Patrick Gleason

Vulnerable Colorado Democrats Vote for Higher Taxes


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010, 10:33 AM PERMALINK


Following up on yesterday’s passage of the bulk of the “dirty dozen” tax package by the Colorado House, it’s worth noting that not a single Republican voted for any of the tax increases. In fact more interesting to look at is the People’s Press Collective’s January 30th breakdown of the House Democrats who appear to be most vulnerable this November as well as their analysis on how they voted on the tax package yesterday.

PPC contributor Ben DeGrow points out that of the Democrats considered most vulnerable, the following voted in favor of every single tax increase yesterday:
Rep. Dianne Primavera (33)
Rep. Max Tyler (23)
Rep. Jeanne Labuda (1)
Rep. Sara Gagliardi (27)
Two of those who voted for the whole package, Gagliardi and Primavera, are ranked by DeGrow as the two most vulnerable Dems and Labuda is considered to be the Republicans best shot for a pick up in Denver County. A number of other vulnerable Dems voted for most of the package. Reps Scanlan and Kefelas were a “Nay” on the affiliate nexus tax and Rep. Apaun (17) voted for everything but the tax increases on soda and candy.
 
Americans for Tax Reform looks forward to educating all those voting in the districts represented by the aforementioned lawmakers as to how they voted on this tax package during the 2010 campaign season.

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Colorado House Signs Off On Tax Package


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, February 1st, 2010, 5:35 PM PERMALINK


 The Colorado House of Representatives gave final approval today to a host of tax increases on everything from soda, to candy, to software, to online purchases, to energy, and more.

Not only will these tax hikes delay economic recovery in Colorado, they will not close the state’s deficit. For example, the House voted today to impose the state’s sales tax on online purchases from out of state retailers. Commonly referred to as “the Amazon tax,” this measure will not generate the projected revenue and will, in fact, have a negative impact on state coffers. Rhode Island passed affiliate nexus tax legislation last year, yet the RI House Finance Committee projected it would generate zero dollars due to legal and enforcement issues and the state's Division of Taxation confirmed as much. North Carolina passed similar legislation last year. The result there was that online retailers cancelled all contracts with affiliates in the state, contributing to a decline in state income tax revenue.

Equally egregious as the adverse economic effects of this legislative monstrosity is the fact that it is being rammed through in direct violation to the state constitution’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR, which has been the law of the land in Colorado since it was passed in 1992, requires that any “tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain” must be subject to a vote of the people. Despite the fact that the fiscal notes for this legislation clearly point out that they raise taxes and will result in a net revenue gain to the state government, Colorado Democrats have no intention to seek voter approval.

These bills now head to the Senate, where debate is expected to begin next week. ATR will continue working with allies and lawmakers in Colorado to defeat this legislative package.

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Colorado House Finance Committee Passes Cadre of Tax Hikes


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, January 28th, 2010, 6:15 PM PERMALINK


The Colorado House Finance Committee worked late into the evening last night as they took up a package of bills that, through the elimination of credits and exemptions, would raise taxes on everything from software, to candy, to online purchases, to soft drinks, and in what is sure to cause an explosion of resentment in Colorado's ranching community, even bull semen.Yes, bull semen

As lawmakers in Denver  face a budget that is $150 million in the hole for the current budget and projected to be over a billion dollars in the red for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, Finance Committee members approved the tax increase largely along party lines.

The only Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer to vote in committee yesterday, Rep. Kent Lambert (R-District 14), opposed all of the tax increases voted on yesterday. For breaking updates on these bills and other legislative issues in Colorado, follow Rep. Lambert on Twitter: For a list of all Pledge signers in the Colorado legislature, click here.

ATR will continue to urge lawmakers to oppose these measures as they head to the House floor.

For a breakdown of how each Finance Committee member voted, click here. For a list of the tax hikes that passed out of committee last night, along with a description, and fiscal impact, click here.

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GOP SC Gubernatorial Hopefuls Debate in Charleston Tonight, <break> ATR asks all to Sign Pledge


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, January 28th, 2010, 10:18 AM PERMALINK


The five candidates running in South Carolina's Republican gubernatorial primary race take the stage tonight in Charleston, SC for the contest's first debate. The event  will be moderated by Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski.

Two candidates participating in tonight's event, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Congressman Gresham Barrett, have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and in doing so have made a committment to South Carolina families and employers that they will oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes if elected governor.

Americans for Tax Reform asks the three other candidates participating in tonight's debate to join Barrett and McMaster in taking tax hikes off the table.

During her announcement of the debate last month, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Karen Floyd remarked that her party "has a winning message in South Carolina, one of cutting taxes, limiting government and expanding individual liberty." The best way for prospective nominees to show that they will carry this message into the November's election is by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Barrett and McMaster have have shown great leadership in doing so. ATR urges all other candidates to make the same committment during tonight's debate.

Follow tonight's debate at: http://www.imarepublicantoo.com/

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Abel Maldonado Given First Ever "Richard Rich Backstabber Award"


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009, 12:24 PM PERMALINK


Today Americans for Tax Reform, a non-profit taxpayer advocacy group, gave the first ever “Richard Rich Backstabber Award,” to current California State Senator and newly appointed Lt. Governor, Abel Maldonado.

For those unfamiliar with Rich and why Abel Maldonado should be bestowed with an award in his name, Rich was Lord Chancellor during the reign of Edward VI of England and Solicitor General under Henry the VIII. Rich is best known for perjuring himself in order to secure a death sentence for Saint Thomas More (who happens to be the patron saint of those who work in politics and government affairs). For this horrible deed, Henry the VIII named Richard Rich the head Noble of Wales.
 
In February of this year Abel Maldonado provided the deciding vote for a more than $12 billion tax increase on Californians, the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, breaking his pledge to constituents in the process. For his horrible deed Maldonado, pending confirmation by the state Senate, will now be awarded the post of Lt. Governor. 
 
The 1966 film "A Man for All Seasons" depicted Rich's betrayal of More in 16th century England. At the end, More asks Rich, "why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?"
 
Heavily taxed Californians might ask, "why Abel, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world....but for the Lt. Governorship of a bankrupt state?"

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DC Launches "Education" Campaign on New Bag Tax


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009, 1:42 PM PERMALINK


Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's office sent out a press release today announcing the launch of the “Skip the Bag, Save the River” Education Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to "educate" DC residents about the 5-cent tax that they will be paying on every plastic and paper bag used to transport purchases from grocery stores and other retailers beginning in January of next year.
 
This legislation, introduced by DC Councilman Tommy Well (Ward 6), was sold under the auspices of cleaning up the environment, specifically the Anacostia River. Fenty's announced campaign will encourage shoppers to use reusable bags and inform them about where to find them. Both Wells and Fenty either don't see the fault in their own logic, or they think DC residents are pretty dumb.
 
First, the more reusable bags used, the less money that will go into the new Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund, which the revenues from this onerous new tax are allocated for. Actually, under this new policy, if Washingtonians really wanted to clean up the river they should ask for as many disposable bags as possible at the check out line, thereby ensuring that the river cleanup fund is flush with revenue from the new bag tax. Being the skilled politicians that they are, Fenty and Wells can argue their case with a straight face while knowing deep down that this is nothing more than a grab for more taxpayer dollars under the guise of "being green."
 
Second, as ATR pointed out in a Washington Times Op-Ed last month, bag taxes, where implemented, have provided no environmental benefit. In fact, Ireland saw a 10% increase in plastic bag usage after their bag levy went into effect.
 
Lawmakers and taxpayers in Philadelphia, New York City, and elsewhere have seen bag taxes for the farce that they are and have rejected proposals as such. Even the notoriously environmentally-minded Seattle voters resoundingly shot down bag taxes at the ballot just this past August.
 
Furthermore, as ATR has pointed out before, reusable bags, whose use Fenty and Wells seek to encourage, become easily contaminated when used to transport common household items. Tests conducted by a Miami news station found a reusable bag used to transport meat "covered with bacteria." A bag that had been used to transport produce contained "80 organisms of coli form." Coli form is bacteria found in the feces of warm blooded animals, not exactly something you want your groceries wading in.
 
If Fenty and Wells want to run a campaign that will actually help DC residents cope with the impending bag tax, they can start by educating them on how not to get sick as a result. After that they can move on to helping DC taxpayers understand the process for recalling dubious legislation passed by the city council and signed by the Mayor.

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California Senator to Hold Hearing on Soda Taxes


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Friday, October 30th, 2009, 7:00 PM PERMALINK


Calfornia Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley) will hold a hearing at Los Angeles City Hall next Thursday, November 5th, at 10 am to consider and promote an excise tax on soda. 

While a very bad idea, proposals to levy an excise tax on soft drinks are nothing new. Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) introduced a 2-cent tax on every can/bottle of soda as well as juice drinks in 2002. Just this year, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have proposed a soda tax to pay for government-run health care.

In an interview with Men's Health, President Obama called a soda tax "an idea worth exploring," despite the fact that it would break one of his central campaign promises to not raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 per year. A Rassmussen Reports poll from May of this year found that only one in three Americans support an excise tax on soft drinks.

Americans for Tax Reform's testimony in opposition to soda taxes in California will be posted to www.atr.org on the day of the hearing.

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Another Response to Senator Leach


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, October 15th, 2009, 6:10 PM PERMALINK


Before I even had a chance to pen a response to Sen. Leach’s rebuttal of my blog post this morning, Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation jumped in with some excellent counterpoints to Leach. Since I couldn’t have said it better myself, here is Benefield in his own words:

Yesterday, blogger for the Time Herald/State Senator Daylin Leach attacked ATR's no-tax pledge and Sen. Orie for signing it a few years ago before voting to increase taxes as part of this budget. (HT GrassrootsPA).
 
Americans for Tax Reform offered a response, noting among other things, the lack of state spending transparency - which along with the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, is one of their major initiatives.
 
Leach then offered a rebuttal on taxes and spending, which I have three items to take issue with.
First, Leach claims that:
 
[H]e [ATR's Patrick Gleason] claims that there are "barriers" to knowing this information, which is my point exactly.
 
Uh, no. Gleason was referring to obstacles to getting information about where Pennsylvania tax dollars are spent. That is not Leach's "point exactly", or even tangentially. He says nothing about state spending transparency.
 
Second, Leach cites a poll which [F]ound that a strong majority of Pennsylvanians support paying more taxes to avoid cuts in education and health care. I've already written about this - but that poll also found voters preferred laying off state employees and cutting services to higher taxes. And the question he likes was a false one - none of the proposed budgets would have resulted in cuts for education or health care.
 
Finally, Leach pulls a "Washington Monument" ploy, writing:
 
"Similarly, while the government must, and should, and did make cuts, there are certain core functions like say…feeding the kids, that it must avoid cutting for the good of society."
 
Leach acts as though the budget debate in Pennsylvania was whether to raise taxes or starve children.
In reality, the state budget preserved hundreds of millions of dollars for corporate welfare, millions more for the Pittsburgh Penguins arena, million dollar marketing deals, fraud (and outright theft) in welfare, per-diems for lawmakers, funding for ACORN, and a multitude of other spending initiatives someone less critical than feeding kids.
There are a couple of other points I’d like to add. Sen. Leach, employing the Left’s go-to straw man, suggests I and ATR are opposed to all taxes. This is silly and, well, false. ATR does not work to eliminate all taxes, nor do I. That, as Sen. Leach correctly points out, would be anarchy. ATR works to prevent the tax burden from rising beyond it’s current level and, ideally, mitigate it as much as possible. This isn’t exactly a radical position considering the size of government currently weighs in at roughtly 30% of GDP.
 
Leach also seems appalled by the fact that I equated taxation to stealing. Let me be clear, taxation beyond what is needed to fund the core functions of government is state sanctioned theft. As the Commonwealth Foundation succinctly points out here, here, here and here, much of the spending in the recently passed budget definitely falls into this category.

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A Response for Senator Daylin Leach


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, October 15th, 2009, 7:43 AM PERMALINK


Yesterday PA Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) added a new entry to his blog in which he explains why he believes Senator Jane Orie (R-Allegheny) was “foolish and irresponsible” for ever signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that she broke last week with her vote for the budget. 

Leach laments that the Pledge “does not mention which services the signer is willing to cut in tough times.” Here Leach is simply regurgitating the same tired line repeated by tax hike proponents who like to ask, “what would you cut from the state budget?” Never mind the barriers to getting all of the information necessary to best answer that query, I have a better question for Leach – what should the families and businesses already struggling to pay the bills cut from their budgets or sacrifice in order to pay higher taxes?
 
Leach opines that “it makes as much sense for a state legislator to pledge never to raise a tax as it does for a family breadwinner to pledge never to seek additional income.”
 
Let’s ignore the fact that this analogy doesn’t really work unless you believe that the proper role of government is to be the provider or “breadwinner” for all. Maybe Leach does. However, sticking with Leach’s family budget theme, let’s consider a better analogy for the state budget process. Here we have the equivalent of a family spending as much as it wants, with no regard for their income, savings, or the job stability of the bread winner(s). Once means have been exhausted the family, rather than stop spending, they proceed to burglarize area businesses and steal from neighbors to cover the bills. That’s how Leach and his buddies do budgeting in Harrisburg.
 
Fun work if you can get it.

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Sack the Plastic Bag Levy


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, October 12th, 2009, 11:43 AM PERMALINK


Today's Washington Times ran the following Op-Ed by ATR state affairs manager Patrick Gleason on the bag tax fad sweeping state houses across the nation:

More and more politicians want to tax the bag you use to carry purchases home, though the purchases often have already been taxed. More than 20 bag-tax bills were introduced across the country in just the past year. From New York to Hawaii, chances are lawmakers in your state or city have considered taxing plastic shopping bags or will do so in the future.

Bag taxes were approved most recently in Washington, D.C., where next year, shoppers will have to pay a 5-cent tax on all paper and plastic bags used at every grocery, convenience and drug store in the nation's capital. This in addition to a D.C. sales tax on non-grocery and nonmedical items.

However, not everyone is jumping on the bag-tax bandwagon, and results from where it has been imposed suggest that the District's bag tax is unlikely to meet proponents' goals.

In May, the Philadelphia City Council shot down a bill to tax plastic and paper grocery bags. An attempt to implement a citywide plastic-bag ban subsequently was introduced and rejected in June.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a vocal proponent of a 5-cent tax on plastic bags. That proposal died this year in the face of resistance from his own city council, which contended that the new levy was too costly in the midst of the deepest recession in a generation and in what already is one of the most expensive locales in the United States.

In what came as a shock to many, the crunchy, environmentally minded voters in ever-so-blue Seattle rejected a 20-cent plastic-bag tax at the polls in August by a nearly two-thirds majority. In California, legislation to impose a 25-cent bag tax died in committee.

While Americans pay taxes on almost all goods, the preponderance of budget shortfalls at the state and local level has prompted many legislators to target even that which is not purchased. Though they're nothing more than a money grab for revenue-desperate lawmakers, bag taxes are always sold to the public under the auspices of litter reduction and environmental protection.

The truth is there are no studies that show bag taxes or regulation benefit the environment. In fact, there is only evidence to the contrary.

Environmental groups and other bag-tax advocates point to Ireland and San Francisco as policy models. However, experience there highlights the ineffectiveness and adverse impact of bag taxes and regulations.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to pass an outright ban on plastic bags. San Francisco conducted litter audits before and after the ban. The results? The ban had no impact on the city's litter-mitigation goals. In fact, bag litter increased, making up 5.9 percent of total litter after the ban compared to 4.4 percent before the ban.

Then there is Ireland, which approved a bag tax in 2002 and is often lauded by those who wish to impose bag taxes on this side of the Atlantic.

Ireland's bag tax caused use of plastic shopping bags to decline by more than 90 percent. What bag-tax proponents conveniently fail to mention is that the amount of all plastic bags used on the Emerald Isle (including those bought to hold trash and for other uses) actually has increased 10 percent since the tax went into effect. This underscores the fact that consumers rarely discard plastic shopping bags after one use, and efforts to discourage the use of plastic shopping bags can increase the total number of plastic bags used. In fact, 92 percent of the population reuses plastic shopping bags to line trash cans, clean up after pets and for a host of other functions.

Reducing litter in our cities and states is a worthy and noble goal. However, efforts to do so by imposing a highly regressive tax on every bag used at the checkout have proved to be misguided and ineffective.

Voluntary efforts and incentives to encourage recycling and the use of reusable bags are working. In 2006 alone, recycling of plastic bags increased 24 percent. Market forces and consumer education will cause this positive trend to continue.

It is this combination of information and incentives, not taxation and regulation, that will yield the best outcome for family budgets, employers, the economy and the environment. Bag taxes and plastic-bag bans will continue to be proposed in states and cities across the country in the coming months and years. Given the results from places where such policies have been tested, lawmakers and voters would be wise to sack the bag tax.

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