Chris Buki

O'Malley Administration Covered up Broken Obamacare Website in Maryland


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, January 13th, 2014, 3:24 PM PERMALINK


The Washington Post has revealed startling new information relating to the launch of Maryland’s state based healthcare exchange website. For those who are unaware, the site launched in much the same manner as the now infamous healthcare.gov. That is to say, it was extremely glitch prone and essentially nonfunctional. In fact, so much so that a mere four individuals managed to sign up for a plan through the website in the first 24 hours.  Even after $170 million of taxpayer money was spent to finance this ill-fated government program, the website is still highly dysfunctional and taxpayers have been shelling out millions more to fix it since the disastrous October 1st ‘launch’.

However, this failed launch did not come without forewarning. In the months before the exchange went live on October 1st, many of those contracted to work on the website had quit, with one stating that it was a “disaster waiting to happen”.  The warnings had started as early as the fall of 2012, with auditors pointing out that key deadlines to build the website were being missed. All the while, Democratic leaders in the state and even President Obama were touting the state’s exchange as a model for the nation and rushing to take credit.

Those same leaders, such as tax-happy Governor Martin O’Malley are now pushing “emergency” legislation, to the tune of as much as $10 million, to expand a state government healthcare program to cover those Marylanders who were unable to procure health insurance due to the non-responsiveness of the exchange’s website. Officials are now significantly walking back previous goals of 150,000 enrolled via the state exchange by March 31st. If this all sounds familiar, it is because it is. On the national level, healthcare.gov launched in a similarly disastrous fashion, fraught with excuses, a lack of accountability, and a hefty price for taxpayers.  

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ATR Applauds Mississippi Lt. Gov. Reeves' Defense of Taxpayers


Posted by Chris Buki on Friday, January 10th, 2014, 1:18 PM PERMALINK


The legislative session in Mississippi began this week and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has already taken an important stand in defense of Mississippi taxpayers by rejecting a proposal put forth by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Willie Simmons (D-Cleveland) to raise the state gasoline tax. Reeves referred to Sen. Williams’ proposal as “a non-starter” in the State Senate. 

With a slew of tax increases signed into law by President Obama over the last five years, including the new wave of federal tax increases set to take effect in 2014, it’s imperative that state lawmakers avoid piling on with further tax hikes at the state level. Mississippi taxpayers are fortunate to have a Lieutenant Governor who recognizes this truth. Providing further peace of mind for Mississippi is the fact that Gov. Phil Bryant is one of the 13 U.S. governors who has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to oppose any and all tax increases.

In addition to declaring tax increases dead on arrival, Lt. Gov. Reeves has included several pro-growth, free market proposals in his 2014 legislative agenda that would expand choice and reduce wasteful government spending. Specifically, Reeves has indicated that he would like to pass legislation that would allow students to cross school lines to attend a charter school. This is a common sense reform that would expand parental choice in determining which school best fits their child’s needs and allow children to escape substandard schools.

Reeves also expressed an interest in performance-based budgeting. Instead of simply using the traditional method of baseline budgeting, performance-based budgeting evaluates government programs and agencies based on their effectiveness and allocates them revenue accordingly. Performance based budgeting is often utilized in the private sector, and transitioning state government to a similar system has the potential to save taxpayer dollars. This policy brief by the Commonwealth Foundation explains the idea at more in length (also referred to as priority or reality based budgeting). 

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Second Candidate for Texas Comptroller Signs Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, January 9th, 2014, 10:01 AM PERMALINK


While the Texas gubernatorial race between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis gets most of the media’s attention, there is another important statewide race taking place in Texas this year, the one to succeed Susan Combs as state comptroller.

This week Texas state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in his bid to become the Republican nominee for comptroller, becoming the second candidate in the race to make this important commitment to Texas taxpayers.

Earlier this week, ATR announced Texas state Sen. Glenn Hegar became the first candidate in the race to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Lone Star State voters are fortunate to have multiple candidates running who have committed to opposing any and all efforts to raise state taxes.

With Susan Combs, Texans have been fortunate to have had a strong conservative and policy innovator as their state comptroller for the last decade.  Combs has been a pioneer in the movement to increase government financial transparency by putting all state government expenditures online and in a searchable format. The government transparency movement that began in Texas has since spread across the country, with the majority of other states having since followed Texas’s lead.

Combs has endorsed Glenn Hegar to replace her as comptroller. The primary elections will be held March 5th.

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Texas Comptroller Candidate Glenn Hegar Signs the Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, January 6th, 2014, 11:48 AM PERMALINK


Texas Senator Glenn Hegar (R) has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in his bid to become the next comptroller of Texas. The Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), commits signers to “oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.” In signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, Hegar is making the same important commitment to Texas taxpayers that he made and has kept as a state senator.

Today the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is offered to every candidate for state office and to all incumbents. More than 1,000 state legislators and 13 governors have signed the Pledge. Statehouse tax-and-spend interests have to contend with Pledge signers in every state. ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal office since 1987. To date, 39 U.S. Senators and 219 sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge.

“I want to congratulate Glenn Hegar for signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and in doing so, reaffirming his commitment to protect Lone Star State taxpayers,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR. “By signing the Pledge, Glenn Hegar demonstrates that he understands the problems of hard-working taxpayers of Texas and that he will be a great fiscal steward for the state. I challenge all candidates running for elected office to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today.”

Glenn Hegar is currently the youngest member of the Texas State Senate. None of his primary opponents have made the same commitment to protect Texas taxpayers. The Republican nominee to replace Texas Comptroller Susan Combs will be decided in the March 4th primary.

To view a PDF copy of the press release, click here.

UPDATE (1/8): Texas state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, who is also running to be the next state comptroller, signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge this week. Texas voters are fortunate to have multiple candidates for comptroller make this important committment to Lone Star State Taxpayers. 

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Obamacare "Enrollment" Numbers Miss the Mark


Posted by Chris Buki on Friday, December 13th, 2013, 1:38 PM PERMALINK


Despite the Obama administration’s recent attempts to sell Obamacare to the American people, there is one damning fact that is still lingering: people are not signing up. According to a report released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services, fewer than 365,000 have signed up for insurance through healthcare.gov. CNBC writes:

The two-month tally in private Obamacare health plans—which came after October saw just 106,185 enrollments nationwide—was dramatically lower than the 1.2 million people that officials had predicted just before the troubled Oct. 1 launch of the government-run marketplaces. It's also far off the pace needed to reach the 7 million total that officials had predicted would be signed up via federal- or state-run insurance marketplaces by the March 31.

However, even the 365,000 number is grossly misleading. Secretary Sebelius has chosen to count individuals who have chosen a plan, but not paid for it, as "enrollees" to Obamacare. In a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois rightfully called those numbers “fraudulent”. Rep. Shimkus went on to provide a helpful example about whether Amazon.com counts the items in a potential buyers’ shopping cart or wish list as purchases (spoiler: they do not). This clearly illustrates the questionable accounting being done by the Administration to trump up these abysmal numbers.

Furthermore, Secretary Sebelius has previously stated that the administration’s goal was to "enroll" 7 million individuals in Obamacare by the end of March, calling it a “realistic goal”. That claim is patently false and essentially a mathematical impossibility.

Obamacare’s approval is at a dismal 39%, 4.7 million Americans have received cancellation notices in regards to their health insurance, and glitch prone healthcare.gov is a black hole for taxpayer dollars. It’s no wonder that Americans are keeping Obamacare’s bad medicine at arms-length from themselves and their families. 

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Phil Berger, Jr. Signs the Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 2:02 PM PERMALINK


Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr., now running for North Carolina’s 6th Congressional seat, has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. In doing so, Berger has made a vital commitment to North Carolina taxpayers. By signing the Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, Berger has committed to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal office since 1987. To date, 39 U.S. Senators and 219 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge. Additionally, fourteen governors and over 1,000 state legislators have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

“I want to congratulate Mr. Berger for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The American people have clearly shown their displeasure with the tax-and-spend policies coming from Washington. They want real solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and get the economy going again,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“By signing the Pledge, Phil Berger, Jr. demonstrates that he understands the problems of hard-working taxpayers nationwide, but especially the taxpayers of North Carolina.”

“I challenge all candidates for federal office to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” Norquist continued.

[PDF of Press Release]

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Report Highlights Pro-Growth Tax Reform in the States


Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, November 21st, 2013, 3:21 PM PERMALINK


The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Center for State Fiscal Reform released a new report yesterday looking at the 18 states across the country that made significant changes to their tax code in 2013.  The report confirmed facts that ATR has long found to be true; mainly that those states that work to create a simpler, flatter, and lower tax code are the same ones that achieve greater economic success than their tax-happy neighbors.

Some of the major findings of the report are as follows:

  • Of the 18 states which cut taxes in the past year, 16 of them were led by a Republican governor. Just two were led by Democrats, and both of those states (Arkansas and Montana) have state legislatures under Republican control. Additionally, 15 of the 18 states were controlled by Republicans in both legislative chambers. One was controlled by Democrats (New Mexico), one was split between the two chambers (Iowa, which has a Republican House but a Democratic Senate), and Nebraska, which has a unicameral non-partisan legislature.  
  • Tax hikes have a depressing effect on economic growth and prosperity. For instance, ALEC highlights Oregon, which saw relatively weak job creation compared to the rest of the nation in the period following significant income tax hikes in 2008. In fact, Dr. William McBride of the Tax Foundation found that, of the 26 peer reviewed academic studies on impact of higher taxes since 1983; only 3 have failed to find a negative impact of tax increases to economic growth.
  • ALEC’s report holds up and applauds the comprehensive tax reform enacted by Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly this past year, calling it: “Without question, […] the most significant tax relief any state has passed in the last decade”.
  • Of the 18 states that significantly cut taxes, almost 25% made reductions in the personal income tax rate, with 12% making reductions in the corporate tax rate. 8% made changes to the capital gains and property tax. A pie chart of the changes included in the report is found below: 

For a copy of the report, click here.

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ATR Urges Passage of Pro-Growth Energy Legislation


Posted by Chris Buki on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013, 12:29 PM PERMALINK


ATR President Grover Norquist sent the following letter to all members of the United States House of Representatives, urging them to pass several pieces of legislation relating to hydraulic fracturing and energy secruity. The text of the letter is as follows: 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpayers nationwide I urge you to pass H.R. 2728, the Protecting States Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act and HR 2850, the EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Improvement Act. The development of shale resources through the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has buoyed the American economy and increased America’s energy security.

Specifically, a recent IHS study estimates that development of unconventional oil and natural gas resources will:

  • Require $5.1 trillion in capital expenditures between 2012 and 2035
  • Create and support nearly 2.5 million jobs by 2015 and 3.5 million in 2035
  • Annually contribute $475 billion to GDP by 2035

But you don’t have to work in the energy field or a supportive industry to have reaped the benefits of the shale boom:

  • Shale oil and natural gas activities saved families $100 per month in 2012 in the form of lower energy bills and lower costs for other goods and services

For the past half century, states have overseen the growth of hydraulic fracturing with enormous success. Tailoring specific regulations to suit their geological needs, state regulators have an intimate knowledge of the land and communities they are charged with protecting.

H.R. 2728 ensures that the federal government does not impose duplicative federal regulations on states that are managing the development of their natural resources. Unnecessary federal red tape has consequences – the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed hydraulic fracturing regulation is estimated to cost $345 million annually. These federal regulations threaten to hamstring America’s energy producers and undermine thousands of potential jobs.

Also an important piece of legislation, H.R. 2850 would ensure that the forthcoming EPA study on hydraulic fracturing and its impact on drinking water follows basic scientific principles, like engaging in a thorough peer review process.

If Congress wants to perpetuate America’s energy revolution, it is essential that federal regulators are prevented from interjecting themselves into parochial issues best managed by states.

It is for these reasons that I urge you to pass H.R. 2728 and H.R. 2850. 

To view a PDF copy of the letter, click here.

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Christine Jones Signs the Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, November 18th, 2013, 10:59 AM PERMALINK


Businesswoman and attorney Christine Jones has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in her bid to become Arizona’s next Governor. The Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, commits signers to “oppose and veto any and all attempts to increase taxes”. Jones is the first candidate in the race to sign the Pledge.

ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal and state office since 1987. To date, fourteen governors and over 1,000 state legislators have signed the Pledge. Additionally, 39 U.S. Senators and 219 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge.

“I want to congratulate Ms. Jones for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The people of Arizona have clearly stated what type of leadership they want in Phoenix. They want leaders who offer real solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and jumpstart the economy,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“By signing the Pledge, Christine Jones demonstrates that she understands the problems of hard-working taxpayers nationwide, but especially the taxpayers of Arizona.”

“I challenge all candidates for Arizona’s gubernatorial election to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” Norquist continued.

To view a PDF copy of the press release, click here. 

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Pres. Clinton, More Dems Join Anti-Obamacare Chorus


Posted by Chris Buki on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013, 1:56 PM PERMALINK


Another day, another mishap for the Obama administration in regards to Obamacare. The chorus against the President is growing louder by the minute, with many prominent members of his own party criticizing him for his decision to knowingly mislead the American public in regards to being able to keep their current health insurance policies. We now know that the line “if you like your plan, you can keep it” was false, and turned out to be false for almost 5 million Americans so far who have received cancellation letters from their health insurance providers.

Now, former President Bill Clinton has called for changes to be made to the law allowing individuals to keep their current health insurance plans. Clinton said:

“I personally believe even if it takes a change in the law the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got”

Furthermore, the criticism isn’t just coming from Clinton, but Hill Democrats have now taken to criticizing the implementation of Obamacare in an attempt to distance themselves from the deeply unpopular law ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. It is no surprise that vulnerable Democratic Senators such as Alaska’s Mark Begich and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan are running scared from Obamacare. House Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader had even harsher words for the President saying that he “grossly misled the American public” and accusing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney of “double talk” in connection with the President’s promise about keeping existing insurance plans.

However, despite the fact that these Democrats see the writing on the wall as far as the healthcare law goes, voters will not soon forget who is responsible for aiding to enact this disastrous legislation. In the meantime, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton has introduced the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” legislation that would allow insurance companies to continue to offer those plans that were cancelled due to new regulations under Obamacare. 

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