Chris Buki

Senate Democrats Stay Up All Night to Blow Smoke on Climate

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Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, March 24th, 2014, 2:23 PM PERMALINK


Recently, Senate Democrats launched one of their latest PR stunts entitled “Up 4 Climate” or simply #Up4Climate. 30 US Senators of the Democratic Party held the Senate floor for 15 hours to discuss the supposedly destructive effects of climate change and raise awareness. However, as Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe bluntly put it: “They’ll have an audience of themselves, so I hope they enjoy it”.

There were several important things missing from so called “climate talkathon”. Among them were four of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2014: Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Curiously, all of them hail from states where the President is deeply unpopular and energy policy is a vote moving issue. Hiding from their Party’s grandstanding will not obscure the fact that the reason Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader is because these absent senators prop him up. These senators are enabling Harry Reid to famously say “coal makes him sick” and President Obama, who has made it his goal to bankrupt the coal and fossil fuel energy industry with burdensome regulations.

Also missing from the “climate talkathon” was any mention of concrete legislative solutions to our nation’s energy needs. Perhaps, that is because the facts just do not support the radical environmentalist agenda that Democrats are pushing. First, the boom in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has led to a massive expansion in American made natural gas, which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and led to a reduction in carbon emissions. Furthermore, the very renewable energy industry that Democrats love to tout has been an expensive failure in Europe. As Robert Bryce writes in National Review:  “For years, left-leaning politicians and their allies have been claiming that renewable energy can create jobs and boost the economy. […] In January of this year, both the European Union and the German government announced separately that they were rolling back aggressive subsidies and mandates for renewable energy because of the staggering costs those efforts have imposed.”

The “climate talkathon” was an abject and hypocritical failure. Democrats stayed up all night using energy powered by the Capitol’s coal-fired power plant to appease radical environmentalist donors in San Francisco, yet offered nothing in the way of real solutions for the American people.  

Photo Credit: 
Amanda Miller Photos, https://www.flickr.com/photos/54519445@N00/470664246/in/photolist-HAh5N-XBpvK-XBpPe-29612d-2boVzq-2gGXW4-2jGj2x-2KaHg3-2ST1bM-3dyBTJ-3eHdnG-4jXr9F-4k2tiS-4mStEu-4nQYff-4oJXSa-4GF3sA-4Hudcc-4JZ6ba-4U26EY-4UHtsH-4UHwXe-4YJLZZ-4YKdD6-4Z

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Idaho Looks to Reduce Individual and Corporate Tax Burden

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Posted by Chris Buki on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014, 4:11 PM PERMALINK


With a Democrat controlled U.S. Senate that is refusing to consider any of the House GOP’s legislation for job growth, action has increasingly turned to the state capitols. Legislators in Idaho have taken to this trend and are now attempting to significantly lower the tax burden on both individuals and corporations.

House Bill 548, introduced by Republican House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, would gradually reduce both the individual and corporate tax rates. Presently, the highest rate for both is 7.4%. HB 548 would bring them both down incrementally, until the highest level is 6.8%. The non-partisan Tax Foundation currently ranks Idaho’s tax burden as 25th out of the 50 states, and the business tax climate as 18th out of 50. HB 548 would surely improve both of these rankings, as well as leave Idahoans with more money in their paychecks to spend and thus further stimulate the economy.

Bills such as HB 548 are also important in the context of competition amongst the states. In an increasingly competitive economic climate, Idaho is jousting with states such as Wyoming, who do not levy an income tax at all. Thus, it is imperative that legislators in Boise do everything in their power to ensure that the Gem state is regionally competitive. Passing legislation such as HB 548, which reduces the tax rate on individuals and corporations which create and support jobs, will do just that. As of today, HB 548 has passed the Idaho House of Representatives and is pending approval in the State Senate. 

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Photo Credit: 
Paul Swortz, https://www.flickr.com/photos/swortz/2591564647/sizes/l/

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ATR Urges Oklahoma Lawmakers to Make Current Severance Tax Rate Permanent

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Posted by Chris Buki on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, 6:23 PM PERMALINK


Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to legislators in the Sooner state urging them to make the current severance tax rate for horizontal drilling permanent. Doing so would ensure that Oklahoma remains competitive with her neighbors and continues to see the prosperity associated with increased oil and natural gas exploration. The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Legislator,

I write to you today regarding the on-going debate over Oklahoma's horizontal oil and natural gas severance tax. Americans for Tax Reform asks that you make the current rate permanent and avoid any "rob Peter to pay Paul" schemes, including increasing the oil natural gas severance tax to lower the personal income tax rate.

Some lawmakers have sought to use the threat of the expiration of the current horizontal rate as a means to pursue a "slightly higher" rate than what is currently law. This risky game is ill advised. The current severance tax structure has ushered in unprecedented development of Oklahoma's unconventional resources while generating millions for state coffers and should be made permanent.

Short of letting the current severance tax rate expire, there are some proposals that would increase rates on horizontal drillers by as much as 500 percent. Such a large increase would do irreparable harm to the Oklahoma economy and impel job loss. Even worse, the industry is already under assault from the Obama administration in Washington, D.C. facing tax proposals that could cut drilling budgets by as much as 30 percent. Oklahoma Republicans should implement tax policies that foster job growth and economic expansion, not take their cues from D.C. Democrats.

Raising the oil and gas severance tax could limit Oklahoma's ability to attract oil and natural gas developers. Texas's High-Cost Gas Incentive grants a 50 percent exemption from severance taxes on well costs. For 24 months, companies in Arkansas pay a severance tax rate of 1.5 percent on new gas discoveries – the timeline is extended to 36 months for high cost gas. In Louisiana, producers are exempt from severance taxes on horizontal wells for two years or until well payback. Increasing the oil and natural gas severance tax could send business and jobs to nearby states with more favorable tax policies. Were this to happen, Oklahoma would necessarily suffer — the oil and natural gas industry is the single largest source of capital spending in Oklahoma. In 2012 alone, oil and natural gas developers spent $12 billion within the state.

In place since 2009, I urge you to make the current severance tax rate for horizontal drilling permanent.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

A PDF of the letter can be found here.

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Dining Out? There's an Obamacare Tax For That Too

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Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, February 27th, 2014, 1:35 PM PERMALINK


While the Obama administration has been selectively deciding when and how to enforce many different aspects of Obamacare, the real world effect is already being felt by small business owners and in turn, their customers. CNN reported the following today

Diners at eight Gator's Dockside casual eateries are finding a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge on their tabs […]’The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors,’ the sign reads. ‘Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator's Dockside locations have implemented a 1% surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only.’ 

The restaurant is being forced to implement the surcharge in response to Obamacare’s employer mandate, which drastically raises costs for small and medium sized businesses by forcing them to provide health insurance for employees. Furthermore, if and when they finally manage to successfully log on to healthcare.gov, they are likely to find higher premiums then previously available. This is just another example of the disastrous effect Obamacare is having on the family owned restaurants, stores and other small businesses that Americans grew up knowing and loving. 

Photo credit: Rusty Gillespie

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11 Million Small Start Ups Facing Higher Premiums Under Obamacare


Posted by Chris Buki on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014, 2:35 PM PERMALINK


A new report released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary confirms that yet another aspect of Obamacare is bad news for small businesses. The report estimates that 65% of small businesses (or 11 million startup companies) will see higher health insurance premiums as a result of the flawed healthcare law. As damning as this information alone is, the numbers may actually be higher than estimated as many small businesses renewed their health insurance coverage before Jan 1st, allowing them to avoid the higher premiums that were a result of the law’s regulations. 

In light of this, it is no wonder Secretary Sebelius is talking out of both sides of her mouth when it comes to enrollment numbers. After months of talking up seven million enrollees by the end of March 2014 as “what success looks like”, Sebelius is now laughably claiming that that number was “never an administration figure”. With disastrous Obamacare websites on both the state and federal level, millions of Americans with cancelled insurance policies, and millions more facing higher premiums as a result of Obamacare, it is no wonder that Sebelius is shying away from her previous definition of success.

To read more about the report, click here.

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New Ohio Calculator Shows Cost of Energy Mandates


Posted by Chris Buki on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, 2:23 PM PERMALINK


Several Ohio business groups have released a useful tool that allows energy users to calculate exactly how much the state’s energy mandates have increased their electricity bills.These ill-advised mandates were conceived in 2008 when the legislature instituted both energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates. Already costing Ohioans over a billion dollars, these energy mandates are only going to become more onerous as they are scheduled to increase by 2025.  

From the Ohio tax calculator website:

"Ohio’s landscape has radically changed and the reasons for the government mandates no longer exist. Today, recovery from the recession is slow, electricity use has declined, prices for electricity have dropped significantly, and Ohio is growing jobs and improving its economy by developing a new, plentiful natural energy resource – shale gas.

Customers currently pay for these government mandates through tax-like charges that are embedded in electric bills (the tax is not applied to customers of municipal electric utilities or electric cooperatives). Worse yet, these charges are expected to increase by more than 400% in the next decade unless the law is changed or eliminated. "

Click here to see how much you're paying as a result of these energy mandates.

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On Tax Cuts, Governor Andrew Cuomo Is Blowing Smoke


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, February 10th, 2014, 4:06 PM PERMALINK


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently released his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015, and since then much has been written about the governor’s attempt to “cut taxes” and “change the perception of New York as a high tax state”. Unfortunately for residents of the Empire State, perception is not reality. A closer examination of Gov. Cuomo’s proposed tax changes reveals that in most cases, they would not result in a net reduction in New York’s state and local tax burden.

E.J. McMahon, President of the Empire Center for Public Policy, recently testified before a legislative hearing on taxes. He pointed out that over half ($1.4 billion out of $2.25 billion) of Cuomo’s proposed “tax cuts”, in specific “property tax relief”, are merely a tax shift. That is, they take a levy that is being assessed on the local level and shift it to the state level.

Presently, the non-partisan Tax Foundation ranks New York last out of the 50 states in its “State Business Tax Climate Index. With a top rate of 8.82 percent, its individual income tax is the second highest in the nation. If Gov. Cuomo is serious about lowering the tax burden on hardworking New Yorkers, he should take steps to lower both the individual and corporate income tax rates.

A good place to start would be in phasing out the “Millionaires’ Tax,” which Assembly Majority Ways & Means staff has called an “inherently unstable,” “volatile” and “unsustainable” revenue source. This is also a tax that the governor shepherded through the Legislature in 2011.

While his plan does reform the death tax by lowering the top rate from 16 to 10 percent, it still leaves New York as only one of 14 states that imposes any tax on the value of property and assets left to others as a result of dying. True reform would move in the direction of phasing it out altogether.

Overall, Governor Cuomo’s proposal isn’t serious in the scheme of working towards a more competitive, broad based, and reliable tax structure for the state. His budget mostly engages in tax shift gimmicks instead of enacting permanent tax cuts that the governor has made clear the state can afford. 

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Mark Begich's Vote for Obamacare May Cost Alaska 6,000 Jobs


Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, February 6th, 2014, 2:32 PM PERMALINK


Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report which shows that Obamacare may cost the economy the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs by 2024. That is a lot of lost income and economic growth for the nation. Today, ATR released analysis of the CBO report and Bureau of Labor Statistics data that breaks down the impact by state.

Alaska, home to one of top 2014 battleground races for United States Senate, may lose 6,055 jobs over the next decade thanks to Obamacare. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Senator Begich defends casting the tie-breaking vote in support of this job-killing law that includes 20 different tax increases. 

Votes matter, and Mark Begich’s vote for Obamacare is likely to be the central issue of the 2014 Alaskan Senate race. For the full breakdown of Obamacare job losses by state, click here.

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Mark Warner's Vote for Obamacare May Cost Virginia 68,000 Jobs


Posted by Chris Buki on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014, 3:40 PM PERMALINK


Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report which shows that Obamacare may cost the economy the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs by 2024. That is a lot of lost income and economic growth for the nation. Today, ATR released analysis of the CBO report and Bureau of Labor Statistics data that breaks down the impact by state.

Virginia, home to one of top 2014 battleground races for United States Senate, may lose 68,662 jobs over the next decade thanks to Obamacare. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Senator Mark Warner defends casting the tie-breaking vote in support of this job-killing law that includes 20 different tax hikes. Given Senator Warner’s previously broken promises in regards to healthcare reform, his response will be particurally interesting. 

Warner’s likely opponent in the general election in 2014 is Ed Gillespie, who has strongly opposed Obamacare. Warner, on the other hand, voted for and actively supported the law, including the 20 new or higher taxes contained in it. As evidenced by the above numbers, this vote will tens of thousands of jobs in the Old Dominion state.

Votes matter, and Mark Warner’s vote for Obamacare is likely to be the central issue of the 2014 Virginia Senate race. For the full breakdown of Obamacare job losses by state, click here.

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Mark Pryor's Vote for Obamacare May Cost Arkansas 21,000 Jobs


Posted by Chris Buki on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014, 3:32 PM PERMALINK


Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report which shows that Obamacare may cost the economy the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs by 2024. That is a lot of lost income and economic growth for the nation. Today, ATR released analysis of the CBO report and Bureau of Labor Statistics data that breaks down the impact by state.

 Arkansas, home to one of top 2014 battleground races for United States Senate, may lose 21,695 jobs over the next decade thanks to Obamacare. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Senator Mark Pryor defends casting the tie-breaking vote in support of this job-killing law that includes 20 different tax increases. In the past, Pryor referred to it as “an amazing success story”.

 Representative Tom Cotton, a decorated war veteran who currently serves in the House, will be running against Pryor in the 2014 election. In stark contrast to Pryor, Rep. Cotton has fought vigorously to repeal Obamacare at every chance possible.

Votes matter, and Mark Pryor’s vote for Obamacare is likely to be the central issue of the 2014 Arkansas Senate race. For the full breakdown of Obamacare job losses by state, click here.

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