Will Upton

Michigan Tax Hike Measure Goes Down in Flames, 80-20

Posted by Will Upton on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015, 10:54 AM PERMALINK

Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected a sales and gas tax increase on Tuesday, defeating Prop. 1 by an 80 – 20 margin. The coalition of spending interests pushing the tax increase outspent their opponents 17 – 1 yet still suffered a historic defeat. 

Proponents, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, sold the tax hike measure as a means of funding “roads and bridges."

“The tax and spenders and their advocates in the media thought they had finally found the secret sauce: hold highway spending hostage to higher taxes,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “The verdict is now in from Michigan. A big No.” 

According to Gongwer News Service, the abysmal support for the tax hike is the "lowest percentage of the vote for a constitutional amendment since the adoption of the 1963 Constitution.”

The latest available numbers from the Secretary of State’s office show a vote breakdown as follows:

YES:                 349,813

NO:                  1,405,716

According to public filings, pro-tax hike forces raised $9,049,010 while tax hike opponents raised $519,138.

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Michigan Voters Faced With $2 Billion Tax Hike on May 5 Ballot

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 24th, 2015, 2:58 PM PERMALINK

In a few weeks Michigan voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of Proposal 1 – a $2 billion tax increase referred to the ballot by the state legislature. While most polls show this massive tax increase trailing, crony-spending interests are making a last ditch attempt to increase support for Proposal 1.

The ballot measure would amend the Michigan Constitution, increasing the sales and use tax rate to 7 percent. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also notes:

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

A study on the impact Proposal 1 would have on taxpayers has revealed that the sales and use tax increase would amount to a $1.4 billion tax increase and the new, higher fuel tax would amount to a $463 million tax increase (also outpacing the rate of inflation).

James Hohman from the Mackinac Center has produced an excellent study detailing the flaws of Proposal 1, including serious concerns with how Michigan’s road funding works. Hohman notes:

Road construction in Michigan is primarily paid for with revenues from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Since these taxes are paid by people driving vehicles on public roads, they function as a user fee.

Taxes motorists pay do not meet the strict definition of user fees, however. Vehicle registration taxes for passenger vehicles, for example, are based on their value rather than their estimated wear on the roads. Further, hybrid and electric cars tend to be heavier and thus cause more wear on the roads, but owners of these vehicles buy less fuel and pay less in fuel taxes. People purchasing fuel for use in lawnmowers, snowmobiles or other recreational vehicles also pay for road maintenance.

Despite these divergences, the bulk of taxed fuel in Michigan is purchased for use by vehicles operating on government-funded roads.* But these taxes also can be appropriated for other purposes, which reduces their functioning as user fees. For instance, 10 percent of fuel taxes go to transit operations.

Americans for Tax Reform urges Michigan voters to oppose Proposal 1 and tell the Michigan legislature to find cost effective and pro-growth ways to fund the state’s transportation needs without lining the pockets of crony-spending interests.

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Richard Vandiamondsworth

Raise money to nuke Detoilet.


You all get things right about as often as a stopped clock. But in this one instance you are correct.

Ohio State House Republicans Push A Sound Tax Reform Agenda

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 17th, 2015, 2:45 PM PERMALINK

Lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives have unveiled a substitute bill for House Bill 64 – the state budget. This plan greatly improves upon the original HB 64 by removing many of the base narrowing tax hikes, and instead focusing on broad-based pro-growth tax reform

The HB 64 substitute bill would lower state income tax rates by $1.2 billion over the next two years – providing a 6.3% across-the-board cut to taxes for income taxable in the year 2015. It would also make permanent the 75-percent small business deduction while lowering the top income tax rate to just below 5-percent.

The previous version of HB 64 provided net tax relief of only $500 million over two years and saw significant, job-killing tax hikes on oil and gas, small businesses (via the Commercial Activities Tax), and an increase in the state sales tax from 5-percent to 5.5-percent. It also contained an increase in the state cigarette tax – often a declining source of revenue – and an increase in the tax on products many people use for smoking cessation – namely e-cigarettes and vapor products. 

The House substitute bill is a serious improvement upon the original tax plan contained in the state budget and addresses many of the reservations that Americans for Tax Reform previously held. 

Americans for Tax Reform would urge all members of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio State Senate to support this House substitute version of HB 64. 

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Americans for Tax Reform Urges Gov. Hogan to Veto the Maryland Travel Tax Bill

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform has sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan asking him to veto Senate Bill 190. This legislation would disparately impact the Maryland travel industry by apply the Maryland sales tax to online travel agents, brick and mortar travel agents, wedding planners, tour operators, and other service providers. With summer almost here, and tourism season gearing up, a new tax would hurt many small businesses in Maryland who rely on tourism for revenue.

We urge Maryland residents to contact Gov. Hogan and ask him to veto SB 190. You can reach his office by phone by calling 410-974-3901 or toll-free at 1-800-811-8336. You can also email the governor’s office by clicking here.

Below is the full letter ATR sent to Gov. Hogan:


Dear Governor Hogan,

I write to you today to encourage you to veto Senate Bill 190. This piece of legislation would harm Maryland businesses and deter tourists from choosing Maryland as a travel destination. The legislation would enact a new travel tax on consumers who use online travel services, brick and mortar travel agencies, and tour operators, wedding planners, and other Maryland service providers.

A tax increase on these small businesses will ultimately impact consumers and other businesses who rely on a vibrant tourism economy: restaurants, taxis, attractions, retail shops, entertainment venues, etc.  It is also important to consider that these small businesses already pay a federal and state income tax.

As House of Delegates Minority Leader Nick Kipke has pointed out: “There are special interests that are pushing this bill and frankly we need to look out for the special interests of the real Marylanders that show up to work every day, and have to balance a payroll, and they employ people right in our communities. So, I'm encouraging the members of the House of Delegates to resist any new taxes or fees. It's time Maryland has an opportunity to thrive.”

Delegate Chris Adams has said, regarding SB 190: “We have over 1,100 brick and mortar small travel business agents that are going to be affected by this bill… We’ve had 8,000 small businesses leave Maryland over the last 8 years because of policies just like this.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia has already rejected a similar measure this legislative session.

To put it plainly, SB 190 is a continuation of the crony-tax policies of the O’Malley-Brown administration – policies that Maryland voters rejected last November when you defeated Lt. Gov. Brown.

Gov. Hogan, stand up for Maryland’s small businesses and reject this crony tax hike.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to Will Upton, state affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform. He can be reached at (202) 785-0266 or via email at wupton@atr.org.



Grover G. Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform

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stevehdc (Flickr.com)

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Alabama Governor Insinuates He’ll Release Dangerous Prisoners Unless Lawmakers Raise Taxes

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Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, April 9th, 2015, 12:47 PM PERMALINK

Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley has once again lashed out at critics of his $541 million tax increase proposal – this time threatening to release prisoners unless lawmakers vote for the bill. Yellowhammer News reports:

The Governor said the state may also have to close 15 of its 22 state parks, and cut prison funding.

“You might not care about prisoners,” he said, “but when you have them in your basement, you’re going to care.”

He urged the members of the audience, and the general public to encourage their legislators to pass the tax increase, reiterating that he is willing to call several special sessions of the state legislature this summer to accomplish his agenda if the tax hikes don’t pass during the regular session currently underway.

This is just the latest threat Gov. Bentley has made regarding his plan to increase taxes. He has previously said that lawmakers will take up and pass his tax hike even if it takes 10 special sessions. When State Senator Bill Holtzclaw put up a billboard opposing the governor’s tax increase, Bentley retaliated by halting transportation projects in the senator’s district.

Americans for Tax Reform has previously highlighted that Gov. Bentley is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise to his constituents to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” On top of that, Bentley – running for re-election last November – made “No New Taxes” a key component of his campaign. Yet, immediately after his re-election, he called for higher taxes.

Help Americans for Tax Reform stop Gov. Bentley’s $541 million tax hike. Call Gov. Bentley’s office at (334) 242-7100 or click here to email and tell him stand by his promise to Alabama taxpayers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

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O Brother, Where Art Thou (film)

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Robert Bentley Breaks His Pledge, Runs From the Truth

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Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015, 2:53 PM PERMALINK

After unveiling a $541 million tax increase at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been called out for violating his written promise to the voters to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

Yesterday, Gov. Bentley sat for an interview with FOX’s WBRC-Birmingham. In the course of the discussion, Gov. Bentley responded to a question about tax increases with this:

I think those are legitimate concerns. Well let me say this. I did sign a no tax pledge my first four years. I did not sign it the last four years. What we did the first four years, we streamlined, we cut, we consolidated, we did everything that was necessary to make our state more efficient and we've done that. We've cut government by 12%. We've saved the taxpayers $1.2 billion annually. And so we have done everything that you could do the first four years to make government more efficient. Now, it's halftime, little bit past halftime in fact, but we don't have enough money to fund the general fund.

Gov. Bentley is hung up on his written promise to voters to not raise taxes despite Americans for Tax Reform, Alabama’s United State Senator Richard Shelby, and many others having pointed out numerous times the danger that his proposed $541 million tax hike poses to the Alabama economy.

Despite this, Gov. Bentley would like Alabama taxpayers to think he’s just being reasonable. That he is the victim of circumstance here. In reality, it is the opposite.

In 2010, when he first ran for governor, Robert Bentley signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The Pledge reads: “I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” At no point in the history of the Pledge has it been construed to only apply to one term in office (for more information click here). If a politician says they are pro-life, is it not safe to assume that they will remain pro-life for more than just one term in office? When someone takes their vow in marriage, is it not safe to assume that that vow is supposed to be for life?

Given his response to WBRC, it would seem that Gov. Bentley doesn’t want to be bound by promises.

In fact, he has gone out of his way to attack those who have tried to hold him to his promise. State Senator Bill Holtzclaw, a retired Marine, made it clear that he would not support Bentley’s call for higher taxes with a bill board in his district. How did Gov. Bentley respond? He put a stop to $100 million worth of road projects in Sen. Holtzclaw’s district.

While running for a second term in office in 2014 – supposedly a term in which Bentley viewed himself as no longer bound by his pledge not to raise taxes – the Bentley campaign was awash with “No New Taxes” rhetoric. 

Literally, the words “No New Taxes” were on Gov. Bentley’s website.

His campaign’s Facebook page.

And on campaign billboards across Alabama.

Gov. Bentley claims that he did not know that Alabama would be facing a budget shortfall (read overspending problem) during his re-election campaign, but Alabama talk radio host Matt Murphy has thrown cold water on that theory.

The fact is, Gov. Bentley has broken his no new taxes pledge to Alabama voters and in doing so broken their trust in him. Unfortunately, having entered his second and final term as governor, Bentley may not have to face the voters ever again.

In the end – with a preponderance of evidence against him – one can only conclude that Gov. Robert Bentley is either grossly incompetent, a prisoner of spending interests and influential Democrats, or a liar.

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Of course, any politicians who haven't broken the No Taxes pledge are like frogs in the cooking pot who can't tell the water is heating up.

Because it makes no allowances for disaster or circumstances, not even inflation, one of the major engines of the US economy.

This turns the pledge from a restriction on government to an ever tightening noose. Most people's awareness of how government affects their day to day lives is rather like that story of the fish who asks "What's water?"

No government is the same thing as anarchy. If you can afford a private army and a staff surgeon, then no big whoop. But most folks have no idea of what a no government reality would be like.

Alabama Governor Unveils $541 Million Tax Hike

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Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

Robert Bentley, entering his second term as Alabama’s governor, has announced a proposal that would increase taxes by $541 million in an effort to plug what he says is a $700 million budget shortfall. Bentley’s move for higher taxes clearly violates his written promise to Alabama taxpayers to: “…oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes” — a promise he was more than happy to campaign on for re-election

Gov. Bentley’s proposal would increase taxes on cigarettes in Alabama by 82.5-cents per pack — estimated to generate $205 million. Additionally, the plan would double the sales tax on automobiles, from 2 to 4 percent, generating roughly $200 million. The $136 million remaining in tax hikes, according to AL.com, includes $47 million from ending the municipal exemption for the public utilities license tax, increasing the rental-car tax from 1.5 percent to 4 percent, an insurance premium tax, and requiring “… combined income reporting for corporations that do business in other states.” 

Relying on cigarette taxes — often a declining source of revenue as more and more Americans either reduce how much they smoke or quit — seems like a foolish way to plug Alabama’s revenue shortfall. The Washington Policy Center’s John Barnes detailed the disastrous decision in Washington state of relying on cigarette taxes to fund a 12% increase in state spending: “But actual collections under I-773 have been $2.5 million less than expected. Cigarette sales decline about 1% or 2% each year. Raising the tax pushes consumers to seek cigarettes out of state or from Indian reservations, or it cuts how much they buy. The state Department of Revenue estimated $220 million in lost revenue in 2003 due to people buying cigarettes via semi-illicit or downright illegal means.” In addition to people quitting or reducing their consumption of cigarettes, higher prices means an increase in smuggling. 

The Tax Foundation has uncovered that nearly 60 percent of the cigarette market in New York is comprised of smuggled cigarettes — New York also happens to have the highest cigarette tax in the nation. The Tax Foundation study reveals that Alabama does not currently have a severe smuggling problem but with low cigarette tax states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee well within driving distance, higher prices could cause a spike in smuggling activity in Alabama. 

Cliff Sims, writing at Yellowhammer News, has raised concerns about the declining consumption of cigarettes and what that means for the Alabama budget as well: 

And outside of the obvious fairness issue, those who think a hike on cigarette taxes could be a longterm cure for Alabama’s budget woes should also consider the precipitous decline in cigarette sales over the years.

As a result of the tax hikes, laws banning smoking, aggressive anti-smoking ad campaigns and polling that indicates Americans no longer consider smoking “normal behavior,” the U.S. Surgeon General published a 980-page report last year actually predicting an eventual end to smoking in the United States.

 …Alabama hit its peak in 1979, when there were 123 packs of cigarettes sold       for every person living in the state. By 2012, Alabama’s yearly cigarette sales       per capita had plummeted to 67.

While the governor has claimed that he wants people to pay their fair share, the two largest components of his tax plan are targeted tax increases on two consumer markets — one that is a declining source of revenue and the other, automobiles, is a captured market that people have little ability to avoid (for every 1,000 people, there are 1030 cars in Alabama.)

Couple the cigarette and automobile tax increases with a slew of other discriminatory and volatile (the proposed rental-car tax to name one) tax increases in the governor’s plan and it becomes apparent that Bentley is less concerned with governing than with attacking industries and products he finds to be politically expedient. This is not the way in which Alabama should tackle its budget issues. The fact is, between 2000 and 2009, state spending in Alabama has exceeded the rate of inflation and population growth by just over $20 billion. There is room for spending restraint. A long term plan to reduce the state’s out-of-control spending would go a long way to solve the current budget mess and ensure predictable and sound budgets in the future. 

Help Americans for Tax Reform stop Gov. Bentley’s tax hike. Call Gov. Bentley’s office at (334) 242-7100 or click here to email and tell him stand by his promise to Alabama taxpayers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

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" Tax hikes are what politicians do instead of reforming government."

Pulling money out of the public funds into government spending is counter productive. Government steals money that families need to live their lives and tax's only feed the beast that wants to control you. Democrats and RINOs always know what is best for their subjects.

Jeff Brown

he is going to need a LOT more than that to pay for upcoming litigation.

Americans for Tax Reform Responds to Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Income Tax Plan

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Posted by Will Upton on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015, 12:31 PM PERMALINK

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform has released the following statement in response to Gov. John Kasich’s income tax cut plan in Ohio:

In last night’s State of the State Address, Governor Kasich unveiled a plan to lower income tax rates for Ohioans by $2 billion. While this is a laudable goal, the proposal also contains nearly $1.5 billion in tax hikes – primarily on job creators.

The recent drop in energy prices has already triggered layoffs in some Ohio steel plants as the demand for pipeline manufacturing has declined. Increasing taxes on Ohio’s energy producers and small businesses could lead to more layoffs and set Ohio back in its economic recovery.  

Additionally, the proposed increase on tobacco products leaves open the door to future income tax hikes as tobacco has proven consistently to be a declining source of revenue. And increasing taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products, devices many people use to quit smoking and improve their health, is counter-productive to the goal of a healthier Ohio.

Between the year 2000 and 2009, Ohio’s spending exceeded the rate of inflation and population growth by $73.6 billion. There is room to cut in the state budget. The legislature would better serve Ohio taxpayers by reducing state spending and reducing income taxes rather than cutting taxes on the backs of job creators.

Gov. Kasich’s plan to reduce state income taxes is a step in the right the direction for Ohio taxpayers, but doing so on the backs of job creators leaves the plan less than inspiring. 

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The real "job creators" are when more people can afford to buy stuff Grover, Why do you insist that giving more and more to the rich really helps our country? Also you and your party say "job creators" like it's some sort of threat..,and it's become very typical of you.

Alabama Gov. Bentley Breaks “No New Taxes” Promise, Pushes for Higher Taxes

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, February 23rd, 2015, 5:05 PM PERMALINK

Governor Robert Bentley has made it clear that he intends to break his WRITTEN pledge to voters to oppose and veto “any and all efforts to increase taxes.”  Shortly after his re-election this past November, Gov. Bentley began making a push to increase taxes. Americans for Tax Reform pushed back, noting:

According to the Cotton State’s governor, eliminating tax deductions is not the same as raising taxes.

"I am not for raising taxes and this actually would not be raising taxes," Bentley said. "It would be taking away some deductions. That is certainly one of the things we'll be looking at."

Bentley is wrong. By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the governor has committed to “oppos[ing] changes in tax deductions or credits that increase the net tax burden on Americans.” 

Enacting legislation that burdens taxpayers with higher taxes and fees to fuel exorbitant state spending, goes against his written promise to the people of Alabama to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes." Americans for Tax Reform encourages Gov. Bentley to pursue revenue neutral, pro-growth tax reform and enact spending restraint instead of raising taxes on Alabama families.

Now Gov. Bentley is floating a plan which would raise taxes in Alabama by roughly $700 million, according to Yellowhammer News, despite having previously opposed tax increases:

“When you hurt businesses and you tax businesses, you’re going to lose jobs and we need to be creating jobs,” he said. He went a step further and signed Americans for Tax Reform’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” committing himself in writing to opposing all tax increases. During his most recent campaign, Gov. Bentley’s re-election ads also prominently displayed the words “No New Taxes.” 

That’s right. Despite having won two gubernatorial races by campaigning against higher taxes, featuring his promise to not raise taxes on his website, and making a written promise to the people of Alabama to not raise their taxes, Gov. Bentley is now pushing for just that. Higher taxes.

The American people have historically reacted poorly to politicians who promise not to raise taxes and then do. Broken promises on taxes cost George H.W. Bush a second term as President and Tom Corbett a second term as Governor of Pennsylvania. When you make a promise, people expect you to keep it. This might explain why Gov. Bentley waiting to announce his intention to break his promise against higher taxes until after he won re-election. 

The Alabama Republican Party has already responded to Gov. Bentley’s plan, passing a resolution in opposition to any proposed tax hikes. Yellowhammer News reported that the resolution read:

“Alabama is still in a state of recovery from the recent and extended recession that has gripped this state and the entire nation for the past several years,” the resolution said. “Be it therefore resolved that we, the members of the Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee call upon Governor Bentley and legislative leaders to consider options other than an increased tax burden on Alabama citizens as a solution to the state’s fiscal problems.” 

Between 2000 and 2009, state spending in Alabama has exceeded the rate of inflation in population growth by just over $20 billion. Gov. Bentley should take the lead and work with legislative leadership to pursue reductions in state spending and truly pro-growth tax reform like that enacted in North Carolina and Wisconsin. 

Help Americans for Tax Reform stop Gov. Bentley’s $700 million tax hike. Call Gov. Bentley’s office at (334) 242-7100 or click here to email and tell him stand by his promise to Alabama taxpayers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

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Illinois Gov. Rauner Ends the Forced Unionization of Public Employees

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Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, 4:01 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom applaud Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner for ending the practice of forced unionization for state employees. Enacted by executive order, the Washington Free Beacon notes that Gov. Rauner’s action means: “…public sector workers will no longer be forced to join government unions, such as the politically powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as a condition of employment.”

Matt Patterson, the Executive Director at the Center for Worker Freedom, stated:

Politicians in both red and blue states are at last coming to a consensus that workers deserve free labor markets. 

In the United States, no one should be forced to join or pay dues to any organization, including a labor union.  Gov. Rauner's actions are at odds with labor bosses, who rely on government power to force workers into their ranks.  Fortunately for the rest of us, the Governor's actions are entirely constituent with the U.S. Constitution and freedom of assembly.

The move against forced unionization in Illinois government comes on the heels of a major effort in Kentucky to enact local Right to Work laws. As a state with strong home rule laws, county governments in Kentucky have tremendous power in how local government is run. While the state government remains divided over Right to Work, several counties have undertaken the enactment of local versions of the law – a law that has been passed in 24 states. Writing in Forbes, the Center for Worker Freedom’s Matt Patterson points out:

In a stroke of genius and bravery, county leaders in Kentucky have decided that right-to-work absolutely falls under the “economic development” rubric, because right-to-work attracts businesses and boosts job growth; according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, between 1990 and 2014 jobs grew more than twice as fast in right-to-work states compared to their less-free brethren.

So Kentucky county officials figure they can and should pass right-to-work at the county level. And as of this writing, five have done so, a pro-worker blitzkrieg that advanced through Todd, Fulton, Warren, Simpson and Hardin counties in barely one month as last year gave way to this.

Most importantly, Gov. Rauner has extended the freedom of association to Illinois state employees, giving them the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to be a part of a public employee union. A right that is all-the-more important when one realizes most Illinois unions fail to meet typical non-profit standards for spending. The Illinois Policy Institute points out:

Nonprofits in Illinois typically spend around 90 percent of their budget on their missions, with the remainder going to overhead and administration.

Meanwhile, all but one of Illinois’ major government unions fail to reach the Better Business Bureau’s standard, by the unions’ own accounting.

For instance, the Illinois Education Association, or IEA, the state’s biggest teachers union, devoted just 26 percent of its budget to representation in 2014. Nearly 70 percent went to administration and overhead and 3 percent went to political activities, according to LM-2 reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013.

Americans for Tax Reform encourages more governors across the country to follow Gov. Rauner’s lead and end the forced unionization of public employees.

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