Roughly a dozen states are proposing sending tax rebate checks to their residents to offset the highest inflation in four decades, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pointing to high gas and food prices as prompting their actions.
Among them is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who on Wednesday signed a law to send checks of up to $500 to state residents. The reason, he said in a statement, is to soften the impact of inflation on household budgets — and also return some of money amid a record state budget surplus.
Two years ago, the pandemic was forecast to decimate state budgets — but instead, many states are enjoying a rebound in tax revenue due to the economic recovery. Workers are regaining jobs, bolstering income taxes, while strong retail sales are boosting sales taxes. From April 2021 to January 2022, total state tax revenue, adjusted for inflation, increased more than 19% compared to the same period a year earlier, according to a recent Urban Institute report.
These checks represent one-time tax rebates that will put money back into consumers’ wallets. But some other states are considering or already planning to cut income taxes, providing an ongoing tax break for their residents.
The tax cuts and rebates cut across party lines, with both Democrats and Republicans joining in the proposals.
In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, wants to send checks of $850 to each resident to offset inflation, including high gas prices, representing one of the more generous offers on the board. The rebate “will help Maine people grapple with these increased costs by putting money directly back into their pockets,” Mills said.
Even so, the rebate checks aren’t likely to cover the increased costs that most Americans are facing, since states are typically proposing checks of several hundred dollars while the average family will pay an estimated $2,000 in additional costs this year due to the higher prices of gas alone.
Wendell Cressey, a clamdigger in Harpswell, Maine, said the soaring cost of fuel for people in his business means the check will provide just temporary relief.
“It might help a little, but it would have to be a lot more because we’re paying for gas. Most of us have V-8 trucks,” Cressey said. “I just don’t think it’s going to help as much as they think it is.”
Not every state’s proposal for tax relief is going smoothly. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, has proposed returning half of a $90 million surplus in the state Education Fund to the state’s property taxpayers with a check of between $250 and $275, but the Democrat-controlled Legislature has shown little interest.
“Typically, when you overpay for something, you get some of that money back,” Scott said when he made the proposal earlier this month.
Below are the states with rebate checks in the works:
On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he’s proposing to send direct payments of $400 per vehicle to state residents, with a cap of two vehicles. Pending approval from California lawmakers, the checks could arrive as soon as July, the statement said. Drivers in California face some of the highest gas prices in the nation, with the state average at $5.87 per gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA.
Gov. Kemp on Wednesday signed a bill that will send rebates to taxpayers who have filed returns for both 2020 and 2021 in the state. The state will send $250 to people who filed as single taxpayers, $375 to head of household and $500 for married filing jointly.
Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, in January proposed sending $100 to each taxpayer and their dependents, which means $400 for a family of four.
Republican Gov. Brad Little in February signed a bill that includes $350 million in tax rebates, which will apply to 12% of an individual’s 2020 Idaho income tax return, or $75 for each taxpayer and dependent, whichever is the greater amount.
That means a family of four could receive at least $300.
Residents of Indiana will receive $125 each after they file their taxes in 2022 due to higher than projected tax revenue, according to the IndyStar.
Gov. Mills wants to send $850 to most residents as part of the state’s budget bill. In a statement, her office said that the average Maine resident will spend $560 more this year than last due to inflation.
Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has released a plan for spending the state’s budget surplus that included a proposal for income tax rebate checks of $1,000 per couple.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, and the Democrat-led Legislature included cash checks of up to $500 to about 1 million families as part of a budget deal last year, when the governor and lawmakers were up for election.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month signed a law to provide $250 rebate checks for individuals, and $500 for married couples. Like the stimulus checks issued by the federal government during the pandemic, these come with income limits, with couples earning up to $150,000 and single filers with income up to $75,000 eligible for the checks.
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing tax relief for New Yorkers through a $1 billion property-tax rebate program. The average benefit of the property tax rebate would be about $970 for homeowners outside of New York City, according to Bloomberg News.
Lawmakers in Virginia are expected to pass tax relief in the form of a rebate check, although the amount isn’t yet clear, according to local news site Wavy.com. Different proposals would either send $250 or $300 for each individual, and either $500 or $600 to married couples, it reported.
—With reporting by the Associated Press.
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