Paul Blair

Virginia House GOP Stabs Taxpayers in the Back -- Follows the Lead of Tax and Spend Democrats


Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, February 22nd, 2013, 4:52 PM PERMALINK


Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a $6.1 billion tax increase, when fully implemented over 5 years. The transportation plan, initially designed as a $2.4 billion tax increase exploded in size once negotiations began between the Senate and House earlier this week. Virginia taxpayers were never afforded the opportunity to read the legislation that included the following tax hikes:

  • Diesel tax hike from 17.5 cents per gallon to 6 percent tax on wholesale diesel, roughly a 5 cent per gallon increase
  • Sales tax hike from 5 to 5.3 percent
  • Additional sales tax hike of .7 percent in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia
  • 3 percent Northern Virginia hotel tax
  • Car tax hike from 3 percent to 4 percent in 2013, 4.1 percent in 2014, 4.2 percent in 2015, and 4.3 percent in 2016
  • If Congress rejects the federal internet tax scheme, the tax on wholesale gasoline in 2015 will increase from 3.5 percent to 5.1 percent, without a provision to revert back if the law were to pass after 2015

Only three Taxpayer Protection Pledge signers broke their Pledge to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. They were Del. Dave Albo, Del. Kirk Cox, and Del. Randy Minchew. 

This was not a  compromise. It was a surrender of principle and policy. There were no spending cuts or tough choices. This was Bob McDonnell and some Republican Delegates and Senators, in league with almost all Democrats, betraying Virginia taxpayers . McDonnell took the lead on a $2.4 billion tax increase and oversaw its transformation into a $6 billion tax increase. When Virginians look at their thinner, lighter wallets, they have a handful of lawmakers to blame: Speaker Bill Howell, Sen. Frank Wagner, Sen. John Watkins, Del. Chris Jones, and now, Governor Bob McDonnell,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.

“In 2009, Bob McDonnell said he would not raise taxes. Now he says he will sign a very large tax hike. Perhaps that is why he refused to put that promise in writing by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose higher taxes on Virginia citizens. Politicians who refuse to sign the pledge will eventually, when asked, raise taxes.”

[Unlike Prior to the Bill's Passage, You Can Now Read the Bill Here]

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Where Do Virginia Republicans Stand: With Ken Cuccinelli or Terry McAuliffe?


Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, February 21st, 2013, 2:17 PM PERMALINK


Virginia’s Republican and Democrat gubernatorial candidates, Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, have taken two completely different positions on a transportation package before the General Assembly. One stands with taxpayers and one stands with higher taxes.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli: “In these tough economic times, I do not believe Virginia’s middle class can afford massive tax increases, and I cannot support legislation that would ask the taxpayers to shoulder an even heavier burden than they are already carrying."

Democrat Terry McAuliffe: “Virginia simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity to make substantial progress on transportation.”

New regional taxing authorities, a higher sales tax, a higher car tax, an internet tax scheme, and a higher diesel fuel tax all result in what could amount to a $6.1 billion tax hike over 5 years, once fully implemented.

With the General Assembly scheduled to vote as early as this afternoon, the Republican Party should think about where they stand: with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe or Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

“I applaud Ken Cuccinelli for opposing what he rightly describes as a ‘massive tax increase.’ Given the high cost of gasoline, slew of new Obamacare taxes, and the overall increased burden of a growing federal government, this is a horrible ‘opportunity’ for higher taxes,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.

“Virginia legislators preparing to vote on the amended transportation plan should ask themselves where they stand. Do they stand with Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat nominee for Governor or with Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli? Legislators should stand up for taxpayers instead of against them.”

[PDF of Press Release]

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Norquist: The Transportation "Deal" Is One of the Largest Tax Hikes in Virginia History


Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013, 3:59 PM PERMALINK


Today, President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist released the following statement regarding ongoing negotiations between Virginia House and Senate conferees on a transportation plan:

“Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed transportation fix started as a $2.4 billion tax increase. As the House and Senate conferees debate the final language, the size of the tax hike has evidently increased by 250 percent, to nearly $6.1 billion in new and higher taxes once fully implemented over five years.”

“New regional taxing authorities imposed in this ‘agreement’ in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia could raise taxes by as much as 550 million dollars per year in these two regions. A higher sales tax, higher car tax, an internet tax scheme, and a higher diesel fuel tax are not indicative of bold leadership in any sense of the term.”

“This is a massive tax increase almost as large as the Warner tax hike of a few years ago. Luckily these tax hikes can be avoided as roads and airports connect Virginia taxpayers with other states with Republican governors and legislatures that are actually cutting taxes. North Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas and Nebraska are all calling to eliminate their state income taxes. Ohio, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin are cutting their income taxes. Texas and Florida, who cannot cut their income taxes because they don’t have any, are preparing to cut their sales taxes. All of these states have roads….and elected officials that stand with taxpayers rather than against them.”

“Yet again, what could have been a sound, tax-neutral, pro-growth transportation funding proposal has been hijacked by a number of Republicans who join Democrats in believing that all transportation costs must be paid for by higher taxes. This should not come as any surprise to those familiar with Senator Frank Wagner, Senator John Watkins or Delegate Chris Jones’s history in the legislature. They are not allies with Virginia taxpayers.”

[PDF of Press Release]

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ATR Supports Thomas Jefferson Institute's Friendly Amendment to Gov. McDonnell's Transportation Plan


Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 5:13 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform applauds the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy’s friendly amendment to the Governor’s transportation plan, which addresses maintenance funding for Virginia’s transportation system. Although the plan has yet to be put into legislative form, as it has been outlined to Americans for Tax Reform, the plan appears revenue neutral and makes changes to the Virginia tax code that are pro-growth and pro-taxpayer. In short, the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s proposal is what a plan for serious tax reform in Virginia should look like. 

The Thomas Jefferson Institute developed their plan by taking into consideration the economic consequences of tax policy in the areas of job creation, investment in the economy, and changes in disposable income and projected those consequences over a 5 year period. 

The plan would raise the gas tax at the rate of inflation (using an inflation rate of 2.5-percent per year) after an initial increase from 17.5 cents to 20 whole cents.  The Thomas Jefferson Institute notes that in five years, the Virginia state gas tax will only have risen to 23.19 cents per gallon. 

In exchange for indexing the gas tax to inflation, the plan provides an offset by indexing the current state income tax brackets to inflation as well.  The income ceiling or the tax brackets would increase by the same inflation factor as the gas tax (2.5-perent per year).  The brackets would be adjusted so as to keep the balance between the income tax and gas tax “revenue neutral:

Current Bracket             Inflation Adjusted Bracket

$ 0- $3,000                     $0 - $ 6,056

$ 3,001 - $5,000            $ 6,056 - $10,093

$ 5,001 - $17,000          $ 10,094 - $34,315

$ 17,001 and up            $ 34,316 and up

They note: “Under the Jefferson Institute’s transportation funding plan, in year five there would be $284.5 million dollars more generated by the gas tax and $284.5 million less paid by income taxes. This clearly is a revenue neutral plan.”

This plan appears to be revenue neutral and a step in the right direction for real tax reform in Virginia. The plan, as described, raises money for roads without raising taxes.

[PDF of the Statement of Support]

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Norquist: Defeat of SB 1355 Transportation Bill is a Victory for Virginia Taxpayers


Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 7:20 PM PERMALINK


President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist today released the following statement after the Virginia state senate recommitted the Governor’s “Road to the Future” transportation plan back to committee:

“The defeat of SB 1355 demonstrates that the state senate understands that the Governor’s transportation proposal was not the best solution to Virginia’s transportation needs. Although the Senate will vote on the House version of the bill in the coming weeks, what is clear is that the legislature remains divided on whether a massive tax hike is the best solution to paying for new transportation costs.”

“HB 2313 remains as an unacceptable solution to Virginia’s transportation crisis. It contains a $607 million sales tax hike, more than $500 million in car taxes, and an internet tax scheme. In the last three years, Virginia has run a surplus of $1.4 billion. Less than $21 million of that went to transportation, a miniscule 1.5%. Now is the time to prioritize currently collected and new growth revenue to transportation, not to raise taxes.”

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State Senator Frank Wagner: Flip Flopped on the Travel Agency Tax


Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 2:42 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform has sent more than 11,000 pieces of direct mail into State Senator Frank Wagner’s district asking constituents to call Senator Wagner demanding answers. Despite the fact that in 2011, Wagner voted NO on Democrat Senator Mary Margaret Whipple’s online travel agency tax, this session he was the chief sponsor of that same bill.

Virginia Beach receives more than $1 billion annually from domestic travelers, supporting nearly 12,000 travel-related jobs. Wagner’s targeted tax would increase the costs of using service providers who help travelers find the best deals on hotels, disproportionately harming small businesses and budget-conscious travelers.

A copy of the mail piece can be seen here.

“As a representative of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Senator Frank Wagner should know better than to target the tourism industry for higher taxes. Wagner’s efforts to raise taxes have gotten out of control,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Voters deserve to know why Wagner voted no on the travel agency tax when it was carried by a Northern Virginia Democrat and then decided to carry the bill during the 2013 session. Wagner is not representing the interests of budget-conscious Virginia tourists and should be held accountable for his most recent flip-flop.”

[PDF of Press Release]

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Norquist: House Passage of 2313 Emblematic of Legislature's Refusal to Prioritize Transportation


Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 12:24 PM PERMALINK


President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist today released the following statement after the Virginia House of Delegates passed the Governor’s “Road to the Future” transportation plan:

“House passage of HB 2313 demonstrates that the Virginia state legislature just doesn’t get it. Richmond doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a problem prioritizing spending. No one denies that Virginia has a transportation crisis. Instead of making transportation a priority out of currently collected revenue, however, Virginia Democrats and a select number of Republicans demanded higher taxes instead. A $607 million sales tax hike, more than $600 million in car taxes, and an internet tax scheme are not the solution to Virginia’s transportation needs.”

“In the last three years, Virginia has run a surplus of $1.4 billion. Less than $21 million of that went to transportation, a miniscule 1.5%. It’s time for Virginia Republicans to adopt a conservative approach to solving Virginia’s transportation needs. Eliminate the fees, lower the sales tax hike, and use more general fund revenue to pay for maintenance and new project costs.”

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New Travel Agency Taxes Damage Tourism and Are Illegal


Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, February 4th, 2013, 11:47 AM PERMALINK


As Digital Liberty’s Katie McAuliffe has explained, the internet is the new frontier for higher taxes. Although federal legislation to impose a national internet tax scheme on states and businesses failed to pass in the 112th Congress, many states took notice of the potential for new revenue. Some states are even going as far as imposing their own internet tax schemes.

Tennessee, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut, Oregon, Utah, and Massachusetts are among the “give me more” legislatures looking to grow state coffers. The focus for these states is online hotel booking agents.

As Katie points out,

Hotels offer a room rate to travel agents, which already has the hotel occupancy tax included in the room rate.  They charge the buyer a service fee for locating the room, which is separate from the room rate.  It is a fee for the service of finding the room and this fee is taxed under income tax laws because it goes to the travel agents income.

The Online Travel Agent or Store Front Travel Agent’s facilitation of locating a room is a service and not the same as the room provide by the hotel where the traveler will be staying.  Attempting to expand the hotel occupancy tax would treat the service provider in the same way as a hotel for tax purposes, obscuring the difference between a hotel room and a service. 

Even more, such efforts are illegal. The 1998 Internet Freedom Act prohibits taxes applied only to internet based businesses and not their counterparts.

When laws of this nature have come before the courts, 90% of the time they are struck down because a service charge is different from the rate charged for the room and therefore not subject to occupancy tax.  Occupancy taxes are already paid for in full on the amount received by a hotel when a traveler purchases a room from a travel agent.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Katie’s got the answer to that as well:

People booking for large groups, an office retreat, a school trip, or a large family’s vacation, would feel the burdens of this tax increase.  They may choose a different state to visit or shorten their stay.  The overall cost would increase for a large group by perhaps hundreds of dollars.

This is another faulty attempt by revenue hungry and budgeting shy officials to tax innovative businesses.  The likelihood of this tax backfiring and causing a state to lose money in tourism and travel agent business is high; much higher than the revenue that could be gleaned from this taxation attempt.

This innovative tax scheme has been proposed by both Republican-run states and Democrat ones. Perhaps instead of considering new (illegal in many cases) taxes, legislatures should look within their own budgets to cut back in the same manner that millions of Americans have over the last 4 years.

What are your thoughts? Should tourists bear the burden of state legislatures unwilling to cut back on spending, even though millions of Americans have done just that in the past 4 years?

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ATR Supports Virginia HB1313


Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, 1:56 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform supports Virginia HB 1313, legislation authored by Delegate Bob Marshall that would prevent two of the twenty tax increases in Obamacare from hitting Virginia taxpayers. We urge Virginia lawmakers to pass the legislation during the 2013 session. 

HB 1313 would amend the Code of Virginia to de-conform Virginia tax rules from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Virginians would then be able to deduct from their state returns the increased costs that result from the new threshold under which medical expenses cannot be reimbursed. Obamacare raised this threshold from 7.5% to 10% of adjusted gross income, costing US taxpayers $15.2 billion over 10 years.

Additionally, HB 1313 would protect Virginians from the heightened costs incurred due to Obamacare’s reduction in the allowance of tax deductible contributions to flex spending accounts. Obamacare caps such tax deductible contributions at only $2,500 – prior to Obamacare, taxpayers could make unlimited contributions to their flex accounts under federal law. This provision in Obamacare is particularly detrimental to families with special needs kids, who have traditionally funded their children’s relatively high education costs through these tax deductible accounts.  

HB 1313 would simply preserve present tax rules on Virginia state returns, thereby preventing two tax increases that would have otherwise taken effect with the implementation of Obamacare. While much of the Obamacare’s tax changes are out of legislators’ hands, HB 1313 represents an opportunity for state lawmakers to help cushion the blow of this massive federal tax increase, over 80% of which was scheduled to begin taking effect this year.  

HB 1313 is an important and innovative step forward in curbing federal overreach and job-killing tax increases signed into law by President Obama.  As such, we urge Virginia legislators stand up for their constituents by supporting and voting for HB 1313.

[PDF of Letter from Grover Norquist to Virginia Legislators]

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Anna Bryson Signs the Taxpayer Protection Pledge


Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, 12:16 PM PERMALINK


School Board Trustee Anna Bryson has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in her bid for California’s 73rd Assembly seat. The Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, commits signers to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." 

Bryson, a 2014 candidate, is the first candidate in the race to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  In her time as a School Board Trustee for the Capistrano Unified Schoold District in Orange County, Bryson has ended prior deficit spending habits in the district and balanced the district budget without raising taxes. In addition, Bryson was successful in reducing the size of the district administration and helped push for greater transparency by posting the district's checkbook and budget online. Her actions exemplify the type of leadership Sacramento desperately needs. 

ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal office since 1987. In the 113th Congress, 39 U.S. Senators and 219 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge. Additionally, thirteen governors and approximately 1,100 state legislators have signed the Pledge.

“I want to congratulate Anna Bryson for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Californians already contend with one of the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation and it is clear that the problem in Sacramento is overspending. For decades, politicians in Sacramento increased spending at a rate far beyond that of population growth and inflation,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“With onerously high tax rates forcing individuals, families, and employers out of the state in droves, it’s time that lawmakers reject more job-killing tax increases. By signing the Pledge, Anna Bryson demonstrates that she understands the problems of hard-working taxpayers of California. I challenge all candidates for office in California to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” Norquist continued.

[PDF of Press Release]

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