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Paul Blair

ATR Supports Pennsylvania Liquor Industry Privatization


Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, June 14th, 2013, 3:12 PM PERMALINK


It may be hard to believe but in 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania still maintains centralized control of retail and wholesale wine and liquor sales. The state House passed an industry privatization bill earlier this year and as the Senate crafts their own version of the bill, it is important that Pennsylvania no longer have a hand in picking winners and losers by restricting consumer choice and convenience throughout the entire liquor industry anymore.

The letter from Americans for Tax Reform can be read below:

Dear Members of the Pennsylvania Senate,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our members across Pennsylvania, I write in strong support of House-passed legislation that would get government out of the business of selling liquor. As you debate this issue in the senate, ATR encourages lawmakers to pass a bill that ends government intrusion into liquor industry distribution and sales, both at the retail and wholesale level.

Currently, Pennsylvania’s government holds a monopoly on the wholesale distribution of liquor and has six hundred state-run liquor stores across Pennsylvania. Requiring grocery stores, bars, and restaurants to purchase liquor from the government is nonsensical in the 21st century. State control of wholesale liquor operations does not benefit businesses or consumers, limiting competition, consumer choice and convenience.

By stoking industry competition, privatization of liquor distribution and sales would mean reduced costs for consumers.

An added convenience of wholesale privatization is the capacity for wholesale distributors to deliver liquor to licensees. By restricting this convenience, the government places an undue burden on small businesses. Additionally, if the government were to provide this service, it would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Private sector wholesalers, on the other hand, provide delivery service nationwide more efficiently and at lower cost to consumers.

Simply put, selling liquor is not a core function of government and it’s hard to imagine how any reasonable person could argue otherwise.

Passage of privatization legislation would be a boon to consumers, resulting in a much wider selection of brands available, with private distributors offering the most competitive prices. No longer would taxpayer dollars be used to prop up state-run liquor stores. This past fiscal year, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s liabilities exceeded its assets by nearly ten million dollars. Privatization would end this uncertainty and nonsensical drain on state resources.

One argument made against wholesale privatization is that it would mean trading one monopoly for another. This ignores the reality of wholesale competition. Multiple large wholesalers compete with each other by fighting for business amongst licensees and retailers. This drives down costs for consumers by encouraging competition between brands.

I encourage you to stand on the side of liberty and consumer choice by passing a liquor wholesale and retail industry privatization bill, similar to legislation passed by the House earlier this year. ATR will continue to monitor this issue closely and educate Pennsylvania taxpayers as to how their representatives in Harrisburg vote on this important matter.

Onward,

Grover Norquist

Click here for a PDF of the letter.

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Virginia Delegate and McDonnell Tax Hike Architect Joe May Loses to Pledge Signer


Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013, 12:09 AM PERMALINK


Twenty year incumbent Delegate Joe May was defeated by Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signer and small businessman Dave LaRock. Delegate May, chairman of the House of Delegates Transportation Committee and one of the key House architects of Bob McDonnell’s $5.9 billion tax hike sank in the polls because of his staunch support for the tax hike and the Dulles Toll Road.

Delegate May was defeated 57-percent to 43-percent by challenger Dave LaRock. Americans for Tax Reform was proud to stand by Dave LaRock and remind voters in the 33rd House of Delegates District that Delegate May was a consistent vote for tax increases and saw no problem voting to send their tax dollars to fund light rail in Hampton Roads.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform stated, “I congratulate Dave LaRock on his victory over 20-year incumbent Joe May. Dave will bring commonsense policies and pro-taxpayer reform to Richmond as the Delegate from the 33rd District of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

He continued, “Make no mistake; House Transportation Committe Chair Joe May's defeat can be directly attributed to his vote for Speaker Bill Howell's misguided $6 billion tax hike. With his defeat, it should be clear that it is time for new leadership in the Virginia House of Delegates. A Republican majority, under new leadership, should work to enact pro-taxpayer reforms and repeal the 2013 transportation tax hike championed by Delegate Joe May, Speaker Bill Howell, and Governor Bob McDonnell."

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Portland Maine Nanny-Staters Work to Ban Styrofoam


Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, May 16th, 2013, 4:20 PM PERMALINK


By a vote of 9-6, a Portland City Council task force recently voted to ban the commercial use of polystyrene packaging (as it is commercially known, Styrofoam). It should come as no surprise that this is yet another Mayor Michael Bloomberg idea, who seems to have quite the following amongst nanny-staters well beyond the reach of the Big Apple.

The task force – the “Green Packaging Working Group” – recently discussed the use of polystyrene, relying on unfounded scientific claims and a complete misunderstanding of the polymer.

Environmentalists sometimes have good intentions. Clearing the streets of trash, rivers of litter, and human bodies of toxins are noble causes. The science behind claims that polystyrene is toxic to humans, cannot be recycled and does not biodegrade, however, simply does not exist. Evidence to the contrary seems to escape the chemo-phobes seeking to purge from coffee shops and Chinese restaurants containers that make life much easier.

Polystyrene is non-toxic. The collective evidence shows that consumers are not at danger. The fact that phrases like “limited evidence” and “reasonably anticipated” are contained numerous times in reports like those conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program (NTP) seems irrelevant to people who cherry-pick health studies for political reasons.

According to biochemistry Professor Bruce Ames of UC-Berkley, “over half of all chemicals tested, whether natural or synthetic, are carcinogenic in rodent tests” – generally because the rodents are pumped full of chemicals at rates hundreds or thousands of times higher than any human would ever experience.

This might be why not a single regulatory body in the world has classified styrene as a human carcinogen.

The precautionary principle is at work here. Notably a European notion, a common tactic for environmentalists is to ban or restrict substances if they are perceived as harmful, even if there is a complete absence of hard data to prove such. Scare tactics can be a strong motivator for regulations and restrictions, despite the negligence of economic or health harms associated with them. This is not an American standard for policy, as we utilize something known as the “risk standard,” which requires proof before we ban things.

Banning polystyrene could have a detrimental financial impact. One local business owner estimated that using the more expensive paper cups in Dunkin’ Donut franchises would increase annual costs by $10,000 per year. The Portland School Department’s director said that “costs quadrupled when the district decided to use paper lunch trays instead of polystyrene trays, going from 3 cents a tray to 12 cents.” Imagine that impact city-wide, all because of junk science.

Polystyrene can be recycled. In fact, its recyclability can be significant in many “green causes” like “green buildings” and alternative energy production. When it is cleaned, ground down, and heated, it is an extremely inexpensive insulation material. Most windmill blades use polystyrene as a base component and it plays a role in the production of many solar panels. The material is strong, inexpensive, durable, and lightweight.

Recycling certainly requires the consumer to go that extra yard and choose to not throw their coffee cup into the street, so policies should incentivize collection as opposed to banning use. Because of its uses, it is extremely valuable once compacted. Manufacturers nationwide can and do use the product in more than green causes.

Additionally, the plastic coating on paper cups, the ones made to hold liquids for more than 4 seconds, makes them nearly impossible to recycle.

Companies can be incentivized to collect and reuse polystyrene. Walmart, for example, has a recycling program and uses what is collected for picture frames. The city can also encourage the creation of a collection site, similar to ones in Kennebunk or Camden. In 2010, 71 million pounds of expanded polystyrene were recycled including 37.1 million pounds of post-consumer packaging and 34.2 million pounds of post-industrial packaging.

At the end of the day, the Portland City Council should attempt to examine the hard data and facts when it comes to polystyrene and the environment. Nanny-state European-style bans on things is not the best course of action given the possible financial impact and lack of scientific evidence used by environmentalists with a political agenda.

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Signs Largest Tax Hike in Virginia History into Law


Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, May 13th, 2013, 3:29 PM PERMALINK


Governor Bob McDonnell, in one of his final acts as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, signed into law a $5.9 billion tax increase on Virginia families to fund light rail and transportation projects throughout the Commonwealth. The tax increase is the largest in the history of Virginia, edging out Democrat Governor Mark Warner’s 2004 tax increase. 

Virginians will see increases in their diesel fuel taxes and the gas tax will rise with higher gas prices and inflation.  Residents of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will see increases in the local sales tax from 5 to 6 percent, increases in taxes on home sales, and increased hotel taxes.  The rest of the state will experience a sales tax hike from 5 to 5.3 percent.

In addition, the legislation puts into place a regime set to collect internet sales taxes if Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act – currently in the House of Representatives (where, as written, it is not expected to garner enough votes to pass). If Congress is unable to pass an internet sales tax bill, Virginia residents will see fuel taxes raised even higher to make up for the promised tax collections.

Despite claims from Governor McDonnell, the massive tax increase is not a job creator and does not make the Commonwealth more attractive to small business and families looking to relocate. 

“As Bob McDonnell signs his name to House Bill 2313, he signs into law higher taxes and signs away his chances at higher office. It’s a crushing blow to the Average Virginian who won’t actually be able to get to work any quicker,” stated Americans for Tax Reform’s president, Grover Norquist. 

He continued, “Don’t be fooled. VDOT has no incentive to efficiently spend this new revenue and it is only a matter of time before Democrats cry for more tax dollars to pay for even more special interest projects that don’t benefit the average family or small business owner.

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The Internet Sales Tax Vote Breakdown: A Republican Generation Gap


Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, May 9th, 2013, 2:56 PM PERMALINK


This week the US Senate passed the improperly named Marketplace “Fairness” Act (MFA), a national sales tax scheme that lets tax-me-more states like California and Illinois reach into the pockets of consumers nationwide. By a vote of 69-27, MFA passed and now heads to the House, where it faces a more difficult climb to passage.

Set aside the tremendous burden on small online retailers and numerous other reasons to oppose this onerous legislation, we took a look at the generation gap of those who opposed the bill versus those who voted in favor of it.

Every Republican (seven in total) aged 50 and under voted against the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Twelve of thirteen Republicans who are 55 and under voted against the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Nearly every sub-55 Senator (Thune excluded) voted against the bill. Here are a few of them with some made-up quotes associated with their pictures. 

Jeff Flake: Age 50

“Unpopular? Let’s do a meet and greet, ladies.”

Mike Lee: Age 41

“Let me tell you a bit about defeating incumbent Republicans…”

Tim Scott: Age 47

“Taxes are popular? I got 99.27% of the vote in my first legislative race.”

Ted Cruz: Age 42

“Obama’s in Texas? Maybe he’ll learn something about job creation.”

Marco Rubio: Age 41

“Join the Gang?”

Kelly Ayotte: Age 44

“I beat a guy by the name of Lamontagne.”

Rand Paul: Age 50

“I’d filibuster that…”

And now, some of the Republicans who voted in favor of permitting states to reach across their borders and tax your online purchases…

Lindsey Graham: Age 57

“Federalism? No thanks.”

Jeff Sessions: Age 66

“MFA lets state governments tax across their borders despite legal precedent arguing they cannot? YOLO.”

Mike Enzi: Age 69

“Everyone will now be subject to 9,600 highly variable state and local tax codes. Sounds great!”

Thad Cochran: Age 75

“The thousands of new businesses and tax authorities handling your personal information will definitely not lose it ever. Trust me.”

John McCain: Age 76

“Lemme see that online purchase order. Arggg!”

No, none of the above quotes are genuine and I made them all up. Relax. But the fact remains – the young freedom fighters nearly all opposed the Marketplace Fairness Act. There certainly were older Republicans who opposed the bill as well and fortunately more Republicans voted against MFA than voted for it.

Regardless, if you’re ready to ramp up the fight in the House, sign our petition to your Congressman by visiting www.taxeswithoutborders.com now!

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Special Election for Virginia's House of Delegates 19th District: Find out where to vote!


Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, May 6th, 2013, 6:00 PM PERMALINK


Tomorrow, May 7th, Virginia’s 19th House District will host a Firehouse Primary to replace retiring incumbent Delegate Lacey Putney. Putney, who served for more than five decades in the House of Delegates, chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee in the legislature.

Of the four candidates running to secure the Republican nomination, only one has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, making a written commitment to Virginia taxpayers to oppose any and all tax hikes. Zach Martin put his no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing so that voters know that he stands firm on the promise. 

There will be three polling locations open throughout the district. Registered voters may vote in the location specific to their locality. Voting will be done on electronic voting machines and the polling locations will be open from 6pm to 9pm. Voters may arrive and vote at any time during that three hour window.

Botetourt County Voting Location
Lord Botetourt High School

1435 Roanoke Road, Daleville, VA 24083

Bedford City/County Voting Location
Thaxton Community Center, across the street from Thaxton Elementry School

3821 Monorail Circle Thaxton VA, 24174

Alleghany County Voting Location
The Old Alleghany County Board of Supervisors Board Meeting Room

110 Roesdale Ave, Covington, VA 24426

To find out if you’re a registered voter in the 19th House District, click here.

 

 

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Taxpayer Group to Maine Legislature: Reject The Gang of Eleven's Massive Tax Hike


Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 1:43 PM PERMALINK


This week, a so-called “Gang of Eleven” unveiled legislation in Maine that amounts to a $700 million tax hike. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist today sent a letter to the state legislature and Governor LePage urging them to reject the bill if it is not amended to be revenue neutral. LD 1496, the “Act to Modernize and Simplify the Tax Code” increases the tax burden on Mainers, which outweighs the benefits of cutting the income and corporate tax rates.

The letter, which can be read below, outlines the negative consequences of the bill and explains that voting for the bill would be a clear violation of the Pledge to oppose any and all tax hikes that many legislators made to Maine taxpayers, including Governor LePage.  

I write today in strong opposition to LD 1496, the “Gang of Eleven” tax code rewrite. Put simply, the “Act to Modernize and Simplify the Tax Code” is a massive tax increase. Contrary to claims of those advocating for the bill, raising the overall tax burden on Mainers outweighs the benefits associated with income and corporate tax cuts.

This bill expands the sales tax base to dozens of new goods and services, increases the sales tax rate by a full point, eliminates income tax deductions, and raises the cigarette tax to a rate more than double that of neighboring New Hampshire. Many of the products and services that will face higher taxes are provided by small businesses, which are disproportionately harmed by this tax hike. Tax reform must be revenue neutral. A vote in favor of this legislation, as written, is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

If the goal of the legislature is to reform the tax code and make the state more attractive to job creators, that goal should be accomplished without increasing the state’s overall tax burden.

Simplifying the tax code is an admirable goal, and one that state legislatures nationwide are working to accomplish. I applaud the 50 percent reduction in income taxes, elimination of the death tax, and a reduction of the corporate income tax. These efforts, considered separately, are legitimate tax reforms that would encourage economic growth, investment, and job creation, by reducing the burden of government on the backs of taxpayers.

These tax reductions, however, are outweighed by hundreds of millions of dollars of tax hikes. This bill is a $700 million tax increase. Tax increases are not tax reform.

I urge you to oppose this tax increase, and tackle true tax reform that reduces marginal rates without increasing the size of state government.

If you have any questions about ATR’s position on this issue, please contact state affairs manager Josh Culling at 202-785-0266.

Onward,

            Grover G. Norquist

            President, Americans for Tax Reform

[PDF of the Letter to the Maine Legislature and Governor Paul LePage]

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Pete Snyder Signs the Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013, 3:42 PM PERMALINK


Virginia entrepreneur Pete Snyder has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in his bid for the Republican nomination as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, commits signers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

Americans for Tax Reform offers the Pledge to all candidates for state and federal office. Fourteen governors and over 1,000 state legislators have signed the Pledge. To date, six of seven Republican candidates for Lt. Governor have signed the Pledge. Pete Snyder joins Minister and veteran E.W. Jackson, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, State Senator Steve Martin, Prince William County Chair Corey Stewart, and Stafford County Board Chair Susan Stimpson as signers of the Pledge to Virginia taxpayers.

Pete Snyder signing the Pledge to Virginia taxpayers, putting his commitment to oppose higher taxes in writing.

The only candidate who refuses to put in writing her opposition to higher taxes is former Virginia state legislator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.

Before the state Convention, ATR will publish a more detailed evaluation of each Republican candidate’s record and positions on taxes and government spending.   

“I want to congratulate Pete Snyder for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Virginians deserve better than tax-and-spend policies that fall hard on the backs of hardworking families and small businesses. They want real solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and incentivize more economic growth,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“By signing the Pledge, Pete Snyder has demonstrated that he understands the problems of hard-working taxpayers in Virginia.”

“By refusing to put in writing her opposition to higher taxes, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis is signaling that she’ll team up with Virginia Democrats for a higher tax and spend agenda that grows government and increases the burden of state spending on taxpayers. This is not new for Davis who was a prominent tax-hiker in the state legislature,” Norquist continued.

 

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NEW REPORT: Obama Has Spent 3.6% of His Total Work Time in Economic Meetings or Briefings


Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, April 29th, 2013, 3:24 PM PERMALINK


A new report published by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Institute (GAI) examined the president’s 1,532 days in office to figure out exactly how he spends his time. For those struggling to find work, the results may not be surprising.

From the report:

Key Findings:

• President Obama has spent 3.6 % of his total work time in economic meetings or briefings of any kind (assuming a six day, 10-hour a-day workweek) throughout his presidency

• President Obama has spent a total of 474.4 hours (or 47.4 10-hour workdays) in economic meetings or briefings of any kind throughout his presidency

• In 2013, President Obama has spent 6 total hours in economic meetings of any kind

• The number of days with some sort of economic meeting have declined significantly throughout President Obama’s time in office. Throughout 2009, President Obama had 140 days with economic meetings. By 2012, the number of days with a scheduled economic meeting decreased to 29 (an 79 % decrease)

• Throughout his time in office, President Obama has played 115 total rounds of golf and spent 86 days on vacation, for an estimated combined total of 976 hours

Sure, being the President has got to be a stressful job. Think, however, about your last four years. How have they stacked up? Have you had time to play 115 rounds of golf or take 86 days of vacation?

A Few Economic Facts:

  • 11.6 million people are unemployed, for a rate of 7.6%
  • The number of long-term unemployed (for +27 weeks) is 4.6 million people
  • The long-term unemployed account for nearly 40% of all unemployed
  • 663,000 dropped out of the workforce last month
  • The participation rate in the economy is the lowest since 1979
  • 23 million households in the United States are on food stamps, that’s 1 in 5
  • More people are on food stamps in America than live in Spain: 47,692,896

 

Understanding that the President is spending less and less time on the economy is disheartening. To accept that there isn’t much more work to do is unacceptable.

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Missouri Legislator Wants to Ban Seersucker Suits. Photo-Evidence Suggests That's A Bad Move


Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, April 26th, 2013, 3:02 PM PERMALINK


That’s right. A Democrat state senator from Missouri recently offered an amendment to a higher education funding bill to ban seersuckers for those above the age of 8.

He stated: “any person living in this state aged 8 and under may wear seersucker suits at their leisure.” The kids appreciate it. He went on, “Any person over the age of 8 living in this state may not wear seersucker suits because adults look ridiculous in seersucker suits…”

It was only a year ago when the US Senate killed Seersucker Thursday, a tradition created by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

The Washington Post had a good writeup on the matter last June:

For much of our history, lawmakers lived in Washington for uninterrupted weeks at a time. Democrats and Republicans moved their families to Washington and socialized at card games or Georgetown salons. These interactions made rivals less likely to demonize each other in their official business and more likely to reach agreement. “It’s harder to give somebody a real hard time when you were out with them and their spouse the night before,” Lott reasons.

Now lawmakers disparage such clubby ways. They’ve given themselves virtually unlimited travel allowances, so they can leave their families in their home states and fly to Washington for three-day workweeks that leave no time to create personal bonds. It’s no coincidence that this change brought along with it stalemate and division over the nation’s wars and finances.

Photos rebut wild claims better than the written word. Here are pictures of people wearing seersucker suits. You decide if the Missouri Democrat was correct in claiming that these people look “ridiculous.”

 

Senator Trent Lott

Seersucker Thursday 2011

Seersucker Thursday 2006

Senator Trent Lott

Seersucker Thursday 2004

Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird

At the very least, seersucker suits provide for great bipartisan photo-ops.

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