Capitol Comments

The New York Times says that the oil industry is in its “deepest downturn since the 1990s, if not earlier”. The price of a barrel of oil has plummeted, falling more 70 percent since mid-2014, and gas prices at the pump have followed – falling from $2.21 one year ago to $1.70 today (AAA). Unfortunately, a drop in energy prices means a headache for several states that rely heavily on severance taxes for revenue.

A majority of states (35) impose at least one form of severance tax, which is a tax on natural resource extraction. While overall severance taxes don’t make up a large percentage of total state taxes collected – 2.1 percent in 2014 – they have very different impacts across the states. For example, in 2014 severance taxes collected ranged from 72 percent of total tax revenue in Alaska and 54 percent of revenue in North Dakota to less than 1 percent in 18 states. In seven states, severance taxes make up 10 percent or more of total tax collections. 

A state of emergency was declared in eleven states in response to Winter Storm Jonas, which slammed the East Coast last week, killing at least 37 people and leaving 250,000 people without power, according to the Weather Channel. 

A state of emergency was declared in eleven states in response to Winter Storm Jonas, which slammed the East Coast last week, killing at least 37 people and leaving 250,000 people without power, according to the Weather Channel. In addition, the storm could end up causing “multi-billion” dollar economic losses, reinsurance broker Aon Benfield told Fortune on Monday.

In 2016, state sales tax rates look a lot like they did in 2015. In 2015, 45 states plus the District of Columbia levied a sales tax – the same was true on January 1, 2016. In 2015, five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) did not levy a sales tax – the same five states did not levy a sales tax on January 1, 2016. Sales tax rates (or lack thereof) remained the same in 49 states and the District of Columbia on January 1, 2016 over 2015 rates. Those rates range from a low of 2.9 percent in Colorado to a high of 7.5 percent in California, with an average rate 5.65 percent.

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