado, will raise taxes on soda.

"Despite those results, 2016 was a bit of a disappointment for advocates of soda taxes, who expected to have soda taxes on the ballots in major cities across the country," Walczak said.