Patrick Gleason

Philadelphia City Council Scheduled to Vote this Week on Proposed Tax Hikes

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 4:48 PM PERMALINK

District of Columbia residents aren’t the only ones facing the threat of a new tax on soda. The Philadelphia City Council, currently in the last stage of budget negotiations, will soon make a final decision on Mayor Nutter’s soda tax and proposals to raise taxes on property and tobacco.

Late last week the City Council gave preliminary approval to new taxes on tobacco products and a 9.9% property tax increase. Property tax critics contend, and ATR agrees, that it is ill-advised to raise the levy given the city’s problematic property tax assessment system. Mayor Nutter himself has admitted that the assessment system is flawed.

While the Council did not act on Mayor Nutter’s beloved soda tax last week, he has not given up. As budget deliberations near a conclusion this week, Mayor Nutter is engaging in a full court press for his beloved soda tax, failure of which will be considered a major political defeat for Nutter. Unable to receive initial sign off from the Council last week, Nutter is ramping up his lobbying efforts but has ratcheted down his proposal from 2 cents per ounce to ¾-cent per ounce.

It’s clear that the problem here is spending, not taxes. Philadelphia is the most highly taxed city in the U.S. and City Council just imposed a 14% sales tax hike less than nine months ago. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, yet this is how the Philly City Council continues to operate.

ATR encourages Philly taxpayers to contact their City Council members and tell them to vote “NO” on all pending tax increases. Simply CLICK HERE to make your voice heard today.

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Washington Post Has it Right - DC City Council Must Avoid Raising Taxes

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, May 17th, 2010, 8:07 PM PERMALINK

It’s a rare thing for the Washington Post editorial board and ATR to agree on matters of public policy; so when it happens, it worth pointing out. Yesterday’s Washington Post included a an editorial arguing that Mayor Fenty and the DC City Council should cut spending and not raise taxes in their effort to close a half a billion dollar deficit.

The WaPo editorial correctly points out that the proposed tax increases on an array of goods and services such as soda, income, sporting event tickets, gym memberships, pre-paid wireless minutes and even vacant property “would place new burdens on Washingtonians while placing the District at a competitive disadvantage with its suburban neighbors.”

While they are correct, it’s too bad they didn’t point this out last year when the DC City Council raised the cigarette tax to a level higher than Maryland’s and well above that of its other neighbor, Virginia. The competitive disadvantage created by that levy hike actually had a negative impact on District coffers. Similarly, while the proposed soda tax won’t improve public health, it will certainly be a boon to VA and MD retailers at the expense of DC businesses. Same goes for the proposed taxes on pre-paid wireless minutes and gym memberships, which won’t resolve the District’s budget woes but will boost the bottom line for cellular retailers and gyms in Maryland and Virginia.

It appears the Washington Post has learned its lesson on the adverse effects of raising taxes, hopefully DC council members have as well. ATR urges Washingtonians to contact their Council member today and urge them to reject calls for higher taxes as they work to complete the budget by the May 27 budget deadline.

Take action today: Simply CLICK HERE to contact your representative on the City Council and make your voice heard!

See below for your Council member's contact information:

Vincent C. Gray, Council Chairman
Tel:  (202) 724-8032

David A. Catania, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-7772

Phil Mendelson, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8064

Kwame R. Brown, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8174

Michael A. Brown, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8105

Jim Graham, Councilmember (Ward 1)
Tel:  (202) 724-8181

Jack Evans, Councilmember (Ward 2)
Tel:  (202) 724-8058

Mary M. Cheh, Councilmember (Ward 3)
Tel:  (202) 724-8062

Muriel Bowser, Councilmember (Ward 4)
Tel:  (202) 724-8052

Harry Thomas, Jr., Councilmember (Ward 5)
Tel:  (202) 724-8028

Tommy Wells, Councilmember (Ward 6)
Tel:  (202) 724-8072

Yvette M. Alexander, Councilmember (Ward 7)
Tel:  (202) 724-8068

Marion Barry, Councilmember (Ward 8)
Tel:  (202) 724-8045

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California Candidates Pledge to Rein in Taxes and Spending

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, May 17th, 2010, 12:45 PM PERMALINK

The following was originally published this morning on The Flash Report, the preeminent political news source in California:


Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

Every election cycle Americans for Tax Reform asks all candidates for state legislature to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise that candidates and incumbents make to voters and constituents to “oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.” The simplest utility of the Pledge is that it allows all voters to know where candidates stand on two key issues of the day: taxes and spending.

The good news is that Pledge takers tend to keep their commitment and when they fail, punishment has been swift from voters and fellow legislators; the most prominent example being George H.W. Bush’s broken “read my lips” statement and voters’ subsequent denial of a second term in 1992. When Senator Cogdill and Assemblyman Villines broke their Pledges last year by voting for the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, they were appropriately removed from their leadership posts. The Pledge will certainly help those trying to decide on a preferred candidate for Lt. Governor this year. While it was unfortunate that Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado broke his Pledge when he cast the deciding vote for last year’s budget, at least it will be clear to voters that his word is worthless.

To continue reading Grover's piece in today's Flash Report, Click Here.

To read Flash Report publisher Jon Fleischman's commentary on the importance of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in California, Click Here.

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DC City Council Doing What They Do Best - Trying to Raise Taxes

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Friday, May 14th, 2010, 6:12 PM PERMALINK

Within the past year DC residents have faced tax hikes on their smokes, plastic bags, and now it looks like the DC Council is after their Coca-Cola too. Yes, Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) has proposed a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on bottled and canned soda along with other sugary drinks to pay for her healthy schools initiative. If Cheh’s proposal is successful, beverages classified as soda or sugary drinks would cost $0.68 more per 2-liter and $1.44 more per 12 pack – a more than 30% tax increase in some instances! The council is slated to take a final vote on the issue on May 25 as part of their fiscal 2011 budget.

As the No DC Beverage Tax coalition points out, regressive soda taxes hit hardest those that are least able to afford it. Furthermore, heavily taxed DC residents already work an average of 224 days a year before they have earned enough gross income to pay their share of the spending and regulatory burden imposed by government on the federal and local levels. This also comes at a time when DC taxpayers and employers are trying to cope with the $670 billion in higher taxes passed by Congress in just the past year. Adding another punitive soda tax will only make matters worse. Instead of trying to raise taxes, the Council should first try to identify and cut areas of waste, fraud, and abuse. A good place to start is DC Council members' exorbitant salaries. In fact, ATR has already pointed out how Cheh could actually fund her healthy schools initiative by cutting taxes.

ATR urges that you make your voice heard today – to sign the petition expressing opposition to Cheh's soda tax, Click Here.

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Governor Mark Sanford Vetoes Tobacco Tax Increase

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 4:05 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform applauds South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford for announcing his veto today of House Bill 3584, legislation that would impose a more than 700% increase on cigarettes sold in the Palmetto State.

While announcing his veto of what would be the largest tax increase in South Carolina in over a quarter-century, Sanford made clear that he considers calls for higher taxes to be a non-starter in the current economy and that the problem lies in state overspending, not a lack of tax revenue.

In fact, while the unemployment rate doubled during the last two years and families across the state were cutting back and prioritizing, state spending has continued to increase.

Sanford’s principled insistence that any increase in the state cigarette tax be offset with corresponding tax relief also serves to illustrate the hypocrisy of tobacco tax hike proponents, who insist that their dogged push for higher taxes is done for the sake of the children and to improve public health. Yet, Sanford has made it clear for years that he would go along with a tobacco tax increase, provided that it wasn’t a tool to raise revenue and fund unsustainable state spending. However, HB 3584 proponents’ refusal to craft the bill in a revenue neutral manner demonstrates that cheerleaders for higher cigarette taxes aren’t in this “for the children” and that the ultimate goal is simply more money for government coffers.

ATR commends Gov. Sanford for wielding his veto pen in defense of South Carolina taxpayers and employers. A two-thirds vote of the legislature is required to overturn Sanford’s veto. ATR is reaching out and urging all South Carolina legislators to sustain Sanford’s veto.

For the Governor's statement on the veto, Click Here

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Former Congressman Nathan Deal Signs Gubernatorial Taxpayer Protection Pledge

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, May 10th, 2010, 7:16 PM PERMALINK

Today former Congressman Nathan Deal, a Republican running to be the next governor of Georgia, signed the gubernatorial Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). The gubernatorial Pledge is a commitment to constituents to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

Currently, 19 Georgia State Senators and 51 State Representatives have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. They join 7 Governors and over 1,100 sitting state legislators across the country who have made this important commitment to taxpayers.

“Georgians need leaders committed to fiscal responsibility and pro-growth economic policies. Nathan Deal has long stood on the side of the taxpayers on the Federal level and I commend him for signaling his intent to continue this commitment to the people of Georgia by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in his bid for governor,”said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

Others who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in Georgia's gubernatorial race include Sen. Jeff Chapman, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, former Senator Eric Johnson, and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

“With politicians in Washington having raised taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars in just the past year, now more than ever it is important for Georgians to elect leaders who will not pile on with further economically adverse tax increases at the state level. In signing the Pledge, Nathan Deal makes clear that he recognizes this,” added Norquist.“I strongly encourage every candidate for elected office in Georgia to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

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What Budget Crisis? California Wants to Ban Shopping Bags

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010, 5:35 PM PERMALINK

The following article was originally posted at

Greece is the fiscally-dysfunctional member of the European Union. On this side of the pond we have California. Illustrating just how bleak the situation is on the Left coast, it was recently reported in the London Telegraph that at JP Morgan Chase’s annual meeting, the banking behemoth’s chairman Jamie Dimon warned that investors should be more concerned about California defaulting than Greece.

In the face of such dire warnings, a $20 billion budget deficit, and the lowest credit rating among all states, one might think righting the state’s financial ship would be the primary focus of legislators in Sacramento, and one would be very wrong to think so.

For a concrete example of just how Golden State legislators are fiddling while Rome burns, take Assembly Bill 1998, now sitting in the California Assembly Committee on Appropriations and scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday. Introduced by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of Santa Monica, AB 1998 would ban all plastic and paper bags currently provided to customers at grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retailers statewide.

To continue reading, Click Here.

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Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Report Brings More Bad News

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010, 9:42 AM PERMALINK

The Commonwealth Foundation has published their monthly deficit watch following the release of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s April collections report and the bottom line is the fiscal situation in the Key Stone State continues to look bleak.

In contradiction to recent assertions from the Rendell administration, revenue came in under below estimates in April, as it has for all 10 months of the current fiscal year. The state now finds itself $1 billion in the hole for the current budget and facing ballooning deficits into the future.

Gov. Rendell’s solution, as was the case last year, remains a combination of higher taxes and higher spending. Despite the fact that state revenue continues to decline, Rendell’s new budget calls for a more than billion dollar increase in general fund spending. While there is much disagreement as to whether the economy is on the mend, even assuming the most optimistic of scenarios, Rendell’s spending plan ignores the fact that recovery in state tax collections tends to lag behind that of the economy.

Rendell’s budget includes a $1.3 billion sales tax increase over the next two years through base expansion. Additionally, Rendell, is continuing his push for tax on natural gas production, which, as ATR has pointed out since last year, will dampen the economic potential of the Marcellus Shale.

The Governor’s budget, as with his previous budgets, continues to spend too much, tax too much, and appears to have been crafted ignorant of the fact that tax revenue continues to decline, the state’s current tax climate is hostile to employers, and unemployment is nearing double digits. MSNBC likes to trot Gov. Rendell out from time to time to criticize the GOP and it’s entertaining to watch because he always just mumbles incoherently about how Republicans are “out of touch.” Yet, looking at Rendell’s budget, one would be hard pressed to find a state with a more economically out of touch chief executive at the helm (OK David Paterson might give him a run for his money). Furthermore, an administration has to be pretty out of touch to not understand how this Orwellian ad would creep out most Americans:

As Rendell concludes his final year in office – leaving the state rainy day fund depleted, massive projected deficits well into the future, and an impending pension bomb to deal with – he follows in a tradition epitomized by his Democratic counterparts such as Janet Napolitano and John Corzine of leaving the state in fiscal shambles.

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Philadelphia City Council Hearing on Tobacco Tax Hike Postponed

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, May 3rd, 2010, 5:29 PM PERMALINK

A Philadelphia City Council hearing on legislation that would impose a new excise tax on smokeless tobacco products, cigars, and other tobacco-related products, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed.

The proposal to impose a local excise tax on smokeless and other tobacco products was introduced by Councilman Darrell Clarke in April, at the same time that support for Mayor Nutter’s soda tax and trash fee proposals began deteriorating. Clarke’s bill would tax cigars at 3.6 cents per ounce and would tax smokeless and pipe tobacco at a rate of 36 cents per ounce. This measure is an ineffective and misguided approach to addressing the serious fiscal challenges facing what is already the most highly taxed city in the U.S.

The $6 million that proponents estimate the new tobacco tax would generate amounts to less than half of one percent of the city’s projected $150 million deficit. Projections that Clarke’s new tobacco tax will generate even this paltry sum are based in large part on that which catapulted our current president into the White House: Hope. As DC officials discovered last month, tax increases on tobacco products have a poor history of meeting revenue projections, especially in locales surrounded by lower tax cities, towns and states, as is the case with Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia City Council put city retailers at a competitive disadvantage just last year when they increased sales tax paid in city limits by more than 14 percent. With the city’s sales tax now a third higher than surrounding suburbs, there is already plenty of incentive, especially for those that commute into the city to work, to make their purchases elsewhere.

Councilman Clarke’s attempt to impose a new discriminatory tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco products will only exacerbate this incentive to avoid Philadelphia’s onerous tax burden, to the detriment of city coffers and small businesses. Fortunately, unlike last year, voters will have the opportunity in a few short months to hold accountable those lawmakers who vote for more unnecessary and ineffective tax increases in the middle of an economic downturn.

The Philadelphia City Council’s hearing on Clarke’s tobacco tax bill has been rescheduled for May 13 at noon.

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ATR Applauds Governor Lingle's Energy Tax Veto

Posted by Patrick Gleason on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, 6:05 PM PERMALINK

Kudos to Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle for proving her pen can be mightier than her tax and spend legislature with her veto of HB 2421, legislation that would have imposed a 2000% tax increase on petroleum products.

Proponents of this massive energy tax hike employed that tired strategy centered mostly around the demonization of energy companies – you know – those entities that maintain our way of life and facilitate economic growth. Gov. Lingle, in vetoing this energy tax increase, demonstrates that she, unlike her legislature, understands that businesses don’t pay taxes, people do and that a massive tax hike on oil would lead to higher energy prices and utility bills for Hawaiians.

However, it remains to be seen if Lingle’s veto is enough to stave of yet another tax increase in the Aloha State. The legislature is expected to take up a veto override vote tomorrow and they certainly have the votes to do so. Legislative Democrats, who handily control the Hawaii Senate 23-2 and the House 45-5, can pretty much do whatever they want and their answer to nearly every single fiscal challenge facing the state is simple and consistent – higher taxes.

Last year the legislature, overriding vetoes from Lingle, enacted higher taxes on income, property, and tobacco products. Hawaiians pay the highest state income tax rate in the country and have the 5th highest tax burden among states. To add insult to injury, Harry Reid and Pelosi have piled on with $670 billion in higher taxes in just the past year. If Hawaiian Democrats can’t hold off of raising taxes in such an environment, they never will. While ATR is urging the legislature to sustain Lingle’s veto, the legislature’s track record leaves little room for optimism. Fortunately for Hawaii taxpayers, November is fast approaching. If there is any state house in the country that could use a makeover, it’s Hawaii’s.

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