Jorge Marin

Minnesota Lawmakers Aim to Sack Taxpayers

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, April 14th, 2014, 10:46 AM PERMALINK


Although the roof collapsed at the Minnesota Viking’s former stadium,that has not stopped blitzing lawmakers from trying to raise the roof on taxes.

Minnesota lawmakers have decided to tap into NFL fans for more revenue. House Bill 7173 was introduced into the state House of Representatives last week. The measure would impose a 50 percent gross receipts tax on “the sale of stadium builder’s or seat licenses in the stadium.”

The 2013 law being amended with this bill taxed the rental of suites and skyboxes at 10 percent. Hungry for more money, now, individually licensed seats throughout stadium would be taxed at 50 percent. Sadly, not even the gridiron is safe from greedy politicians.

Far from being a cash-strapped state, Minnesota has the 7th highest state and local tax burden in the nation according to the Tax Foundation. However, rather than trying to boost the competitiveness of their state, legislators are seeking even more revenue to line Saint Paul’s pockets. In one of the most uncompetitive tax environments nationally this is clearly unsportsmanlike conduct.

While states across the country are getting serious about their own tax rates, Minnesota must stop playing games with their tax and spend policies before residents decide to take their hard earned money to where it will be more respected. Already Wisconsin has used its surplus to cut rates and Tennessee is poised to eliminate the last vestiges of their income tax altogether. Clearly these states have the future growth of their communities in mind.

In a year with a budget surplus, it’s incomprehensible that legislators would look to raise taxes on football fans instead of exercising more fiscal restraint.  ATR urges Minnesotans to contact their representatives and oppose this ridiculous attempt at extracting more money from taxpayers. Please contact your legislator at 651-296-8338 to voice your opposition to this unfair tax hike.

Photo Credit: TBoard

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ATR Supports Right to Work Legislation in Missouri

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, April 4th, 2014, 4:18 PM PERMALINK


The Missouri House of Representatives is considering legislation to allow Missourians the opportunity to decide whether to enact right to work measures in their state. The economic data has repeatedly shown the benefits of allowing workers the opportunity to work without having to contribute or participate in an organization in which they do not wish to.

Americans for Tax Reform supports House Bill 1770 and recently sent a letter to the Missouri House of Representatives where the bill is being considered.

"Dear Members of the Missouri House of Representatives,

I am writing to you today to express my strong support of House Bill 1770. This bill, introduced by Representative Eric Burlison and co-sponsored by Speaker Tim Jones, would empower workers to choose where they want to work without being forced to join a union. Voters would be allowed to decide on the question for themselves in a ballot referendum...

There are twenty-four states which have adopted right to work, by continuing to postpone this initiative Missouri risks being left behind by its neighbors. The economic benefits of these right to work states are many and well documented. Right to work states have shown a 42.6 percent gain in employment from 1990 to 2011 according to the Bureau of labor statistics. During that same period non-right-to-work states gained only 18.8 percent. In the midst of this the Show-Me-State has lagged behind every Midwestern state economically...

It is time to allow Missourians to assert their own worker rights. During the current jobless economy legislators should be doing everything in their power to give their constituents the tools they need to grow their state and decide on their own representation. For this reason it falls to the Missouri General Assembly to act on behalf of the workers of Missouri beholden to whims of state unions. Today I urge you to support HB 1770, a bill which would show solidarity to Missourian laborers. Americans for Tax Reform will be educating your constituents as to how their representatives in the Senate vote on this important matter.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist"

Photo Credit: B, K & G

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Natural Gas Boom leads to Population Explosion in Midwest

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 31st, 2014, 2:45 PM PERMALINK


The natural gas boom is predictably creating a population boom in the mid-west. The dramatic upsurge of American natural gas has created a rush into states like Texas, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The effects of energy development are well documented, in addition to reducing carbon emissions in the long run, natural gas also reduces the cost of keeping families warm, and raises household incomes. It then comes as little surprise that natural gas is now helping states grow and prosper demographically. 

According to a report from the Census Bureau “Oil- and gas-rich areas in and near the Great Plains contained many of the fastest-growing areas in the U.S. last year”. While the effects of an oil boom are not unexpected, it is always inspiring to witness the creative force of free enterprise and its effects on communities. In essence, the population growth is a manifestation of American resilience and ingenuity in the face of the existential need to provide for ourselves.

In fact, six out of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas were “within or near the Great Plains”. The amazing thing about this is that the growth is coming accompanied with new high-tech drilling and extraction jobs and the added tax revenue to boot. Unfortunately not all states are interested in cheap energy, a growing economy, and an expanding tax base.

States like New York have decided not to pursue energy friendly policies which would help New Yorkers. With the moratorium of hydraulic fracturing, the Empire State will not be able to experience the economic benefits of natural gas until at least 2015. Meanwhile, New York has also experienced sluggish population growth, so slow that it is expected to fall behind Florida in the coming years. This recent growth, however, has not upset a longstanding trend of decline. Between the years 2000 and 2010 New York lost a net 1.6 million residents just in out migration.

Hopefully the residents of New York will see the energy revolution taking place across the country and seek to unleash their state’s latent resources. The fires of innovation will burn somewhere in the nation no matter what, it is simply in the classic spirit of American entrepreneurship. The question will be where it will manifest and with what intensity. As the benefits of natural gas compound, let’s hope that the communities willing to embrace this revolutionary technology will multiply alongside them.

Photo Credit: Paul Ealing 2011

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Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion Rejected in Maine...For Now

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Saturday, March 29th, 2014, 5:00 AM PERMALINK


Maine staved off a fiscally disastrous Medicaid expansion recently this week with a slim margin in the legislature. Though the bill to expand the program passed the Maine House of Representatives, it garnered only 97 votes; one less than the required two-thirds majority needed to override Governor LePage’s veto. It seems the Governor is the final levy against increased dependency rates in Maine, but Republican defections could soon allow Democrats to bypass the veto.

Democrats also failed to gain the two votes needed for a super majority in the Senate.

To make matters worse for state Democrats, a recent poll showed that the more Maine taxpayers find out about Medicaid expansion, the more they oppose it. According to the poll, 50 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of Republicans would be less likely to support expansion once they were made aware of the fact that expansion was being paid for with $716 billion dollars in cuts to seniors’ Medicare coverage. This is just another example of politicians ramming through legislation which the common Mainer does not want.

With Strong (but not veto-proof) majorities in both chambers, Democrats can simply bide their time and keep voting on expansion while Republicans feel pressure to vote for expansion.

Unfortunately, Maine already ranks among the most welfare-dependent state in the Union. A 2012 Maine Heritage Policy Center report reveals that just between 2003 and 2010, Maine’s welfare enrollment jumped 70%. Sadly the trend will only be exacerbated with Medicaid expansion, which would ignore the root structural causes of poverty in Maine.

There are currently 21 states that have rejected Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. Though Democrats sought to force Medicaid expansion on all taxpayers and state government budgets, the Supreme Court rejected the mandate, giving states a decision. Budget-conscious legislators and Republican governors have demanded reform first as a prerequisite to any discussion about expanding a program that is swallowing state budgets.  

The upcoming November elections will provide Mainers an opportunity to send a message to state lawmakers who would play political games with the state’s finances. It’s time to show support to Senators and Representatives who stand up for fiscal responsibility.

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Is This the End of Obamacare’s Individual Mandate? Administration Continues to Test the Constitution

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 13th, 2014, 3:09 PM PERMALINK


A recent rule change by the HHS may signal the beginning of the end of the controversial Individual Mandate. The Wall Street Journal reports

“That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.”

It seems like the administration is ramping up its constitutionally dubious delays. Though the current administration has gone through great lengths to assure the American people of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, their recent slew of delays and exemptions suggest that the HHS is itself unsure of how to implement the law. The possible opt out appears to work in a criteria not much stricter than the honor system, people can exempt themselves if they

“believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable."

While it is still unclear how this rule change would be implemented, and whether it would constitute a practical delay in the individual mandate, the apparent lack of coherent policy does not speak well for the health insurance overhaul. There is also speculation that a possible Mandate delay might be linked to the dismal insurance registration estimates.

“The answers are the implementation fiasco and politics. HHS revealed Tuesday that only 940,000 people signed up for an ObamaCare plan in February, bringing the total to about 4.2 million, well below the original 5.7 million projection. The predicted "surge" of young beneficiaries isn't materializing even as the end-of-March deadline approaches, and enrollment decelerated in February.”

Meanwhile HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is emphatic in her denial of an individual mandate delay. The Hill reports that during a hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) questioned the possibility of a delay:

“Given the problems caused by ObamaCare's faulty website last year, Brady asked Sebelius directly if delays to the individual mandate or enrollment deadline would be next.”

“No, sir,” Sebelius responded.”

While she seems adamant in her defense of deadlines and rules, the fact remains that Obamacare’s implementation has suffered delays, setbacks, exemptions, and waivers far exceeding the parameters of the original law. Simply put, there is a strong case to be made that a president in such blatant disregard of the law is acting unconstitutionally. Even though the Secretary is adamant in her defense of HHS policy, Republican lawmakers already seem to smell blood in the water

In other words, the administration is moving in a quasi-repeal in which the mandate stands, but anyone can opt out of it by checking a box. What remains even less clear than the mechanisms of the opt-out is the economic health of the entire house of cards that is Obamacare. Without the individual mandate (harmful as it is) there is no way to ensure the survivability of the American Health Care Industry.

There is at least one benefit from this fracas: at least Representative Pelosi is starting to find out what is in the bill which cost her the House.

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ATR urges Tennessee Lawmakers to Reject Hotel Tax Hike, End Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 13th, 2014, 10:10 AM PERMALINK


Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax reform, sent a letter to Tennessee lawmakers in support of HB 2293 and in opposition of HB 2506. HB 2293 would allow county officials to end the practice of using taxpayer dollars to hire the very lobbyists who push for tax increases while HB 2506 would increase the cost of travel by permitting a 20 percent increase in local hotel occupancy taxes. The bills are currently pending in committee. The text of the letter is as follows:

 

Dear Members of the Tennessee House,

I write today regarding HB 2293 & HB 2506, two bills of importance to Tennessee taxpayers. I urge you to support HB 2293, legislation that allows a county commission or appropriate taxing authority to eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying from school board budgets. I urge you to oppose HB 2506, a bill that would permit a 20 percent increase in local hotel occupancy taxes.

Taxes already make up far too high of a proportion of the cost of travel. Taxes currently account for a whopping 39% of the cost of the average hotel stay. HB 2903 would increase the tax burden associated with travel at a time when legislators should be looking to go in the opposite direction by reducing taxes and mitigating the negative impact they have on the Tennessee economy.

Speaking of tax increases, often the biggest proponents of higher taxes are taxpayer-funded lobbyists. HB 2293 would allow county officials to put a stop the odious practice of using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists. This is a common sense piece of legislation that lawmakers should approve before adjourning the 2014 session.

Over the past several years, Tennesseans have seen over 20 new or higher federal taxes imposed on them from Washington. In light of this, it is imperative now more than ever that the legislators in Nashville not pile on with further tax increases. As such, I urge you to reject HB 2506, the bill to permit local option hotel tax hikes; and support HB 2293, much-needed legislation that would allow country officials to end the dubious use of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists.

Americans for Tax Reform will be educating your constituents as to how their representatives in the legislature vote on these important matters. If you have any questions or if ATR can be of assistance, please contact Patrick Gleason, ATR’s director of state affairs, at pgleason@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

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Tennessee Lawmakers Get Behind Investment Income Tax Phase Out

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 10th, 2014, 3:55 PM PERMALINK


Tennessee may soon join the exclusive club of states without an income tax. Though it does not tax wage income, the Volunteer State does levy a six percent tax on dividend and interest income, known as the Hall Tax.

The charge to remove the Hall Tax, the biggest fiscal impediment preventing the state from reaching its full economic potential, is being led by State Senator Mark Green & Rep. Charles Sargent, who chairs the House Finance Committee. At press conference last week at the state capitol in Nashville, Sen. Green & Rep. Sargent unveiled a bill to repeal the Hall Tax over six years.

The Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper was on hand at last week’s press conference and reported on the compromise amended legislation that will be the vehicle that moves forward through the legislative process between now and session’s end next month:

“When the history of the Hall tax is written, the beginning of the end will be today,” said Senator Green. “Green…will sponsor Senate Bill 1427, while state Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, will sponsor the bill’s companion in the House, HB 1367.”

Also on hand at last week’s press conference was Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, who explained why it is imperative for TN to become a true no income tax state in 2014:

"We have no income tax in eight states, and there's sort of no income tax in Tennessee. You want to be competitive, and the other states are going to zero now," Norquist said, according to WPLN. "The guys in Kansas will be in zero, before the Hall tax goes away. North Carolina will be in zero -- under this bill -- before the Hall tax goes away."

Norquist reminded legislators of the fiscal competition coming from other states and that now is no time for Tennessee legislators to rest on their laurels if they don’t want to be surpassed by their neighbors:

"Getting rid of the Hall Tax is an extremely important message - not just an important thing for businesses or individuals looking to stay in Tennessee or move to Tennessee, but the rest of the states are looking at this and making decisions on following in this direction.”

Committee hearings on the Hall Tax repeal bill are expected later this month. ATR will be testifying in favor of the repeal and will continue to encourage TN legislators to support Sen. Green & Rep. Sargent’s consensus bill. For more information on how the Hall Tax hurts the Tennessee economy and whom it affects, read this recent Forbes column by ATR’s Patrick Gleason. Stayed tuned to ATR.org for more updates on this important matter as it moves through the legislative process.

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An Open Letter to The First Lady


Posted by Jorge Marin on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014, 2:30 PM PERMALINK


Dear First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama,

Allow me to introduce myself; I am a twenty-something male in college. Recently it has come to my attention that you did an interview with Jimmy Fallon in which you made a sales pitch to young men and women on behalf of the president’s titular health insurance law.

It is understandable that you would be in the front line of efforts to recruit as many young and healthy people into this massive Rube Goldberg contraption of Brobdinganian proportions, but I must take exception at some insinuations you made about my oft stereotyped demographic.

Firstly, It does seem odd that the generation which is single handedly responsible for the greatest expansion of U.S. debt to be calling any other generation “knuckleheads”. Yes, I will admit I have said YOLO once or twice to my considerable shame, but at least my finances are in order. And though there is a bit of a student debt problem among my fellow alumni, you must know perfectly well that most of our collective debt does not come from our degrees.

But I digress.

Let us get to the essence of the matter. The reason you are beseeching us to sign up is because you need us. It is easy to pretend that our bar stool-dancing and our unrefined kitchen skills make us as likely to hurt ourselves as a herd of lemmings. The reality is that we are healthier, and need less medical attention than other groups. So you need one of the poorest (and healthiest) groups in the nation to help subsidize older, presumably less knuckleheaded folks.

And as for the concept of staying on our parent’s insurance, that’s nice, but really we just want those jobs the administration has been promising for the better part of a decade so that we can pay for our own coverage. If we want to.

So please, I know you are not suddenly going to advocate for repeal, but at least take us a bit more seriously. We are not just some impressionable group of basement dwellers who crave free insurance from the government. We want our fair shake.

I would write a bit more on the subject but there is a certain bar stool downtown which is in serious need of a dancing twenty-something,

My Most Sincere Regards,

Disgruntled Knucklehead

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The Clock is ticking on IRS Regulations


Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 17th, 2014, 1:59 PM PERMALINK


The deadline for the IRS’s rule changes is looming closer and closer and the din and clamor in Capitol Hill is becoming deafening. Left of center groups are increasingly joining the chorus of conservative voices outraged over the most recent power grab by the nation’s taxman.

At the center of the fracas are the much-talked about 501(c)(4) groups, social welfare groups which have taken an active role in educating the public about candidates and issues relevant to today’s complex political ecosystem. Under rules in place for decades, as long as the net spending of these groups is devoted to “charitable, educational, or recreational purposes,” then they are allowed to operate under a tax exempt status. Unfortunately it appears that the IRS is not interested in political education in the least. Since many of these groups focus on analyzing current policy and informing the public on issues which directly affect them, they are bound to reveal information or highlight issues which may be detrimental to current political leaders.

This is why in 2013 it was revealed that the IRS had been systematically targeting and harassing 501(c)(4) groups which the agency perceived to have a tea party slant. Unfortunately as egregious as it was to hound and suppress the free speech of dozens of groups, the hammer of justice has failed to fall on any officials involved in the fiasco. Under the excuse that the current regulations are “confusing”, the IRS seeks to evade any legal repercussions. Furthermore, what the IRS sought to do through stealth and subterfuge it is now attempting to codify into law—a plan it turns out has been in the works, in secret, since well before the first IRS scandal broke

At risk are nation-wide Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, which under the rule changes would be considered unacceptable political activity. As unpartisan and beneficial as they are, voter registration drives would be sacrificed at the altar of corruption and intimidation. If only for this reason, all Americans from all sides of the spectrum should stand up in opposition to this anti-democratic crack-down.

But this is not all that would be considered contrary to 501(c)(4) primary purposes. Essentially any communication about anyone who will be a candidate for election or appointment in either a primary or general election anywhere within a particular window within 60 days would meet the ire of the new IRS.

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have also come out against the IRS out of fear that the new rules “would present a serious chill on free speech.” When left and right come together against an issue, policy makers should take note.

Law makers have taken note of the issue and have begun to act. H.R. 3865 has just passed the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives in what appears to be a positive step towards preserving American’s right of free speech. This bill would prevent the IRS from changing the rules for a year. Though it is not a concrete solution to the problem, it begins to move the discussion in the right direction.

February 27th: this is the day that the hammer will drop. Contact your representatives, contact the IRS, make sure that the law continues to protect citizens and non-profits from an increasingly political agency.

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Obama IRS Openly Prepares to Silence Conservative Grassroots Groups


Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 3rd, 2014, 4:03 PM PERMALINK


As the 2014 Congressional elections loom over DC, the IRS has proposed new rules which would muzzle hundreds of grassroots groups. In a controversial move, the Internal Revenue Service will redefine certain criteria for what defines a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt activity in order to eliminate their place in the public square, and in the words of House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), “[put] tea party groups out of business.”

According to the IRS’s own website, groups “qualify for exemption under section 501(c)(4), [if] the organization's net earnings [are] devoted primarily to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.” This allows a myriad of citizen groups to educate their communities about issues which would affect them. Because of these activities, citizens can research laws and disseminate the information for free to those who might be impacted by the policies.

But with the proposed changes, organizations would lose their tax exempt status if they continued to spend sizable parts of their budget on the most basic civic activities. Among these activities are:

  • Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.
  • Distribution of any material prepared by, or on behalf of, a candidate or, by a section 527 political organization (PAC).
  • Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).
  • Holding any event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which any candidate appears as part of the program.

Under these criteria, any effort to educate the public about candidates, or the laws being passed by legislatures would be construed as “political activity” and will be used to suppress the free speech of social welfare groups. Candidate debates, although they are useful to the general public, would be shut down in a Machiavellian attempt to prevent ideologically inconvenient groups from threatening the government’s agenda.

However, though the rule changes do not specifically mention conservative groups, right leaning groups will be affected disproportionately because they are organized under the affected section of the tax code, 501(c)(4). 501(c)(5) groups, what unions file under, will see no change in their status and will be allowed to continue in their blatant political activism. In a press release, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had this to say about the situation:

“The fact that the Administration’s new effort only applies to social welfare organizations — and not powerful unions or business groups — underscores that this is a crass political effort by the Administration to get what political advantage they can, when they can.”

February 27th is the last day for public comment on the changes, and after that, there is nothing stopping the IRS from adopting these unfair rule changes that will suppress the main activities of thousands of activist groups.-

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