State Supermajority Requirements

GGD-98-90R: Published: Jun 2, 1998. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on revenue actions taken in states with and without supermajority requirements for tax and other revenue increases from 1988 to 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) thirteen states now have some form of supermajority requirement; (2) these requirements differ among the states; (3) in about half of the 13 states, supermajorities in the state legislature must approve tax increases, and the rule applies broadly to all state taxes and other types of revenue; (4) in the other states, either the supermajority rule applies only to some taxes or certain tax rates, or a simple majority in the state legislature can pass a tax increase with voter approval; (5) because of the differences in scope, any effects of supermajority rules could vary among supermajority states; (6) on average, between 1988 and 1997, about 50 percent of supermajority states acted to increase revenue per year, while about 57 percent of nonsupermajority states did so; (7) tax and other revenue increases were, on average, larger in supermajority states than in other states; (8) states with broadly applied supermajority rules raised revenue less frequently on average than other supermajority states or nonsupermajority states; (9) on average, the estimated first-year revenue effects of their changes were larger; and (10) further analysis that controlled for other factors that might influence states' decisions about raising revenues would be needed before any conclusions could be reached on how supermajority limits have affected states' decisions about whether and how to raise revenues.

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