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Chris Buki

Virginia Voters Re-Elect Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers


Posted by Chris Buki on Friday, November 8th, 2013, 11:47 AM PERMALINK


Tuesday’s elections in Virginia saw a strong showing for legislators who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Of the 21 incumbent legislators who made the commitment to their constituents to never raise taxes, all were re-elected to serve another term in the House of Delegates. Among those re-elected were Delegate Barbara Comstock of District 34 and Delegate David Ramadan in District 87. Both of these Northern Virginia Delegates rejected Governor Bob McDonnell’s $5.9 billion tax hike this year despite immense pressure from the Republican Governor and House leadership.

Furthermore, a new pledge signer, Dave LaRock was elected to the House of Delegates after having previously knocked off 10-term incumbent and Transportation Committee Chairman Joe May in the Republican primary in June. May was an instrumental figure in Gov. McDonnell’s transportation tax hike, which ATR vigorously opposed. None of the Delegates who opposed the law were defeated.

In the race for Governor, lifelong Democrat fundraiser and shady businessman Terry McAuliffe defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by 2.5 points. Democrat state Senator Ralph Northam defeated EW Jackson in the race for Lieutenant Governor.

As of this morning, the results are still pending in the race for Attorney General. With all precincts reporting, Republican Mark Obenshain, a state senator and pledge signer, has a narrow 777 vote lead over Democrat state Senator Mark Herring. To keep up to date on absentee ballot totals and provisional balloting, follow Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman on Twitter.

For the full results of the Virginia elections, including maps and district breakdowns, click here.

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IRS's 'Volunteer Tax Preparers' Exhibit Incompetence


Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, November 7th, 2013, 11:14 AM PERMALINK


The Inspector General of the IRS released a report this week that examined the state of the agency’s Volunteer Tax Preparers (VTP) program. The program exists to provide free tax preparation services to low income citizens. However, the findings of the audit show that this program might be doing more harm than good.

Of the VTP-prepared returns that were analyzed, nearly half of them were filed incorrectly. This latest instance of incompetence at the IRS represents another example of why the agency should not be trusted with preparing tax returns. This may seem insignificant, but for the fact that many prominent figures in the Democratic Party, such as former Obama administration advisor Austan Goolsbee, have been calling for the creation of a “Return Free Filing” program, which would allow the IRS to prepare taxes.

This massive expansion of the size, scope, and responsibilities of a federal government agency would be a terrible idea. Aside from this latest report highlighting incompetence in the IRS’s VTP program, one need look no further than the debacle that has been the rollout of the so-called “Affordable Care Act” (otherwise known as Obamacare) for a clear display of the government’s ineptitude.

In a recent column for Reuters, ATR’s Grover Norquist & Patrick Gleason, why giving the IRS the authority to prepare taxes is a bad idea:

Having the IRS serve in the dual roles of tax collector and tax preparer presents an inherent conflict of interest. The main function of the IRS is to collect taxes, as much as possible. […] To put the government entity responsible for maximizing tax collections in charge of preparing returns would result in a clear conflict of interest — one that would work to the disadvantage of ordinary taxpayers.

With the disastrous Obamacare rollout and this latest TIGTA report, do we really want the IRS, which has been busy making Star Trek videos and stifling the first amendment rights of the President’s political opponents for that last several years, to have the responsibility and authority to prepare tax returns?  Click here to read the aforementioned Reuters column in its entirety, which explains why the answer to that question is a resounding NO. 

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Colorado Voters Reject Massive Income Tax Hike


Posted by Chris Buki on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013, 12:15 PM PERMALINK


Despite a $10 million campaign cash advantage for tax hike proponents which was aided by out-of-state money from the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, last night Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 66 by a 2 to 1 margin, with 66% voting against the ballot measure that would've scrapped Colorado’s flat income tax and replaced it with a progressive income tax system with a top rate 27% higher than the one currently on the books.

Not only will Colorado taxpayers be spared of the hit on their pocketbooks that would've resulted from passage of Amendment 66, the more than half a million Colorado small businesses that would’ve been hit by the tax hike will avoid the huge reduction in their job-creating capacity that this income tax hike would’ve wrought.

Colorado residents are clearly smarter than Michael Bloomberg and others give them credit for. Voters saw through the misinformation and recognized that Amendment 66 was a tax hike that would hurt the state economy while doing nothing to improve public education. ATR congratulates the people of Colorado for making a fiscally sound decision and applauds all those who worked tirelessly, and against deep-pocketed opponents, to defeat this ill-advised proposal. 

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Fossil Fuels Lead The Way In Economic Growth


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, November 4th, 2013, 4:02 PM PERMALINK


When President Obama was swept into office in 2008, he made lots of grand promises of a “green energy” future for America, led by renewable energy. This revolution which would create millions of jobs and lead to a reduction in carbon emissions. As a recent editorial by Charles Drevna highlights, these promises turned out to be half true. Millions of jobs have indeed been created in the energy sector and there has been a reduction in emissions. However, the jobs have been concentrated in the oil and natural gas industry, and the so-called shale revolution has led to an increased availability and usage of clean, domestic natural gas.

Furthermore, experience throughout the world has shown us the folly of government subsidized “renewable” energy. As Mr. Drevna notes:

“Germany passed a 20-year green energy initiative, an effort led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that required energy companies to purchase and supply renewable energy at much higher rates. […] It is nearly impossible to generate enough energy from renewable sources like wind, especially during high energy demand seasons, without covering all of Germany with wind turbines and without the country incurring costs to the tune of one trillion Euros over the next 15 years. Even with massive government subsidization, renewable energy cannot compensate for the reduction in tradition energy.” 

Similar efforts championed by the Obama administration have led to disastrous results as well. Solyndra, LG Chem, and numerous others have caused taxpayers an enormous amount of money, with little to show for it other than empty promises. Given these experiences, and the fact that the oil and natural gas industry is projected to create nearly 3.5 million jobs in the next two decades, the President would be wise to abandon picking winners and losers in the marketplace and instead embrace the Keystone XL pipeline and open federal land to be tapped for our abundant energy reserves. 

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North Carolina Voters Strongly Approve of Tax Reform


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, November 4th, 2013, 10:37 AM PERMALINK


A new poll of 1,000 likely voters in North Carolina, conducted by Pulse Opinion Strategies, an independent, non-partisan polling agency, found that Tar Heel State residents are overwhelmingly supportive of the comprehensive tax reform package passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. McCrory earlier this year. Key findings are as follows:

  • 60% of voters support the state’s lower corporate income tax rate, and 67% said that businesses would be more likely to move to North Carolina as a result of the state reducing its corporate tax rate
  • 70% of those polled support reducing the state’s individual income tax rate and combining the three brackets to create a single, flat rate, as was done in the 2013 tax reform legislation
  • 62% of respondents said that they believed states with lower tax rates are more economically competitive

Overall, this new poll shows that voters are supportive of the tax reform package passed by the General Assembly this year, which reduced the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates, and moved to a flat income tax. Leaders such as Senate President Phil Berger have indicated that the 2013 tax reform act was just the first step in improving the state tax code and making North Carolina as competitive and conducive to economic growth as possible. These poll results indicate that voters approve of the direction Gov. McCrory and the Republican legislature are going when it comes to fiscal policy.

To view the complete results of the poll, click here

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Obama Administration Knew Millions Would be Dropped From Their Insurance Plans


Posted by Chris Buki on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013, 11:39 AM PERMALINK


As reports are coming in across the country of over 2 million Americans being dropped from their existing health insurance plans due to new regulations under Obamacare, and many more are suffering sticker or rate shock as well, NBC News has released a report that reveals some startling details of what the administration itself knew about the effects of Obamacare. Some of the highlights of the report are as follows:

  • Despite repeated assurances from President Obama that “if you like your plan, you can keep it”, senior administration officials knew this to be false as far back as 2010, as insurers would be forced to alter their plans and make them more expensive due to provisions in the healthcare law
  • Some in the administration are now estimating that as many as 80% of Americans who purchase insurance on the individual marketplace can expect to receive cancellation letters from their insurance providers
  • Those forced to buy different plans as a result of these cancellations will likely experience the same “rate shock” referenced above

As one North Carolinian, facing a 415% increase in his families monthly premium said, “Everybody's worried about whether the website works or not, but that's fixable. That's just the tip of the iceberg. This stuff isn't fixable”. That analysis is correct. Obamacare is not fixable, or re-workable. It was sold to the middle class as a reasonable option to lower their healthcare costs and to expand coverage for the uninsured. In reality, however, it is an expensive, top-down government program that raises costs on the middle class and the young and healthy in order to subsidize those who are more costly to insure in the marketplace.

Voters in 2014’s midterm elections would be wise to remember exactly who brought them this ill-advised prescription.

To read a full copy of the NBC News report, click here.

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Obamacare's Latest Enrollment Strategy: 'Brosurance'


Posted by Chris Buki on Friday, October 25th, 2013, 3:42 PM PERMALINK


In what can only be described as a pathetic attempt to garner the attention of young people, several Colorado non-profits seeking to promote Obamacare have launched an ad campaign featuring keg stands, golf clubs, and ‘bros’.

The idea here is to encourage young Americans to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare. Or perhaps it is an attempt to distract from the remarkably low enrollment numbers of Colorado’s healthcare exchange (just 226 people, in the first week).

Regardless, young Americans would be wise to take a closer look at the effects of the healthcare law on their premiums. The results are not pretty. According to a recent study by the Manhattan Institute, Obamacare will increase premiums for young men by an average of 97-99% and 55-62% for young women. Young, healthy Americans are facing higher taxes and premiums under Obamacare so that they can subsidize more costly patients in the marketplace. That is hardly something to “thank Obamacare” for, as the ad campaign suggests.

 

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Arizona Educational Savings Accounts Lead the Way In Expanding Parental Choice


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, October 21st, 2013, 1:05 PM PERMALINK


A new report released recently by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice highlights the successes and popularity of Arizona’s Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs represent an innovative and forward thinking approach to expanding parental choice in education. The program, which was first enacted in 2011 for parents of special needs children and recently expanded to children in failing schools, adopted foster children, and military families; awards parents with scholarship deposited into an ESA to pay private school tuition, buy textbooks, hire a tutor, and other educational products and services. Unused funds can be placed into federally approved college savings plans.  

The Friedman report includes a survey recently conducted by the Goldwater Institute, which found that 65% of those surveyed indicated they mainly used the funds that they received to pay for private school tuition, with 33% being used for either tutoring or homeschooling, 17% used for textbooks, and 14% used for online classes (respondents could select more than one category).  

Goldwater also found that there is a high rate of parental satisfaction with the ESA program. 89% of those surveyed found that it was easy to enroll in the program and 71% of respondents indicated that they were ‘very satisfied’ with the program.  A vast majority of those surveyed were more satisfied with the school that their child was able to attend under the ESA program, compared to the public school they were recently forced to attend.

Each ESA account comes in as a net saving to taxpayers, and there is room to further these savings through additional legislation. Given parental satisfaction, the aforementioned savings and the empowerment of choice the program gives parents in determining their children’s educational needs, Arizona’s ESAs are an excellent model for other states to look to as they consider expanding school choice and innovation in approaching education.

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Fact Checking Chris Matthews


Posted by Chris Buki on Monday, October 14th, 2013, 10:41 AM PERMALINK


Last week on his “Hardball” program, Chris Matthews proved that he is once again “loose with the facts”. In discussing the state of California, where he was on a book tour, Matthews had the following to say:

“The Golden State is unquestionably on a roll led by Democratic Governor, yes, Jerry Brown, and 
Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature. No obstruction out here. These headlines tell the story of California. "California faces a new quandary. Too much money", "Governor Jerry Brown credited with turning California around, changing national conversation", and "California comeback, Jerry Brown leads a turnaround."

Matthews then went on to quote leftist comedian Bill Maher in citing California as a liberal counter-example to the success of states led by Republican reformers such as Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas. But do the facts really support his claims? A quick look at the key economic indicators shows that Matthews & Maher’s claims are patently false :

            California’s state and local tax burden: Californians send 11.23% of their income to                 either Sacramento or their local government. Only four other states have a bigger tax bite.

California’s unemployment rate is: 8.9%, (higher than all but three states) and well above the national average of 7.3%

            California’s unfunded pension liability: $222.2 billion

California’s Cost of Government Day: Taxpayers in the Golden State have to work until July 22nd to pay for the cost of operating their state government, well over half the year and a full week after the national average of July 15th.

California’s Taxpayer Exodus: From the years 2000-2010, California has seen 1.2 million taxpayers flee the state, taking with them over $29 billion in income.

Despite what Matthews and Maher would like to believe, individuals, families, and employers have been voting with their feet and the results show that California’s progressive model produces a hostile tax and regulatory environment to start a business, find a job, and raise a family. In fact, the Republican controlled states derided as troglodyte alternatives to the progressive California model by Matthew and Maher are among the top destinations for California tax refugees. Out of those 1.2 million Californians who fled the Golden State during the last decade, 38,638 moved to North Carolina, taking with them $1.2 billion in income. Texas is the top recipient of those seeking asylum from California, with 225,111 California taxpayers having fled for the Lone Star State, taking $4.4 billion in income with them.

Unfortunately for Matthews and Maher, their gloating has zero basis in reality. It is no mistake that the top 3 states with the lowest unemployment rates in the nation are led by Republican governors. In addition, Forbes magazine recently released their “Best States for Business” list, and 11 of the top 15 states listed are guided by Republican chief executives. The fact is, on the state level, Republican Governors are leading the way in creating pro-growth tax and regulatory climates. 

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North Carolinians Seeing Severe "Rate Shock" Under Obamacare


Posted by Chris Buki on Thursday, October 10th, 2013, 3:26 PM PERMALINK


In the aftermath of Obamacare being rammed through Congress, President Obama repeatedly uttered the same refrain: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it’.  While his claims were found by many to be questionable at the time, practical experience has rendered those promises false as well.

A recent ‘fact check’ by the Associated Press called Obama’s claims “an empty promise” and also stated that “nothing in the health care law guarantees that people can keep the coverage they already have”.

Take the example of North Carolina, where many health insurance consumers are feeling the effects of rate shock as a result of Obamacare. In one instance, a family of four who previously purchased insurance through Blue Cross and Blue Shield, was notified that their $228 per month plan would be increasing by almost $1000, to $1,208 a month under Obamacare-- a whopping 428% increase!

The increases are not just limited to North Carolina, however.  Some of President Obama’s most ardent supporters in California have reported increases in their monthly premiums. In addition, the average healthy, 25 year old male will see a 93% increase in the amount they pay per month. According to a study by the American Action Forum, young people in all 50 states will see their premiums rise.

As a result of companies’ compliance with federal regulations, consumers are being accorded fewer and more expensive choices. As one Winston-Salem man who is facing a nearly $10,000 per year increase in his family's health insurance plan put it, “The president told us Obamacare would make health insurance affordable and reduce costs. It is now impossible for our family to afford private health insurance”. Not only are numerous consumers not allowed to keep their plans, the alternatives presented to them are unaffordable. North Carolinians should take a hard look at

Senator Kay Hagan, who provided the critical 60th vote to pass Obamacare in the United States Senate. They can thank her for the higher premiums and fewer options.

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