Elizabeth McKee

Seattle Gun Tax Results? Violence Goes Up While City Hides Tax Revenue Data

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Friday, June 23rd, 2017, 1:42 PM PERMALINK

Seattle shootings have increased by 30% since the imposition of a city-wide gun tax, according to local news station KOMO TV. In August 2015, the Seattle city council imposed a $25 tax on firearms and a 5 cent tax on ammunition.

As reported by KOMO:

The city has seen a 17 percent increase in the number of police calls about shots fired compared with last year. Thirty-five people have been shot in Seattle so far this year -- a 30 percent increase.

The city refuses to disclose how much revenue the gun tax has generated, saying only that it has raised “less than $200,000.” Before its passage, the city claimed the tax would squeeze $300,000 to $500,000 from citizens purchasing guns.

As reported by Fox News, the tax revenue amount could be much lower:

Seattle officials refuse to say how much the tax brought in the first year, only giving the number “under $200,000.” Gun rights groups have sued to get the exact amount.

But Mike Coombs, owner of Outdoor Emporium, the last large gun dealer left in Seattle, said the actual tax revenue is almost certainly just over $100,000, a figure based on information he says the city shared with his lawyers.

Coombs said storewide, sales are down 20 percent while gun sales have plummeted 60 percent.

“I’ve had to lay off employees because of this,” Coombs said. “It’s hurting us, it’s hurting our employees.”

The hefty taxes are driving gun shop owners out of the city. One businessman, Sergey Solyanik, was forced to close his shop and move 18 miles away to Lynnwood, Washington. Solyanik told local news website MyNorthwest, “In fact, there will be a net loss for this city. This location brings in roughly $50,000 in sales tax revenue, so that is all going to be gone next year. And there is not going to be any revenue from the (gun) tax.”

“The Left is now weaponizing tax policy in its drive to destroy the Second Amendment rights of all Americans,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

The Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, previously enacted a $1,000 gun tax, but a federal judge struck down the provision. The judge ruled, “The government need not arm the poor, but it cannot impose uncommon burdens on their ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights.”

As pointed out by Americans for Tax Reform throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton endorsed a 25% national gun tax. “I'm all for that. I just don't know what else we're going to do to try to figure out how to get some handle on this violence,” she said in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee in 1993. In June 2016 ABC’s George Stephanopoulos played the video of her endorsement and ask for her response. Clinton refused to disavow her gun tax endorsement.

The Seattle gun tax not only infringes upon Americans’ Second Amendment rights, it shows the futility of the progressive left’s view of taxation.

 

Photo credit: Andrew Malone

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Norquist: Georgia Victory Shows that Voters Support Tax Reform


Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Wednesday, June 21st, 2017, 4:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist appeared on Fox Business Network’s Mornings with Maria to discuss Speaker Ryan’s speech at the National Association of Manufacturers. Norquist affirmed that Republican electoral victories in Georgia and South Carolina will help Congress to pass tax reform by the end of the year:
 
Ryan’s talk yesterday was extremely important, but with the victories in the Georgia special election and the South Carolina special election, there was a huge exclamation mark on that speech because Ryan said, ‘here’s what we’re going to do,’ and then right behind him was the political strength to help make that easier to do.
 
According to Norquist, the House, Senate, and White House are largely unified on the key pillars of tax reform - including cutting the corporate rate. “They’re meeting regularly,” he reported. “They’re going to come up with a unified plan.”
 
“Every Republican is largely for every one of the tax cuts that’s being discussed,” said Norquist. “The only question is how many can fit in the box.”
 
Norquist noted that passing tax reform will help Republicans maintain their political momentum and continue to win elections in 2018. “Get this done and make it dramatically pro-growth. That’s the most important thing you can do if you want to get yourself re-elected.”
 
Victorious Republican Karen Handel signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to the taxpayers of Georgia to oppose tax increases. Democrat Jon Ossoff refused to sign the Pledge, leaving the door open to a tax hike if he had won. But he did not win at all.
 
Watch the full video here.

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Trump EPA Ends Taxpayer-Funded Gym Memberships

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Monday, June 19th, 2017, 5:20 PM PERMALINK

The Trump EPA under Scott Pruitt is ending taxpayer-funded gym memberships for agency employees. The move will save taxpayers $900,000 each year.

Documents brought to light earlier this year showed that the Obama-era EPA improperly purchased luxury gym memberships for agency employees. Americans for Tax Reform reported the EPA’s Las Vegas office used taxpayer funds to purchase $15,000 worth of gym memberships at 24 Hour Fitness for government employees.

Memberships included access to the gym’s “thousands of square feet of spectacular workout space, complete with premium gym equipment, unmatched amenities and some of the best studio classes around.”

As residents of Clark County, Las Vegas EPA employees already had – and still have -- access to UNLV’s state-of-the-art fitness center, which lifestyle magazine Vegas Seven named the “Best Fitness Center” in the city.

“We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year,” said Jahan Wilcox, EPA spokesperson. “Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment.”

The announcement underscores the Trump administration’s pledge to cut government waste and provide tax relief to millions of American families and businesses. Trump’s EPA budget proposal is $5.7 billion, a 31% budget reduction from the previous administration. In total, the Trump budget will reduce spending by $3.6 trillion over the next decade.

As noted by Pruitt on Fox and Friends, “It was the previous administration that granted those memberships.” Pruitt stated, “The key, with respect to how we restructure, is recognizing that Washington has become way too big.”

As reported today by E&E News, the EPA union bosses received a notice last week:

On Thursday, EPA union leaders received an email from an agency labor attorney saying the agency planned to stop funding for fitness subsidies and fitness centers by the end of next month.

"This serves as official notice that the agency will discontinue fitness subsidies and fitness center funding agency-wide, which will result in a savings of nearly $ 900K per year for the agency. Discontinuation of this funding is targeted for July 31, 2017," said the attorney in the email, which was obtained by E&E News.

Union officials expressed anger at the EPA notice.

ATR president Grover Norquist praised the move. “Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA has just saved American taxpayers $1 million each and every year. Kudos to him. Shame on the EPA bureaucrats who wasted taxpayer dollars. We need more leaders like Pruitt and fewer government employees who keep sticking their hands in the pocket of working Americans.”

 

 

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Grover Norquist and David McIntosh: Use a 25-Year Budget Window to Achieve Permanent Tax Reform

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Thursday, June 15th, 2017, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

How can taxpayers get permanent tax reform? ATR president Grover Norquist and Club for Growth president David McIntosh say Congress should use a 25-year budget window, an idea being championed in the Senate by Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Norquist and McIntosh write:

We say extend the budget window to 25 years. Why? Because the people creating jobs and investing in new products think long-term. Depreciation schedules for new plant and equipment often run to 25 years or more.

Lawmakers simply should write this year's budget to say that all tax cuts can last 25 years, which would allow rate reductions to go into effect now and be offset later with revenue from higher growth or spending restraint.

According to Norquist and McIntosh, there is no good reason why budget windows conventionally last 5, 7, or 10 years. They write:

The idea of modifying the time frame isn't new, and it certainly isn't radical. The budget window was expanded in fiscal year 1995 from five years to seven. Congress used the 10-year window for the first time in 2000, but then went back to five years again as recently as 2007.  

Together, Norquist and McIntosh have arrived at a proposal that may slice through the many obstacles to tax reform, unraveling a quagmire they liken to the legendary Gordian knot. “Extending the budget window to 25 years,” they write, “would cut the Gordian knot, unravel the Byrd rule, and allow serious tax reform to create millions of jobs in the years to come.”

Read the full op-ed here

 

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Norquist: GOP Tax Reform Will Change the World


Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Monday, June 12th, 2017, 12:51 PM PERMALINK

ATR president Grover Norquist appeared on CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield to tax reform. Norquist noted the establishment media has failed to mention that the House and Senate are meeting consistently, several times per week to advance tax reform.

Norquist said Trump and Congress are at a consensus on the major components of pro-growth tax reform:

This summer, this fall, by September, you'll have both the Obamacare repeal reform and significant tax reform. The consensus items are what's impressive: 15 or 20% corporate rate. 15 or 20% business taxes on people who pay through their individual taxes - the Subchapter S corporations or partnerships. A lot of small businesses pay taxes that way. The Death Tax - gone. The Alternative Minimum Tax – gone. Doubling the personal exemption for individuals and families.

Fredricka Whitfield, however, seemed doubtful that tax reform will pass. “Well, right, so those are the proposals. Those are the proposals.”

Norquist said: “Those are the ones the House, Senate, and the President agree on. “There are others where there isn’t agreement, but that alone, if you only pass those, it would change the world.”

Watch the full interview here.

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Seattle Passes Staggering New Beverage Tax Despite Opposition from Unions and Businesses

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017, 12:30 PM PERMALINK

The Seattle City Council voted this week to impose a tax on soda and other sugary beverages. Although the excise tax is targeted specifically at sodas, the tax would also affect the price of fruit juice, energy drinks, sweet tea, and even Seattle’s favorite drink: coffee.

Seattle will collect $0.21 cents for every can of soda sold within city limits, or $5.04 for every case (24 cans). The Tax Foundation notes that at 1.75 cents per ounce, Seattle’s new soda tax is eight times higher than Washington’s tax on beer.

The vote comes as a defeat for the 209 local business owners who petitioned the city council to reject the tax. In a letter, these business owners implored:

Your tax stands to increase wholesale costs by more than 60 percent, which wipes out any money we might make and need to survive. Many of the products covered by this proposed tax are products that contribute considerably to the daily revenue we rely upon to help our employees live in the communities where they work, and allow for an equitable lifestyle for themselves and their families.

If we pass on this regressive tax to our customers, it will dramatically raise the cost of groceries for working families who are already spending a large portion of their paychecks on increased rents, property taxes and car tabs. Under this proposal, the $.99 two liter bottle would increase to $2.35. This is a huge hit to anyone’s budget and ultimately makes Seattle even less affordable, especially for those located in minority communities.

The legislation made unlikely allies of business owners and labor unions, who recognize that beverage taxes kill jobs in convenience stores, restaurants, and other industries. Rick Hicks, the Treasury-Secretary of Teamsters Local 174, writes, “We at the Teamsters cannot and do not support a tax that will put hardworking members of our communities out of a job.”

In 2016, Philadelphia enacted a similar tax, voting to tax soda products at a rate of 1.5 cents per ounce. Although this tax was smaller than Seattle’s tax and did not affect juice, tea, or coffee products, the Philadelphia tax still caused some local businesses to lay off as many as 20% of their employees. Philadelphia business owner Jeff Brown told Bloomberg, “I would describe the impact as nothing less than devastating."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, however, is hopeful rather than fearful that the beverage tax will decrease consumer demand. In order to convince the city council to pass the legislation, Mayor Murray cited a Berkeley study that found soda taxes decrease soda sales by 10%. Apparently, Murray is unconcerned about how decreasing beverage demand will affect small business owners and their employees.

Perhaps the most onerous aspect of the new tax is the city council’s paternalistic attitude toward Seattle residents. By enacting a beverage tax, the city of Seattle has declared, “Citizens don’t know what’s good for themselves, so the government needs to change their behavior.” Certainly, there are healthier options than a Coke, an Arizona iced tea, or even a glass of Sunny D, but drinking these beverages affects only oneself. Along with costing jobs, imposing a beverage tax undermines individual agency by implying that personal nutrition is subject to government censure.

It is difficult to escape the irony of Seattle imposing a tax on Starbucks beverages. As the Tax Foundation’s Scott Drenkard tweeted:

 

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Norquist on Infrastructure: State and Local Governments Should Adopt Open Competition Laws Now

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017, 2:38 PM PERMALINK

Grover Norquist appeared as a panelist today at the 7th Annual Summit on the Economy, speaking on the topic of “Understanding Debt in the Context of Tax Reform and Economic Growth.” The panel included Maya MacGuineas and Richard Vague, and was moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s Gregory Ip.

Norquist urged governments to immediately adopt open competition laws. He pointed out that state and local regulations prohibit competition and drive up the cost of restoring American infrastructure. He explained:

“If you were to rebuild all the water pipes, both the sewage and clean water in the country, it’s about $1.3 trillion. There are laws that were passed over the last years in many cities and states that require, they say, ‘If you have pipes in our city, they have to be made of this material and they have to be this big.’ Other cities have open competition, they say, ‘Well, we’ll tell you what we need and how strong it has to be. We won’t tell you what to make it out of. We won’t tell you what company to buy it from. And we don’t tell you what industry is going to make a profit off of it.’

And when you look at cities that had open competition and compare them to ones with closed competition, to redo the whole country - the $1.3 trillion - you save about $380 billion by moving to open competition. So why would anybody consider spending a penny of federal money on infrastructure, on pipelines, when cities and states pass [these] laws . . . Laws which drive up the costs by 28% of fixing water pipes need to be repealed at the state and local level before anybody should ask the federal government for money.”

Norquist continued, “Let everybody compete. Don’t have these corporate welfare laws that are designed to advantage Fred over Mary . . . There’s a bunch of reform that needs to be done and there’s no reason not to do it. Why pay billions more for infrastructure than necessary?”

According to Norquist, both tax reform and deregulation are possible under the Trump administration. He asserted, “If you look at Trump’s picks for FCC, FDA, FERC, NLRB, there is a wave of deregulation that has been begun and will continue. That will be every bit as important to the economy as tax cuts.”

 

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Connecticut Considers New Tax Even as High Rates Cause Taxpayers to Flee

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Tuesday, June 6th, 2017, 12:08 PM PERMALINK

Connecticut’s wasteful spending and regular tax hikes have triggered an exodus from the state, with high-income earners fleeing to sunny, low-tax Florida. Tax revenues are falling, and even Democratic Governor Dan Malloy acknowledges that tax increases are no longer a solution to shrink the state’s runaway deficits. Nonetheless, state legislators plan to impose yet another new tax, and are deciding whether to install electronic tolls on Connecticut’s roads.

Although Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz has postponed debate on the bill twice already, Aresimowicz expects it to come up again in the state’s special legislative session.

The new tax is intended to offset reductions in gas tax receipts, which have been declining as cars become more fuel-efficient. Connecticut legislators fear that as electric cars become more popular, gas tax revenues will continue to decrease. However, the legislature has no plans to abolish the $0.40/gallon tax. Along with the new toll, Connecticut drivers will continue to pay the sixth-highest gas tax in the country.

Other Connecticut taxes, too, are among the highest in the nation; Connecticut collects the second-highest state and local taxes per capita, taking in an average of $2,172 per person. According to the Tax Foundation, the state also has the ninth-highest property taxes, the third-highest cigarette taxes, and is the only state with a gift tax.

People vote with their feet, and this onslaught of taxation is causing Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens to run, not walk, from the state. Surveys show that more people are leaving Connecticut than arriving, and retirees make up 21% of this outbound migration. Forbes reports:

Instead of remaining in Connecticut and putting much of their wealth into government coffers, many wealthy families are electing to move to one of the 36 states that does not have an estate tax – or to one of the 49 states that does not have a gift tax.

Connecticut is home to business moguls like Ray Dalio and Steven Cohen, whose combined annual income reaches over $2 billion. The New York Times writes:

Kevin B. Sullivan, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services, said about five or six of the highest earners could have a “measurable impact on the revenue stream” . . . He said the state was holding discussions with other top earners in hopes of keeping them.

Connecticut’s current fiscal year, which ends this month, will conclude with a $400 billion deficit. Budget shortfalls have prompted Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch to downgrade Connecticut’s credit rating.

In the face of this crisis, the worst decision Connecticut lawmakers can make is to create yet another new tax.

Senator L. Scott Frantz, a Greenwich Republican, told the Hartford Courant tolls are unpopular in his district. "People do not like them in our neck of the woods, especially because we're close to the border,'' Frantz said. "They don't like the idea. They think it's another tax.”

 

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Grover Norquist Educates “Science Guy” Bill Nye about the Real Costs of Paris Climate Deal


Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Thursday, June 1st, 2017, 5:05 PM PERMALINK

Grover Norquist appeared on MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle today to debate the Paris climate accord with Bill Nye, the self-proclaimed “Science Guy.”

Norquist explained the agreement benefits foreign countries at the expense of American workers:

The 190 countries you’re talking about, a great many of them are going to be receiving cash, American tax dollar cash, which they get because they voted for the plan and if they say the right things politically. So why would you be surprised that third-world dictatorships around the globe say, ‘let’s do it – because you’re paying us.’

[Europe] made a decision to increase their own costs of energy. They don’t want a more competitive United States. And China, which is building 350 new coal plants and has plans for another 800 because they’re not hamstrung by this agreement. China would love to see us shackle ourselves to the desk and not be able to compete. Europe would prefer that we not compete. Everyone’s interests are quite in line except for American workers’.

A study by NERA Economic Consulting found compliance with the Paris agreement would cost the United States 6.5 million jobs by 2040. The agreement would drive up energy prices, leading to a $5,000 loss in annual income for every household in America.

Nye, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, ridiculed the argument that national resources might be better spent securing American jobs than complying with the Paris agreement. He implored, “Climate change affects us tomorrow. Climate change affects everyone in the world because we all share the air.”

In fact, an MIT report found that even if all of the commitments of the Paris agreement are upheld, those pledges will only prevent 0.2°C of warming. The Paris agreement, it seems, is a costly plan that fails to make any significant impact on the climate.

Grover Norquist emphasized that while we may all share the air, we do not all share the costs of the Paris agreement. He remarked:

According to this treaty, Chinese and Indian coal doesn’t seem to affect anything because they’re not limited. We’re signing an agreement that handcuffs ourselves. This is not reasonable.

Watch the full clip here.

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CBO Uses Failed Model to Score AHCA

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017, 3:33 PM PERMALINK

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis for the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) predicts that the legislation will reduce taxes by $992 billion over the decade, a big win for taxpayers. The CBO score also says that 23 million will lose health insurance in the next decade, however CBO has a history of failure when it comes to predicting health coverage. Over the past few years, the CBO model has proven to be highly flawed as they previously overstated the number of Obamacare enrollees by over 100% (or 12 million Americans). Bizarrely, the CBO continues to use the same failed model to evaluate the AHCA.

In 2012, the CBO estimated that by 2017, 25 million Americans would enroll in Obamacare. The actual number of plans selected in that time was less than half the CBO’s projection, totaling just 12.2 million. Even the 12.2 million number likely overstates the success of Obamacare as this number included enrollees that failed to pay their health care premiums.


 

Moreover, the CBO does not use the actual number of Obamacare enrollees (approximately 12.2 million) to determine how many people will lose coverage under the AHCA. Instead, it bases its analysis on the CBO 2016 enrollment prediction for 2018 (18 million).

As ATR President Grover Norquist explains, CBO’s numbers differ greatly from reality: “they're counting the numbers who lose health care from numbers that don't exist. They're really working off of their own previous lousy numbers, which they haven't fixed."

If the CBO report were correct, millions more people would lose health insurance in one year with the AHCA than gained health insurance over the many years of Obamacare. This result is illogical and clearly inaccurate.

Previous scores by the CBO, too, have vastly overstated the number of Americans who would lose coverage as a result of Obamacare repeal. Avik Roy, President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, argues in Forbes Magazine that the CBO overemphasizes the role of the individual mandate in a person’s decision to enroll in health insurance. Roy writes:

CBO on the other hand believes that, due to the AHCA’s repeal of the individual mandate, 14 million people would choose to go uninsured in 2018, and 16 million in 2019. Of the 14 million accounted for in the 2018 figure, 6 million would drop out of the individual market, 5 million from Medicaid, and 2 million from employer-based coverage.

Remember that Medicaid is basically free to the eligible enrollee. There are no premiums, and almost no co-pays or deductibles. The value of the Obamacare Medicaid subsidy is about $6,000 per enrollee per year. And yet, CBO believes that 5 million people will only enroll in Medicaid because the individual mandate forces them to. Given the difficulties in enforcing the mandate for low-income populations, this is highly unlikely.

Roy estimates that the CBO’s famed estimate that 24 million people would lose health insurance under the AHCA may be off by as many as 19 million people.

According to a report by Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), the CBO makes other vital miscalculations affecting their health care predictions. The report notes:

CBO’s misplaced belief in the power of the individual mandate to compel young and healthy people into markets has caused them to underestimate premium hikes. Early state filings for 2018 have reflected increases of 20-50%, while the CBO baseline projected a much more stable exchange market. The CBO uses this assumption to claim that AHCA premiums will be higher over the next two years.”

The CBO ignores the fact that premiums are increasing under the status quo system of Obamacare, instead misattributing these higher rates to the AHCA.

In fact, the average premium for an individual has increased by 105% since 2013.

Year after year, the observed effects of Obamacare continue to shock and surprise the experts at the CBO. To quote the DHS report:

The Congressional Budget Office is full of great, hardworking folks. But that doesn’t change the fact that they were wrong about Obamacare and they are wrong now. We shouldn’t base our treatment plan on a failed diagnosis, and the CBO’s projections on Obamacare have all been pretty far off the mark.

 

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