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Joshua Culling

Wisconsin Democrats' Lump of Coal


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010, 3:27 PM PERMALINK


There is perhaps no state more emblematic of the Republican wave we saw this election cycle than Wisconsin. Republicans flipped control of both chambers of the state legislature from the Democrats. They replaced liberal Democrat Jim Doyle with Governor-elect Scott Walker. And they knocked off Sen. Russ Feingold and now control the majority of the state's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Democratic Leadership in the legislature was not just relegated to minority status. Neither Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker or House Speaker Mike Sheridan will be returning next year at all. Both were defeated for re-election.

But that's not stopping Legislative Democrats and outgoing Gov. Doyle from sticking it to taxpayers and incoming Republican lawmakers one last time. Today, Leader Decker and Speaker Sheridan convened a lame duck session to ratify a number of public employee union contracts on their way out the door.

This is shameful. The state budget is $3.3 billion in the red, and voters elected Scott Walker and Republican majorities in the legislature to part ways with the Jim Doyle approach to budgeting. Gov. Walker will need maximum flexibility to deal with Wisconsin's overspending problem, and this sour grapes approach ties his hands significantly. More to the point, they are willfully ignoring the mandate voters gave Walker to fundamentally change the way state government does business.

This means paring down the government payroll and revisiting collective bargaining for public employees. It means reforming the way the state provides health and pension benefits to government workers. And most importantly, it means recognizing that spending, not revenue, is the problem in Wisconsin. Scott Walker acknowledged this when he signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and voters reaffirmed it when they elected him governor.

Rep. Rich Zipperer, ATR's Taxpayer Protection Caucus Chair in the Wisconsin House and incoming Senator, said as much in today's Waukesha Freeman:

Having been rejected by the voters, Governor Doyle, legislative leaders and the state unions have now cut a deal, one that they say is inconsequential and does little more than ratify the current state employee pay and benefit schedules. The lame-duck Legislature is scheduled to be in extraordinary session, a very rare occurrence, on Wednesday to vote on the contracts. What the lame-duck leaders fail to understand, however, is that the status quo is what is wrong with state government – and approving these contracts in a lame-duck session is a slap in the face to the will of the voters who cast their ballots just one month ago.

ATR came out in support of Governor-elect Walker and the incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker last week in calling for Democrats to hold off on a lame duck session. Instead, they opted to ignore the will of the voters and ram unnecessary and harmful union contracts through the legislature on their way out the door.

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ATR Urges Decker, Sheridan to Forego Lame Duck Session in Wisconsin


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, 10:02 AM PERMALINK


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ATR President Grover Norquist sent a letter to Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan urging them to forego a potential lame duck session of the legislature to consider union contracts. Wisconsin faces a $3.3 billion overspending problem that Governor-elect Walker and the future Republican legislature must tackle in the New Year. Hasty action by the outgoing Democratic legislature would only tie their hands.

In addition to opposing all tax increases as a matter of principle, ATR has been a leader in promoting transparency and accountability in government. In the letter, Norquist slammed the lack of openness in the contracts, praising Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Alberta Darling for their request that all contracts be posted online to allow taxpayers to evaluate the proposals. 

An excerpt from Norquist’s letter follows:

“I am writing to express grave concerns about a potential lame duck session to consider public employee contracts. With Wisconsin’s $3.3 billion overspending problem, this is certainly an inopportune time to tie the hands of the governor-elect and the next legislature. I urge you to consider the concerns of Governor-elect Scott Walker, Speaker-elect Jeff Fitzgerald and Senate Majority Leader-elect Scott Fitzgerald and call off any talk of a lame duck session.

“While union officials claim there are no pay increases in the contracts, taxpayers cannot be certain that other sweeteners and costly provisions will not be included. Governor-elect Scott Walker and the next state legislature need every option available to them to eliminate the hole in the state budget and get Madison’s fiscal house in order. Back room deals with public employee unions present a barrier to that goal.”

ATR maintains the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment by elected officials to their constituents never to raise taxes. Gov.-elect Walker joins 21 members of the Wisconsin Legislature and 6 members of the state’s Congressional delegation in having signed the Pledge.

For a copy of ATR's letter, click here.

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ATR Finds Lower Taxes, Less Government in States Gaining Congressional Seats


Posted by Joshua Culling on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010, 1:49 PM PERMALINK


PDF Copy.

A study by Americans for Tax Reform compared states gaining and losing Congressional seats in the decennial reapportionment process and found that states gaining seats had significantly lower taxes, less government spending, and were more likely to have “Right to Work” laws in place. Because reapportionment is based on population migration, this is further proof that fiscally conservative public policy spurs economic growth, creates jobs, and attracts population growth.

There are eight states projected to gain at least one Congressional seat. Texas will gain four seats and Florida will gain two. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington are poised to gain one seat each. The biggest losers will be New York and Ohio – both projected to lose two seats – while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are on track to lose one seat each.

The average top personal income tax rate among gainers is 116 percent lower than among losers. The total state and local tax burden is nearly one-third lower, as is per capita government spending. In eight of ten losers, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. In 7 of the 8 gainers, workers are given a choice whether to join or contribute financially to a union. The details of ATR’s study follow:

 

Average Top Personal Income Tax Rate

Per Capita State and Local Tax Burden

Per Capita Government

Spending

Percentage Right to Work States

Reapportionment Gainers

2.8 percent

$3,519

$4,008

87.5 percent

Reapportionment Losers

 

6.05 percent

$4,534

$5,117

20 percent

Difference

116 percent

$1,015

$1,109

67.5 percent


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ATR Congratulates Governor LePage


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 5:51 PM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform congratulates Governor-elect Paul LePage on Tuesday’s historic electoral victories in Maine. LePage has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise to oppose all tax increases. He has made a written commitment to constituents to solve Maine’s budget problems while taking the threat of tax increases entirely off the table.

LePage joins 36 Pledge signers in the state legislature. With Maine’s budget $1 billion in the red, a number of tax increases have been floated in recent months. Those proposals are now effectively off the table.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“Until you take tax increases definitively off the table, spending restraint and reform is impossible. That has sadly been the case for years in Maine, as taxes have been on the perpetual rise to fund Augusta’s overspending problem. With the election of Paul LePage, those days are officially over.

“This is a historic occasion for Maine. Paul has promised to engage in an adult conversation with Mainers about what government can afford, with the understanding that taxpayers can no longer afford state government. Maine’s tax climate has put it at a competitive disadvantage with other states when it comes to jobs, population, and economic growth.

“Now the hard work begins. I urge Gov. LePage to act on serious reforms such as reining in Maine’s out-of-control government employee compensation, eliminating forced unionization mandates, and enacting commonsense tax relief. I am confident that when we look back on Maine’s economic resurgence, we will point to the conservative leadership of Paul LePage as its impetus.”

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ATR Congratulates Governor Kasich, Speaker Batchelder


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 4:03 PM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform congratulates Governor-elect John  Kasich and House Speaker-elect Bill Batchelder on Tuesday’s historic electoral victories in Ohio. Both Kasich and Batchelder have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise to oppose all tax increases. They have made a written commitment to constituents to work together in solving Ohio’s budget crisis while taking the threat of tax increases entirely off the table.

Kasich and Batchelder join 22 Pledge signers in the state legislature. With Ohio’s budget $8 billion in the red, a number of tax increases have been floated in recent months. Those proposals are now effectively off the table.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“Until you take tax increases definitively off the table, spending restraint and reform is impossible. That has sadly been the case for years in Ohio, as taxes have been on the perpetual rise to fund Columbus’s overspending problem. With the election of John Kasich and the elevation of Bill Batchelder to Speaker of the House, those days are officially over

“Kasich and Batchelder, along with 14 newly elected Pledge signers in the state House, have been elected with a mandate to get government under control without raising taxes. It is a commitment voters take very seriously: The only incumbent in Ohio to break his Pledge and vote for Ted Strickland’s income tax hike was defeated soundly on Tuesday.

“Now the hard work begins. I urge Gov. Kasich and Speaker Batchelder to act on serious reforms such as reining in Ohio’s out-of-control government employee compensation, eliminating forced unionization mandates, and abolishing the state’s job-killing estate tax. I am confident that when we look back on Ohio’s economic resurgence, we will point to the conservative leadership of John Kasich and Bill Batchelder as its impetus.”

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Washington Voters to Unions: No. Again.


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 3:02 PM PERMALINK


While we wait for final results in the Washington Senate race, we are certain of one thing: Voters there have no interest in implementing an income tax.

Initiative 1098, which would have instituted a state income tax for the first time, was pummeled by a 2-to-1 margin. Pushing the measure as a tax increase on wealthy people (it would have kicked in at $200,000 of income) proved unsuccessful, as voters correctly viewed I-1098 as a "foot in the door" to substantial broadening and rate increases down the road. The federal top rate of 7 percent in 1913 looks pretty enticing right about now.

The Tax Foundation notes that this is the seventh time Washington voters have rejected an income tax. If that's not a clear refutation in the face of millions of dollars of union spending, I'm not sure what is.

And it should be noted that of the 22 six-figure contributions to the pro-tax effort, 17 of them came from labor unions.

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ATR Congratulates Georgia Pledge Signers


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 9:46 AM PERMALINK


PDF copy.

Today, Americans for Tax Reform congratulates Governor-elect Nathan Deal and new and incumbent Georgia state legislators who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and won Tuesday’s election. These elected officials have made a written commitment to their constituents never to raise their taxes.

GEORGIATAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE SIGNERS – 2010 ELECTION

Governor

Nathan Deal (R)


State Senate

Sen. Greg Goggans

Sen. Ronnie Chance

Sen. Cecil Staton

Sen. Tommie Williams

Sen. Chip Rogers

Sen. Bill Jackson

Sen. Johnny Grant

Sen. Jack Murphy

Sen. Mitch Seabaugh

Sen. Bill Heath

Sen. Judson Hill

Sen. Renee Unterman

 

State House

Rep. Amos Amerson

Rep. Katie Dempsey

Rep. Charlice Byrd

Rep. Mark Hamilton

Rep. Michael Harden

Rep. Sharon Cooper

Rep. Bobby Franklin

Rep. Matt Dollar

Rep. Timothy Bearden

Rep. Brooks Coleman

Rep. David Casas

Rep. Steve Davis

Rep. Ben Harbin

Rep. Mark Hatfield

Rep. Martin Scott

Rep. David Ralston

Rep. Calvin Hill

Rep. Sean Jerguson

Rep. James Mills

Rep. Carl Rogers

Rep. Alan Powell

Rep. Judy Manning

Rep. Sheila Jones

Rep. Tom Rice

Rep. Bill Hembree

Rep. Billy Horne

Rep. John Yates

Rep. Billy Mitchell

Rep. Donna Sheldon

Rep. Len Walker

Rep. Barbara Sims

Rep. Allan Peake

Rep. Larry O’Neal

Rep. Ed Rynders

Rep. Penny Houston

Rep. Gene Maddox

Rep. Mark Williams

Rep.-elect Christian Coomer

Rep.-elect Kevin Cooke

Rep.-elect Bruce Williamson

Rep.-elect Jason Spencer

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In Illinois, a Vote for Pat Quinn is a Vote for Higher Taxes


Posted by Joshua Culling on Monday, November 1st, 2010, 10:19 AM PERMALINK


IL Gov. Pat Quinn has governed poorly, when governing at all. For the most part, he was content to put off decisions until after tomorrow's election. Decisions like how to fulfill a $4 billion pension obligation. Or exactly how many billions of dollars to tack on to Illinoisans' income tax bill.

Quinn stated earlier this year that he wants to "be a governor that tells the truth, before and after the election." So far, not so good. He has constantly shape-shifted on the size of his proposed tax increase, even embargoing a massive $6 billion secret income tax hike until after the election. In August, ATR broke down Gov. Quinn's perpetually evolving income tax increase:

  • May of 2009: 50 percent income tax increase. This proposal would have increased the income tax rate from 3 percent to 4.5 percent and taken roughly $4 billion from the private economy near the peak of Illinois’ recession. It failed in the legislature, largely because of voter disapproval by a 30 point margin.
  • March of 2010: 33 percent income tax increase.  Believing it was the size of your previous plan that turned off constituents, you presented a scaled down income tax hike that would have increased the rate to 4 percent, a $3 billion tax increase. This also went nowhere.
  • July 2010: “secret” 67 percent income tax increase. Your plan to wait until after the election to impose this whopping $6 billion tax hike was clever until it was revealed in an interview with your budget director David Vaught. “We’re going to pass a tax increase in January,” he said. “We expect it is going to be very substantial.” Taxpayers appreciate his candor much more than your subsequent scurried attempt to reject his assertion.
  • August 2010: 33 percent income tax increase. Last week you returned to your previous call to increase the rate to 4 percent, calling it “a pretty good bargain for taxpayers.”

Illinois voters simply can't know what they will get should they re-elect Gov. Quinn. He has no body of work on which to evaluate him, nor has he constructed a consistent campaign platform with respect to taxes and spending. It goes without saying that he has not signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

State Senator Bill Brady has signed the Pledge, and has expressly campaigned on it with no caveats. Brady understands that Illinois' budget debacle is a function of overspending, not a lack of revenue. He also grasps the importance of the state's low, flat personal income tax rate in attracting population, investment, and jobs.

It is time for Illinois to reject the corrupt practice of elected officials putting unionized special interests above taxpayers and families. By putting a lid on spending, confronting public employee unions, reforming the state pension system and keeping taxes low, Bill Brady will restore Illinois to a path to prosperity.

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Ballot Initiatives to Watch


Posted by Joshua Culling on Friday, October 29th, 2010, 11:36 AM PERMALINK


With all the attention focused on Congressional and gubernatorial races next Tuesday, it's easy to forget the direct impact voters can have via the initiative and referenda process. Key measures will be on the ballot in a number of key states with the ability to cut taxes, avoid massive tax increases, and push back against the Obama agenda in D.C.

In today's Human Events, I look at key initiatives on this year's ballot, including those that preempt key pieces of Democrats' legislative agenda, like card check and the individual health care mandate. In Washington State, voters will decide whether to implement an income tax for the first time, allowing tax-and-spenders to get a proverbial foot in the door to gradually higher and broader taxation and eliminate Washington's precious tax advantage.

Of course, most of the money behind big government I&R campaigns comes from Big Labor, who often use taxpayer dollars to lobby for...more taxpayer dollars. From my piece:

The biggest pro-tax funders of I–1098 do have Washington addresses—Washington, D.C., that is. Six of the eleven biggest contributions to Yes on I–1098 come from D.C. unions, among them are $900,000 from the Service Employees International Union and $750,000 from the National Education Association. And 17 of the 22 six-figure pro-tax campaign contributions come from unions. They are literally buying an income tax for Washingtonians from their perch on K Street.

To read the whole thing, click here.

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For Florida Voters, the Choice is Clear


Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010, 5:22 PM PERMALINK


Next week, Floridians will engage in the collective catharsis of voting for Charlie Crist’s replacement. In the wake of America’s tax hiking flip-flopper in chief, there is a stark contrast between the two candidates to replace him.

The Democrat, Alex Sink, has refused to rule out tax increases should she become governor. ATR has approached Sink, currently the state’s Chief Financial Officer,  multiple times and asked her to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, but she has repeatedly declined. Instead, she has campaigned on an ambitious spending agenda that focuses on growing the size of government at the expense of the private sector.

In fact, Sink may be the only gubernatorial candidate campaigning explicitly on growing the public sector payroll. While New Jersey Gov.
Chris Christie’s assault on public sector unions is spreading across the country like wildfire, Sink’s website takes a different approach:

In 2008, the average annual state employee salary of $38,839 was 4.5 percent below Florida's average wage for all industries. Compared to other states, Florida ranks last in the ratio of employees to
residents: 118 per 10,000 compared to the national average of 216 employees per 10,000 residents. And Florida is dead last in the nation in state employee payroll expenditures per resident: $38 compared to the national average of $69 per resident. As Governor, Alex Sink will push to ensure that state employees are recognized for high performance by receiving fair and competitive compensation.

This is pretty absurd. While she makes no concrete policy prescriptions, the tone is clear: Alex Sink is lamenting the fact that government employees make less than their private sector counterparts.
She is upset that government employees make up a comparatively small portion of the populace. This is directly at odds with the popular sentiment across the country: Government payrolls are too large and too expensive – both at the expensive of a vibrant public sector.

This and other expensive Sink proposals - like a massive "high speed rail" plan - are estimated to cost over $12 billion in new spending. Sink has refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, meaning she is likely to raise taxes to pay for her agenda.

Luckily, Floridians have a true choice on Election Day. Rick Scott is the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and he has signed the Pledge, putting in writing his commitment to never raise taxes. He realizes that overspending, not a lack of revenue, causes budget crises and economic stagnation. Should he win on November 2, he will join a wave of new governors, like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio, who have taken higher taxes off the table in their states.

For a picture of Rick Scott re-signing the Pledge, this week, see below.

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