Dalton Cooney argues in a Washington Post column that capping the deduction for state and local income taxes (SALT) is a good thing in a Washington Post column today. He makes the valid point that if wealthy suburbs want to tax themselves to have better schools than lower income inner city areas, there is no reason the federal government should subsidize this decision with a deduction on federal income taxes.
However, this misses the fact that the tax that is most likely to be affected by the loss of deductibility is the state income tax. In more liberal states like New York and California, this tax runs to more than 8 percent for high-end earners. (California has a top bracket of 13.3 percent.) These taxes are not paying for better schools for the children of the wealthy, but for redistributive policies that benefit lower-income people.
With the near-term prospect for federal measures in areas like extending health care coverage, quality child care, or free college very poor, if such measures are to advance anywhere it will be at the state level. By capping the deduction for SALT, the new tax bill will make it more difficult politically to pay for such initiatives. For this reason, the workarounds recently passed by New York, including replacing a portion of the income tax with a full deductible employer-side payroll tax, are a good thing.