Alexander Hendrie

Health Savings Accounts Should Be Expanded and Protected

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, May 26th, 2016, 1:37 PM PERMALINK


Health savings accounts, or HSAs are tax-advantaged accounts which are used to pay for routine, out-of-pocket medical expenses.  They are used in conjunction with insurance plans which tend to cover large and/or unexpected health events and allow individuals to make choices that best fit their needs. Expanding and protecting HSAs is one component to ensuring Americans have access to patient centered health care that best fits their needs and keeps costs low.

The importance of HSAs is why Congress should pass H.R. 5324 and S. 2980, the Health Savings Account Expansion Act of 2016, legislation introduced this week by Congressman Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). This legislation contains a number of important reforms that will make HSAs even better.

First, the legislation more than doubles HSA contribution limits. Current HSA contribution limits are $3,350 for a single filer and $6,750 for a joint filer, and this legislation increases that to $9,000 for single filer and $18,000 for joint filers per year.

Second, the HSA expansion act lifts Obamacare restrictions on over the counter purchases and penalties placed on certain withdrawals.

Third, the bill allows HSA funds to be used to pay premiums and direct primary care expenses.

Lastly, superfluous regulatory requirements would be streamlined with the high deductible health plan mandate eliminated.

In addition to these important reforms, the HSA Expansion act protects existing tax provisions that enable people to pay for and access their healthcare in the way that they prefer, prevents the removal of HSA-eligible plans from Obamacare exchanges, streamlines health care financing, and expands choices for personalized medicine including direct primary care.

Clearly, this legislation makes many important, commonsense improvements to HSAs that increase healthcare freedom for families. As such, ATR supports this important legislation and encourages all Members of the House and Senate to co-sponsor and support the Health Savings Account Expansion Act.

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Cover Oregon Obamacare Exchange Sacrificed for Governor’s Reelection Campaign

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016, 5:00 PM PERMALINK


Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his advisors unlawfully took control of the now defunct $305 million Cover Oregon Obamacare exchange for political gain, according to a report released by the House Oversight Committee under the leadership of Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Political staffers took over the exchange despite state law explicitly establishing Cover Oregon as an independent entity. This latest report proves previous accusations that the taxpayer funded exchange was abolished purely for political purposes to benefit the Governor’s reelection campaign.

Following a botched launch in late 2013, the Cover Oregon exchange became an embarrassment for the Governor and the state. Weeks after this first deadline, the exchange had enrolled zero applicants, forcing officials to install dozens of extra fax lines so that applicants could fax in a 20 page document.

From late 2013 to April 2014, when the state decided to abolish the near working $305 million exchange and move to the federal system, the Governor’s political advisors tightly controlled decision making based on political considerations. As the report notes:

 “Documents and testimony show the Cover Oregon Board of Directors’ decision to switch from the state-supported information technology platform to the federally-facilitated exchange, HealthCare.gov, was driven largely by political considerations and steered by Governor Kitzhaber’s staff and campaign advisers.”

State legislators clearly intended for the Cover Oregon Obamacare exchange to be an independent organization, as the report notes. But even though Governor Kitzhaber did not have authority to make decisions over the exchange, he did so anyway. In one case, staff from the Governor’s office was paid from campaign funds to manage issues related solely to Cover Oregon.

Campaign aides were so desperate to avoid negative publicity they even worked behind the scenes to undermine an attempt to salvage the Cover Oregon system.  As the report notes:

Rather than publicly advocate for a move to HealthCare.gov, the Governor’s staff and campaign operatives privately thwarted the work of the Technology Options Workgroup and manipulated the process to coerce a decision to switch to HealthCare.gov.

These decisions were clearly made based on careful calculation. Campaign staffers even viewed the exchange as a campaign issue. Documentation shows a concerted effort by the Governor's staff to divert attention away from Kitzhaber and assign blame to Oracle, the primary vendor for the project. 

Despite this project being financed by federal taxpayers, recovery of funds has been non-existent. A recent report by the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee found that just over $20 million of the more than $5.4 billion spent on 17 state exchanges has been returned. In addition, this $20 million represents funds that have been “de-obligated,” meaning they were leftover funds not spent before the grant expired.

Given these latest troubling findings, it is clear that stronger oversight and recovery of taxpayer funds is needed. 

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Norquist Submits Testimony on Need for Tax Reform

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016, 2:00 PM PERMALINK


ATR President Grover Norquist today submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee for a hearing examining perspectives on the need for tax reform.

The tax code has not be significantly altered since 1986, and there is a clear need to kick start this process. Spanning 74,608 pages, it is so complex and confusing that it is virtually impossible for taxpayers to know whether they are properly filing their taxes.

The byzantine, overly complex code has a crushing effect on both low and middle-income families but also on American competitiveness in the global economy. For decades, America has been the world leader in innovative ideas and products, and other countries are aggressively implementing pro-growth tax policies to attract American capital and jobs.

One way to get the ball rolling on tax reform, as Norquist points out, is to pass H.R. 27, the Tax Code Termination Act sponsored by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) This legislation sunsets the entire tax code by January 1, 2020, and calls on Congress to replace it with a fairer, simpler tax system.

Once the code is on the pathway to sunset, lawmakers create a tax code that works for all Americans, that has minimal burden on taxpayers, eliminates the bias against savings and investment, and promotes job creation and growth.

The full testimony can be found here. 

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ATR Supports Rep. MacArthur Pro-Growth Amendment to PROMESA

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016, 3:15 PM PERMALINK


ATR President Grover Norquist today sent a letter of support for an amendment introduced by Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) to H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) calling for tax reform to encourage long term, permanent growth for Puerto Rico. 

The latest iteration of PROMESA creates a growth taskforce that will recommend changes to federal law to spur long-term economic growth. As part of its recommendations the taskforce should suggest tax reform that allows the free flow of capital between Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States, as Congressman MacArthur's amendment calls for.

The full letter is below and can be found here: 

Dear Congressman MacArthur,

I write in support of your amendment to H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) calling for pro-growth tax relief as the solution to Puerto Rico’s long-term economic stagnation.

Puerto Rico is more than $70 billion in debt following a decade long recession. The island has no way of paying this back and will soon default on over $2 billion in bonds, including $800 million in constitutionally guaranteed bonds. Congress must act, and PROMESA is the best, most realistic, pro-taxpayer solution to Puerto Rico’s fiscal woes. Importantly, this legislation contains no bailout and does not retroactively grant the island super chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Although PROMESA addresses the immediate crisis, it is also important to promote pro-growth reforms as the solution to Puerto Rico’s underlying economic growth problem.

One cause of this is Puerto Rico being treated as a foreign country for tax purposes. As a result, American companies face double taxation in Puerto Rico, yet foreign competitors operating in Puerto Rico do not. Allowing free flow of capital between Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. would spur investment, create more jobs, and increase wages for the territory.

While it is imperative that Congress passes PROMESA to address the immediate fiscal crisis, lawmakers must also acknowledge the need for pro-growth tax reform. The best way to ensure long term, permanent growth for Puerto Rico is by facilitating tax reform that encourages competition, innovation, and the free flow of capital as your amendment calls for.

As such, all Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and voting for this important amendment.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Senate Should Pass Resolution Blocking Fiduciary Rule

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, May 23rd, 2016, 4:05 PM PERMALINK


The U.S. Senate is expected to soon vote on a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to block the Department of Labor’s (DOL) recently released fiduciary rule. The resolution, sponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) already passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234-183. Now, the Senate should follow suit in approving this resolution and blocking the rule that has been compared to Obamacare for your retirement savings.

Under the thousand page rule, expert investment advisors will have to prove they are acting in the “best interest” of their client. While this sounds reasonable, economists warn the standard is “a vague open-ended obligation with seemingly no bounds.”

As a result, the regulatory costs of complying with the rule will likely be immense for business. While large investment firms will have the economies of scale to continue, smaller advisors will not. The impact of increased compliance costs will disproportionately fall on low and middle income families who may lose their broker of choice or be priced out of the market entirely.

In turn, this will directly impact the ability of American families to utilize savings accounts. It is estimated that the rule will result in 7 million IRA holders being priced out of investment advice and between 300,000 and 400,000 fewer IRAs will be opened every year as a result of the rule. All told, this regulation could mean more than $80 billion in lost savings.

Although supporters of the rule claim it is necessary to ensure savers receive the best possible advice, the final product is so complex and burdensome that millions will inevitably be locked out from receiving the guidance they need. Through this regulation, the federal government is essentially moving to exert close control over the retirement saving decisions of Americans across the country.

Clearly, the fiduciary rule will make saving for retirement worse, not better. Senators should vote for this resolution and show their commitment to protecting the ability of millions of American families and savers to seek sound financial advice toward their retirement savings.

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IRS Chief Skips Own Impeachment Hearing

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, May 23rd, 2016, 1:13 PM PERMALINK


IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will not appear at a Tuesday impeachment hearing examining allegations of his misconduct despite an invitation to testify from the House Judiciary Committee.

As reported by Politico, the IRS says the Commissioner Koskinen does not have time to “fully prepare” because he just returned from China. The agency claims that he was not given enough notice of the hearing, which was scheduled more than a week ago.

The hearing is the first step in examining findings from the House Oversight Committee, which last year called for Koskinen’s impeachment.

Following the revelations that the IRS had been applying improper, politically motivated scrutiny to tea party and conservative organizations, Koskinen was appointed head of the agency promising reform and transparency. Koskinen has failed:

  • Throughout the investigation into the targeting scandal, Koskinen’s IRS continually failed to provide important information or perform basic due diligence. Koskinen also made several misleading or incorrect statements while under oath testifying before Congress.

 

  • The IRS failed to search five of six possible sources of electronic media for Lois Lerner’s emails. The only source they bothered to search – her hard-drive – was destroyed after a cursory search deemed information unrecoverable. In hindsight, documentation suggests that more could have been done to recover data.

 

  • The agency’s ineptness -- or corruption -- resulted in 24,000 Lerner emails being lost when they were “accidentally” destroyed despite the existence of an agency-wide preservation order.

 

  • Koskinen then withheld from Congress both the preservation order and destruction of tapes during sworn testimony. He also failed to disclose details regarding Lois Lerner’s mysteriously destroyed hard drive during testimony.

 

The carelessness of the agency means that important information is no longer available to Congress and the American people because of the actions of the IRS, while countless misleading statements and dodges have caused investigations to drag on for years.

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MAS

I'd put the odds somewhere between slim to none...based on the previous performance of this bunch of RINOs.

Kelly McConnell

Does anyone see the pattern of these vile humans. Hard drives are not arbitrarily erased/wiped. This is purposeful, intentional and this SOB should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If it were up to me he'd be tried, stripped of his pension and spend a considerable amount of time in prison. Oh and Lois Lerner (still collecting her pension and God knows what else). These people need to be drummed out with no pensions (for arrogating their sworn duty to the American public). Egregious abuse of power that needs to be curtailed and penalized in the most severe fashion. John N Michell received the according punishment. Koskinen deserves no less. Abuser and collusion is his modus operandi. Lerner and Koskinen earned the heaviest of penalty.

Beverly Thorpe

Okay then, set it another week, by supoena, if necessary, and if he doesn't appear, take him to court.


Passage of PROMESA Will Prevent Taxpayer Bailout of Puerto Rico


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, May 19th, 2016, 2:00 PM PERMALINK


Puerto Rico recently defaulted on $400 million in debt and will soon default on another $2 billion. The island is $72 billion in the red, and has no realistic way to pay this back following a decade long recession and years of mismanagement.

This fiscal crisis will only get worse, and while this may seem like Puerto Rico’s problem alone, the island is a territory of the United States. That means that Congress has an obligation under Article IV, Section 3 of the constitution to act. Even absent this constitutional duty, the island’s 3.5 million residents are all U.S. citizens who can (and will) move to other parts of the country if the island's economy is left to collapse.

The way to address Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis is by passing the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). Yesterday, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced H.R. 5278, an updated version of the bill that ensures obligations under the Puerto Rican constitution are respected and makes certain that the oversight board has the authority necessary to enact comprehensive fiscal plans to address the years of mismanagement. Importantly, PROMESA addresses the fiscal crisis in a way that prevents a taxpayer bailout and does not retroactively grant the island super chapter 9 bankruptcy.

PROMESA creates an Oversight Board modeled off the success of the fiscal control board created for the District of Columbia in 1995. This independent board, of which a majority is appointed by Republican leaders in Congress, will make sure financial statements are produced, fiscal reforms are implemented, and budgets balanced to ensure Puerto Rico regains access to capital markets, and the island’s economy is stabilized for decades to come. 

PROMESA does not provide for a taxpayer-funded bailout. The legislation has ZERO budgetary impact. Even expenses associated with setting up and operating the Oversight Board are paid by Puerto Rico, not the federal government. If Congress fails to pass PROMESA they will be forced into a taxpayer funded bailout because the situation will become so unmanageable.

PROMESA does not grant Puerto Rico chapter 9 bankruptcy or “super-chapter 9.” The legislation does not amend federal bankruptcy law, and under this bill, it would not be possible for any state to claim this creates a precedent allowing a state to declare bankruptcy on their obligations.

Instead, PROMESA borrows several restructuring concepts from more than 100 years of bankruptcy precedent and law including an explicit “best interest of creditors” test that ensures private property rights are protected.

While this legislation addresses Puerto Rico’s immediate fiscal crisis in a responsible way, some have called for the need for pro-growth provisions to ensure strong, long-term economic growth. PROMESA contains some pro-growth provisions like minor minimum wage relief, more reforms in the future would be welcome to help encourage economic growth.

One impediment to economic growth is that Puerto Rico is treated as a foreign country for federal tax purposes. As a result, American companies face double taxation in Puerto Rico, yet foreign competitors operating in Puerto Rico do not. Allowing free flow of capital between Puerto Rico and the rest of the U.S. would spur investment, create more jobs, and increase wages for the territory. While the legislation does not directly address this, PROMESA does establish a Congressional growth task force that will recommend long-term, fiscal reforms.

The bottom line is that PROMESA addresses the Puerto Rico debt crisis in a responsible, pro-taxpayer way by avoiding a federal bailout, ensuring property rights are protected, and forcing San Juan to get its fiscal house back in order. Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting this important legislation. 

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TKList

Let Puerto Rico file for bankruptcy and let Puerto Ricans live with the consequences of the decisions of the politicians that they elected over and over again.

Cancel_NPR

TKList ---- THAT is Exactly how it works in MY WORLD... You ( they ) don't get to fcku it up & then turn to someone else, hand them the paperwork, and tell THEM ( us ) to "fix" it...
SEND THE BILL TO PUERTO RICO'S MANAGING OFFICIALS WHO HAVE BEEN PRESIDING OVER THIS FCKU-UP...


Norquist Urges Tax Equity for Cannabis Dispensary Employers

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016, 12:47 PM PERMALINK


It's a basic principle of taxation that the code should not pick winners and losers or discriminate unfairly against certain classes of taxpayers. 

That principle is being violated today for a newly legalized industry--cannabis dispensaries.  Unlike any other business type in the country, these firms and these firms alone are not free to deduct "ordinary and necessary" business expenses like wages, equipment, and rent.

In an attempt to deny tax deductions connected to the illegal drug income of street dealers, Congress accidentally imposed a gross receipts tax on legal cannabis dispensaries a generation later.

At a press conference last week, ATR President Grover Norquist called for action to address this discrepancy. Norquist was joined by members of Congress including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.)

This problem can be addressed by passing H.R. 1855 and S.987, the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2015,” sponsored by Congressman Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). ATR supports this legislation – it is good tax policy and should be cosponsored by all Members of Congress.

There is no reason why the tax code should deny business expenses to legitimate businesses established under state law. The result is an arbitrary and punitive situation where legal employers face very high average effective tax rates that Congress never sought to impose on businesses.

 

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malcolmkyle

Prohibition has finally run its course; the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, users and non-users worldwide, have been destroyed or severely disrupted; many countries that were once shining beacons of liberty and prosperity have, through scientific ignorance and blind political fanaticism, become repressive smoldering heaps of toxic hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. It is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists should not be allowed to remain untainted or untouched by the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow human beings. They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets. We should provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity.

familyguy

Well said!


ATR Supports Separation of Powers Restoration Act

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016, 9:00 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist today expressed support for H.R. 4768 and S. 2724, The Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA), legislation introduced by Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). 

This important legislation ends the needless deference to unelected bureaucrats established by the Supreme Court under the Chevron ruling and reasserts basic constitutional rights to separated powers and judicial review.

The full letter can be found below or by clicking here.

Dear Congressman Ratcliffe and Senator Hatch,

I write in support of H.R. 4768 and S. 2724, The Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA), legislation to rein in federal agencies and unelected bureaucrats.

As you know, when Congress writes vague or ambiguous laws, courts are required to defer to an executive branch’s interpretation of such law. This was established by the Supreme Court’s 1984 ruling in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Over time, this has allowed federal bureaucrats to interpret statutes with broad leeway. Because the courts generally defer to their interpretation, it essentially gives regulatory agencies legislative, executive, and judicial authority over laws at the expense of the American people and democratically elected members of Congress.

SOPRA addresses this issue by requiring courts to conduct a “de novo” review of all relevant questions of law, instead of leaving this interpretation up to federal bureaucrats.

For the past seven years, the Obama administration has run riot, ignoring Congress and the will of the people again and again. Bureaucrats have continually made up the rules as they go along when it comes to implementing and interpreting laws, with little or no consequence.

SOPRA will end this needless deference to federal regulators, reassert Congressional responsibility over federal law, and ensure Americans maintain their basic constitutional rights to separated powers and judicial review.

As such, all members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Congress Should Block Obama's Last Minute Regulatory Flurry

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016, 8:00 AM PERMALINK


For the past seven years, the Obama administration has run riot, implementing countless regulations that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and created burdens for families, small business, and corporations alike. 

According to the American Action Forum, in the first half of this year the administration has proposed or finalized regulations totaling more than $85 billion in total costs, in addition to 44 million paperwork burden hours.

Given this flurry of regulatory activity, Congress should pass H.R. 4956, the End Executive Overreach Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga.). to halt the implementation of countless regulations that the administration is trying to complete before leaving office. ATR President Grover Norquist recently sent a letter in support of Rep. Price's legislation.

Immediately after passage, the End Executive Overreach Act would defund new regulations by eliminating access to any federal funds, fees, or other resources used for implementation. The legislation would also prohibit the administration from proposing any new executive orders or agency rules until President Obama is out of office on January 21, 2017. As a result, passage of this legislation would stop many damaging regulations from being implemented including:

DoL Fiduciary Rule: In April, the Department of Labor released the final fiduciary rule, a regulation spanning more than a thousand pages that will curtail the ability of financial advisors to give advice to IRA and 401(k) holders. It is estimated that the rule will result in 7 million IRA holders being priced out of investment advice and between 300,000 and 400,000 fewer IRAs will be opened every year as a result of the rule. All told, this regulation could mean more than $80 billion in lost savings.

Treasury Debt-Equity Regulations: Proposed under section 385 of the tax code, the debt-equity regulation grants the administration the authority to reclassify debt as equity for federal tax purposes. This regulation will likely affect every American business operating overseas and may have a chilling effect on investment.  Implementing such a broadly encompassing regulation will cut off commonly used business management practices and make it even more difficult for American businesses to compete in the global economy.

EPA Ozone Rule: Last year the EPA lowered the compliant level of ozone under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb). The EPA’s own estimates show the tightened regulation would cost $1.4 billion annually with little projected environmental benefits. The lowered standard comes as states are still working to implement the EPA’s 2008 ozone standard of 75 ppb, which was just released in 2015, a delay of almost seven years. Once fully implemented, this new ozone standard will result in a significant economic burden to states and local communities and will see increased compliance issues and costs under the existing ozone regulation.  

It is time Congress reasserts its power as a co-equal branch of government. Passing the End Executive Overreach Act will block the implementation of many damaging Obama regulations and should be supported by all members of Congress. ​

 

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