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Patrick Gleason

Tax Hike Free Budget Passes Arizona Senate, Moves to House


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, June 4th, 2009, 1:35 PM PERMALINK


 Early this morning the Arizona Senate passed a budget that closes the state’s $3 billion deficit without raising taxes. The nine bill budget package passed by the Senate was approved on a 16-1 party line vote. All Democrats, save for one, were absent for the vote. 

Americans for Tax Reform supports the Senate’s budget plan and urges the House to send it to Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer has stated that she will veto any budget sent to her that does not include her sought after $3 billion sales tax hike.
 
“Unlike the Governor, the Arizona Senate comprehends one of the few things that economists of all political stripes agree on – the worst thing that you can do in a recession is raise taxes,” said Grover Norquist, Presidents of Americans for Tax Reform. “While not ideal, the Senate’s budget plan is far better than any plan that would raise taxes in this time of economic contraction and rising unemployment.
 
30 Arizona legislators have made a written pledge to not raise taxes. Despite making the same commitment to her constituents that she would oppose any and all tax hikes, Gov. Brewer is pushing a $1 billion per year sales tax hike that she alleges will be temporary and expire after three years. Arizonans that have land line phones are still paying the “temporary” tax hike put in place to fund the Spanish-American War of 1898.
 
“It is clear that Arizona has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. In the last five years general fund spending has grown at double the rate of population and inflation. Furthermore, Arizonans spend 194 days out of the year just paying for the cost of their government. Shockingly, Gov. Brewer doesn’t think this is enough” added Norquist. “Some elected officials view taxpayers, rather than spending interests, as their constituents. Americans for Tax Reform commends those elected officials like Sens. Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem), Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu), and Jack Harper (R-Surprise), who work for taxpayers rather than against them.”

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California Republican Party Chairman on the GOP and Taxes - AZ Gov. Brewer Should Listen Up


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009, 9:48 AM PERMALINK


Before she has her attack dogs spend money going after legislators from her own party, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer should read the following column by Ron Nehring, California Republican Party Chairman and San Diego center-right coalition leader, which was recently published in the California FlashReport:

 

As debate continues on the solution to California’s state budget deficit, the question is posed as to the “best” way to raise taxes: broad based taxes such as those on income or sales, or narrow taxes on products and activities such as cigarette smoking or oil extraction.

The right answer is: neither.  As the party that supports limiting the size of government, all tax increases should be opposed with equal vigor.

It’s very encouraging to see Governor Schwarzenegger and Republican legislators avoiding a dangerous trap as they focus on reducing government spending to balance today’s California state budget.

Yet, every day we’re reminded the proponents of big government have plenty of tools in their toolbox for separating taxpayers from the money they earn. 

One approach is to link a tax increase to something considered desirable – such as an income tax surcharge to pay for mental health services, or a cigarette tax to pay for other health programs.  This approach is designed to shift debate away from the tax itself and onto the purported “benefit” – a technique based on politics, not economics or budgeting.  If the “benefit” was so important, then government should be doing it already, and shift resources from lower priorities.

And that brings us to the crux of the issue: setting priorities.  Politicians who campaign on big government always want to avoid setting priorities because doing so means one interest group gets their money, while another does not. 

Raising taxes means avoiding choices: everyone gets a bigger slice of the government pie, and no interest group “loses.”  Except those paying the taxes, of course.

Republicans should never compromise principles by turning a blind eye to tax increases targeted at specific groups.  To accede to such tax increases is to say that there is no fat left to cut in the state budget, that every single program is vital and necessary, and government is running at peak efficiency.

That, of course, is nonsense.

As a school board member I saw first hand how much money state government causes to be wasted through rules and mandates adopted not to improve education, but to ensure certain politically connected constituencies benefit.  Rules making it difficult or impossible for schools to competitively shop around for certain non-education services like busing and food services come to mind immediately as one example.  There are thousands more.

Capitulating to a tax increase – even the most narrow – immediately shifts the debate away from drawing down spending to match reality, and moves the discussion onto our opponents’ turf.  “Well we all agree revenues need to be raised, now it’s just a question of where we find the money,” you can just hear the liberals saying the moment a Republican agrees to a tax hike.

Raising taxes on oil extraction, tobacco products, alcohol, or on business property through a so-called “split roll” directly contradicts and undermines Republican principles supporting limited government and restraining spending and therefore should be rejected, immediately, out of hand. 

To view this column as it appeared in the FlashReport, Click Here

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Senator Carona's Local Option Gas Tax - the Bad Idea That Just Won't Die


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, May 28th, 2009, 1:26 PM PERMALINK


As the 2009 session of the Texas legislature heads into the home stretch, things are heating up in Austin - both in terms of the weather and action under the capitol dome.

The biggest threat to Lone Star State taxpayers heading into the final weekend of session remains Senator Carona's local option tax and fee package, which if passed could lead to a 125% gas tax increase in every major population center in the state.

It recently appeared that the measure was dead due to lack of support in the House but that all changed this week. In an effort to keep his tax and fee package alive, Senator Carona (R-Dallas) has attached the local gasoline tax (up to 10 cents per gallon), the local drivers license fee (up to $24), and the “mobility improvement” fee on vehicle registration (up to $60) to HB 300, the TxDOT sunset bill.

Yesterday, 84 Texas House members voted courageously and correctly to instruct its conferees on the bill to not return a version that includes those new taxes and fees. As this legislation heads to conference, Americans for Tax Reform is asking lawmakers to reject any version of HB 300 that includes the local option tax and fee package. 

Americans for Tax Reform agrees with other pro-growth groups – such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Americans for Prosperity-Texas – that a new local option gas tax, drivers license fee, and “mobility improvement” fee would adversely affect Lone Star State motorists and the Texas economy.
 
To make matters worse, the local option tax and fee package flies in the face everything Texas has done to lead the transparency in government movement sweeping the nation. Carona's proposal entails no assurance of accountability or transparency. Counties will not be required to post their spending for public review, or even to prove that funds from the gas tax hike improved transportation and relieved congestion. Texans deserve better from their elected officials.
 
Stay tuned for developments in this important matter.

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Stay Classy Sacramento


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 4:09 PM PERMALINK


It's stuff like this that helps people understand the decline of traditional news outlets:

The Sacramento Bee, in an editorial posted earlier today, thought it would by wise to employ the tone of smartass junior highschooler while berating their readers for rejecting a $16 billion tax hike in Tuesday's special election:

HEADLINE: "You did it! Uh, so what now?"
 
TEXT: Good morning, California voters. Do you feel better, now that you've gotten that out of your system?
 
You wanted to show the state's politicians just how mad you are at them. And you did. Boy, did you ever. ...
 
... you're sick and tired of all this political mumbo-jumbo. So you showed those politicians who's in charge. You. You're now officially in charge of a state that will be something like $25 billion in the hole for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
 
So, now that you've put those irksome politicians in their place, maybe it's time to think about this: Since you're in charge, exactly what do you intend to do about that pesky $25 billion hole in the budget?
 
Well after several hundred comments expressing outrage, the SacBee editorial board thought perhaps it would be best to back track (nevermind the fact that journalists have an ethical duty to stand by their published work). The editorial was taken off the SacBee website and replaced with the following:
 
Note to our readers: Many of the comments below refer to an article that was posted in error. That article was a draft prepared for internal discussion among members of The Bee's editorial board. Such discussions are a routine part of our work, and frequently lead to editorials that are considerably different from writers' first drafts.
 
That's what happened in this case. After discussion, we decided that our initial editorial about the special election should take a different tack. The result was the editorial that now appears on this page. This editorial is the only editorial about the special election that appeared in Wednesday's editions of The Bee.
 
David Holwerk, Editorial Page Editor, The Sacramento Bee
 
As has been mentioned here before, unlike the SacBee editorial board and their leftist ilk, conservatives and libertarians tend to be a rather pleasant and content bunch. And unlike the bitter liberal in chief Keith Olbermann, we don't spend everyday making lists of the worst people in the world. But if, hypothetically, we did, the entire Sacramento Bee editorial board would certainly make that last.
 
Way to insult your readers, Sacramento Bee. That should definitely help with subscriptions. You stay classy.

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Arizona Senate Appropriations Passes 2010 Budget Sans Tax Increases


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 2:42 PM PERMALINK


Cheerful news to report out of Arizona:

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a budget FY 2010 that closes the state's $3 billion deficit. Lawmakers closed the gap through privatization, spending cuts, asset sales, bonding, and fund sweeps.

Most importantly, the plan does not include any tax increases.

Arizonans thought they were entering an era of conservative executive leadership when Janet Napolitano left for DC and was replaced by Secretary of State Jan Brewer. However, shortly after taking office, Gov. Brewer proposed an 18%, billion dollar per year, sales tax increase in the middle of a recession. It is unclear who is advising her to do this but they apparently never took Economics 101.

In a move that will help expedite the state's economic recovery, the Senate budget plan also includes permanent repeal of the state property tax. The state property tax had been suspended but is slated to come back at the end of this year. Permanent repeal will provide Arizona residents $250 million in property tax relief this year by preventing its reinstatement. Now that's stimulus.

Gov. Brewer, who is apparently desperate to lose her first gubernatorial primary, has not only stuck by her calls for a tax increase but has promised to veto any budget sent to her by the legislator that does not sock it to Grand Canyon State taxpayers.

The Senate Committee's approval of a tax-hike free budget to the majority Arizonans. According to a poll by Rassmussen Reports, an overwhelming majority of Arizonans oppose closing the budget gap with a tax increase, even a temporary one.

Stay tuned for the latest on this budget fight that is of national importance.

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Texas House to Vote on Massive Gas Tax Increase


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 11:11 AM PERMALINK


The Texas House of Representatives will hold a vote later today on the House version of Senate Bill 855, legislation that would permit a substantial gas tax increase. ATR has repeatedly expressed opposition to this legislation throughout the session (see here, here, and here).

SB 855 permits certain Texas counties, virtually every large to moderately-sized population center in the state, to levy a 10 cent gas tax increase. House Bill 9, which would index the state gas tax for inflation, effectively putting further state gas tax increases on autopilot, is expected to be rolled into SB 855 today. The result: a very large increase in transportation taxes paid by Texas motorist.

A recent study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows how indexing alone will cause a gas tax increase every bienium that is equal to 15% of the current rate. TPPF has also produced an informative study on the effect that SB 855 would have on Texas motorists.

ATR joins TPPF and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility in asking lawmakers to prioritize current transportation funds better, utilize existing taxing capacity, and end diversion of transportation funds for non-transportation purposes before even considering raising gas taxes.

The Texas legislature diverted $1.6 billion in transportation revenues from the current budget for non-transportation purposes. The budget for the coming biennium continues these diversions to the tune of $1 billion.

The county-level tax increase, combined with indexing of the state gas tax will require Texas families to cope with a 125% increase in non-federal gas taxes. This would be the 4th time that TX gas taxes have been ratcheted up since the mid-80s and will only exacerbate the pain felt by TX motorists when gas prices rise every summer driving/vacation season. 

Economists of all political stripes agree that tax hikes should be avoided at all costs during a recession. What's worse, SB 855 would punish Texans every time they commute to work, pick their kids up from school, or go to the grocery store.

Furthermore, a vote in favor of SB 855 will be scored as a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which has been signed by 29 TX House members (20% of that chamber).

atr.org will report later today on whether any Lone Star State lawmakers broke their Pledge. Stay tuned...

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California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore Discusses What Ails the Golden State


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 6:42 PM PERMALINK


Califonia Assemblyman and Taxpayer Protection Caucus Chairman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) held a conference call with bloggers yesterday afternoon to discuss the significant and numerous challenges facing the state of California.

DeVore displayed a depth of knowledge about the real problems facing the Golden State and a grasp of the facts that is simply not held by any members of the majority in the CA legislature. DeVore did a great job of explaining why the state's problem is overspending, not a lack of revenue.

DeVore informed call participants that spending has increased 100% over the past 10 years. As this website has previously mentioned, since 1991, CA lawmakers have increased spending by 300%. Had spending been limited to population growth and inflation since that time, the state would be sitting on top of a $15 billion surplus rather than facing a more than $21 billion defiict.

As another example of the gross overspending that has brought a great state to the brink of fiscal insolvency, DeVore pointed to that fact that California welfare spending is 3 times greater than the national average. Need further proof of the fiscal mismanagement and bureaucratic redundancy weighing down California's economy, DeVore has it. For one example, "there are 3 agencies that oversee the use of agricultural pesticides," said DeVore.

Despite California voters sending an overwhelming message yesterday that business as usual in Sacramento cannot continue, DeVore predicts this indisputable message from voters will fall upon deaf ears in the Democrat majorities in the legislature.

The Assemblyman and candidate for U.S. Senate believes California Democrats will take one of two routes to avoid necessary reforms:

1) Push a "scorched Earth" budget in which popular services are cut (but leaving alone the wasteful and unnecessary spending that benefits the special interests of the Left such as the public employee unions) as a way to punish voters who rejected the massive tax hikes found in Proposition 1A.

2) Attempt to illegally pass further tax increases with a simple majority, as was attempted last December, rather than with the constiutionally mandated 2/3rds majority. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has already announced that it will legally challenge any such attempt.

DeVore is also heavy on solutions. One of his proposals that ATR supports is tapping of the vast oil reserves found in the waters off of California's coast. DeVore mentioned the fact that there are at least 9 billion barrels of oil off California's coast and at least 1 billion barrels are located in waters that are solely controlled by the state. DeVore noted that the barrels found in state controlled waters alone could generate $5 billion for the state right away via securitization. Furthermore, he noted that these reserves can be tapped in an environmentally sensitive way with slant drilling, which requires no new rigs.  ATR testified in favor of drilling off the California coast at a Minerals Management Service hearing in San Francisco last month.

One thing that was made clear yesterday, it's going to be an interesting next few months at the California Capitol. Stay tuned to this website for future updates on the California budget.

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California Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Tax Hikes in Special Election


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 11:02 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform applauds California voters for rejecting propositions A1-E in yesterday’s special election. The lynchpin measure on the ballot, Proposition 1A, which would have extended $16 billion in tax hikes, was soundly defeated. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, over 65 percent of California voters rejected 1A and the $1,100 in new taxes per household that it would have assessed. 

Not one of Propositions 1A-E received more than 38 percent of the vote. The only measure to pass, Proposition 1F, was approved with over 74 percent of the vote. Proposition 1F prevents pay increases for legislators when the budget is not in balance. With the failure of Props 1A-E, lawmakers must now go back to work and address a $21.3 billion deficit.

“California does not have a $21.3 billion deficit; it has a $21.3 billion overspending problem. The voters of California have sent an unequivocal message to the politicians in Sacramento – the budget process is broken and taxpayers have been squeezed dry.” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Despite a well funded campaign for billions of dollars in new taxes, in one of the highest taxed states in the nation, voters saw through the misinformation spread by proponents of Prop 1A.”

California spending has nearly tripled since the early 1990’s, while revenues have increase 167%.  If California had limited its spending to population growth and inflation since 1991, the state would be sitting on a $15 billion surplus. California lawmakers will hold a series of press events today to announce their various proposals on how to move forward with the budget. 

“The fiscal mess that California has become provides a preview of what will happen nationwide if the tax and spend policies of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are carried out” added Norquist. “It is time to address the true problem in California: gross overspending. Now more than ever the Golden State must begin to live within its means and make the tax climate more competitive. In yesterday’s special election voters sent a loud and clear message to politicians in Sacramento that business as usual can’t continue.”

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Schwarzenegger Unveils Budget Revisions - Californians Vote on $16 Billion in New Taxes Next Week


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Friday, May 15th, 2009, 10:43 AM PERMALINK


If it's May then you know it's time for the annual California budget revision and yesterday Gov. Schwarzenegger unveiled two proposals for the current fiscal year.The budget revisions come amidst the setting a $21 billion state overspending problem.

The last budget agreement that passed in February intended to address the state's then $40 billion overspending problem. That budget raised the state's income, sales, and car taxes by approximately $16 billion and set the stage for next week's special election in which Californian's will decide if they want to double down and add yet another $16 billion in new taxes, borrow from the lottery, and divert money from various dedicated funds. For ATR's analysis of the May 19 special election ballot measures, Click Here.

The Governor's plans entail billions of dollars in long overdue spending cuts that are certain to be met with staunch resistence by the state's powerful unions and other spending interests.For details on the two revised budget plans, click here and here.

The Propositions on next week's ballot that affect the current budget are 1C-E. If those pass the state will need to find a little over $15 billion in cuts. If they fail, as appears to be the likely outcome, the state will need to find approximately $21 billion in cuts. While Schwarzenegger has socked it to taxpayers already this year at one of the worst times to do so, and while his revised budget plans are far from perfect, ATR commends the Governor for not including further tax hikes in his two proposals. Taking a very positive step in the right direction, the Governor's plans also call for long overdue divestiture of various state assets.

If higher taxes were the answer then California, home to the highest sales and income tax rates in the country, would be in perfect shape. Reality shows otherwise. Based on the latest polls, it looks as though Californians are going to send a message to lawmakers next week that raising the state's draconian tax burden further will not be tolerated.

The problem in California is overspending and until that is brought under control, the state will continue to be a fiscal trainwreck. The state has simply been living beyond its means for far too long. Last year California spent $33 billion more than it brought in. Golden State spending has risen 300% since 1991. As Reason Foundation Policy Analyst Adam Summers pointed out in a recent study, had the state limited spending to the rate of population growth and inflation, the state would be sitting on a $15 billion surplus rather than staring down the barrel of a $21 billion deficit.

Taxpayers all over the country should have their eyes what happens in California, as Golden State tax and spenders are attempting to put all American taxpayers on the hook for the state's profligate ways.

ATR urges all Californians to get to the polls next Tuesday, reject Props 1A-F, and send a loud and clear message to the politicians in Sacramento that the taxpayer well has run dry and the state needs to get its fiscal house in order once and for all.

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Bill Permitting 125% Gas Tax Hike Passes Texas House Transportation Committee


Posted by Patrick Gleason on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009, 7:47 AM PERMALINK


ATR has repeatedly expressed opposition to HB 9 and SB 855, transportation tax legislation pending in the TX legislature.

This legislation, which would permit a 125% gas tax increase on Lone Star State motorists, passed the TX House Transportation Committee late Monday evening. Despite the fact that we are in the midst of a recession, too many TX lawmakers think it is prudent to make it more expensive to commute to work, get the kids from school, or go to the grocery store. What's worse energy prices are already set to skyrocket if Obama has is way on cap and trade. Proponents of HB 9/SB 855 feel the need to pile on.

Furthermore, this legislation is unnecessary. Justin Keener, Vice President for Policy and Communications for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, notes that the "legislature and several local leaders cannot look taxpayers in the eye and say they took even commonsense steps to avoid a tax increase. As these tax bills are heading for passage, lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on a budget that will continue to divert billions of dollars in transportation taxes to non-transportation purposes." Keener goes on to add that "many cities in the regions seeking increased taxes have chosen not to use their sales-tax authority for transportation projects. Whatever happened to setting priorities with our existing tax dollars before going to the taxpayers and seeking more?”

ATR will continue to reach out to Pledge signers in the House, other responsible lawmakers, and Gov. Rick Perry to defeat this misguided piece of legislation.

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