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Will Upton

Oklahoma Moving in the Right Direction on Pension Reform

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, May 30th, 2014, 2:56 PM PERMALINK


Earlier today, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law legislation the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, a move that will begin to help the state address it’s $11 billion pension debt. House Bill 2630 would require all new state employees to participate in a 401(k) style defined contribution plan.

Oklahoma is just one of several states to recently address the growing state level pension crisis by enacting sensible pension reforms such as moving public employees to a defined contribution system versus a defined benefit system. The legislation, sponsored by State Representative Randy McDaniel will help to curb the state pension liability without forcing current state employees into the new system.

The changes to the Oklahoma pension system mirror those made in Utah in 2010. Legislation sponsored by State Senator Dan Liljenquist shifted the state pension system to a defined contribution – 401(k) style – plan for new state and municipal employees. Like Oklahoma, the Utah legislation allowed for – then current – workers to remain on the previous state pension plan. The Wall Street Journal, at the time, noted:

The sponsor of the Utah reform was Senator Dan Liljenquist, who watched in horror during the 2008 stock market plunge as the state pension fund lost 22% of its assets. From nearly 100% funded in 2007, it fell to 70% funded by 2009. Utah suddenly faced a long-term $6.5 billion funding gap, and the state would have had to nearly double its annual contributions out of the current budget to make up the shortfall.

Other states continue to look to Utah and now Oklahoma as an example of sound fiscal stewardship when it comes to public pension reform. Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey may be considering a hybrid pension system much like what was enacted in Rhode Island. The plan has been reported to include, “…a smaller defined-benefit payout supplemented by a 401K-style defined contribution plan.”

Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions, has recommended the City of Chicago move to a defined contribution plan to address the city’s staggering unfunded liability of $87.3 billion and save taxpayer dollars. Williams notes the success of a similar reform in Michigan:

In 1997, the Michigan State Employees' Retirement System implemented a DC plan for all new employees. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that, from 1997 to 2010, the DC plan saved Michigan taxpayers $167 million in pension normal costs and between $2.3 billion and $4.3 billion in defined-benefit plan unfunded liabilities.

Michigan's DC plan includes an employer contribution equal to 4 percent of salary, plus a 100 percent match on the next 3 percent of an employee's own contribution. That is a far more manageable approach than the Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund because, unlike Chicago's current approach, the DC plan cannot develop unfunded liabilities.

Oklahomans should laude Gov. Fallin and their representatives in the state legislature for making real strides in addressing the state’s pension woes. The move to defined contribution for new hires is a tremendous step in the right direction and helps provide a sound, solvent retirement system for state employees.

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Illinois Democrats Looking To Make Income Tax Hike Permanent

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, May 16th, 2014, 3:18 PM PERMALINK


In 2011, Illinois Democrats, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, decided to raise taxes rather than cut spending in order to fix its budget. This resulted in a ‘’temporary’’ income tax increase from 3% to 5%. Now Gov. Quinn and his Democrat allies in the legislature want to make the 2011 income tax hike permanent after failing to enact a progressive income tax and a millionaire’s tax this legislative session.

Already, Gov. Quinn is the most prolific of tax hiking Democrat governors. Since taking office, he has signed into law $27 billion in higher taxes. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Illinois ranks 31st in the nation in terms of business friendly states. Making the 2011 income tax increase permanent would only serve to drive more jobs and taxpayers from the state.

Democrat Speaker Mike Madigan is pushing his House colleagues to make the “temporary” 2011 tax hike permanent next week.  This would keep the individual income tax rate at 5%, even though Illinois’s tax burden is already one of the highest in the country. By law, the income tax rate in Illinois is set to drop to 3.75% next year and to 3.25% in 2019.

Democrat State Rep. Patrick Verschoore signed ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, promising not to raise taxes on his constituents. Now Rep. Verschoore is in the position of being a key vote on whether to make the tax increase permanent. ATR urges Rep. Verschoore and his colleagues in the Illinois legislature to show courage and bring Illinois citizens much-needed tax relief and vote no on making the 2011 tax increase permanent. You can contact Rep. Verschoore’s office here

Photo credit: Chris Eaves

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ATR Releases List of 2014 Pledge Signers Ahead of Arkansas Primary

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, May 16th, 2014, 11:43 AM PERMALINK


With the Arkansas primary election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and state-wide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, May 20. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:

 

Incumbents:

  • Mark Martin (Secretary of State)
  • Bruce Holland (S-9)
  • Missy Thomas Irvin (S-10)
  • Jason Rapert (S-35)
  • David Sanders (S-15)
  • Gary Stubblefield (S-6)
  • Randy Alexander (H-88)
  • Mark Biviano (H-46)
  • Charlie Collins (H-84)
  • Justin T. Harris (H-81)
  • Mike Holcomb (H-10)
  • Lane Jean (H-2)
  • Allen Kerr (H-32)
  • David Meeks (H-70)
  • Josh Miller (H-66)
  • Reginald K. Murdock (H-48)

 

Challengers:

  • John Burris (S-17)
  • Scott Flippo (S-17)
  • Blake Johnson (S-20)
  • Terry Rice (S-9)
  • Bob Ballinger (H-97)
  • Mary Bentley (H-73)
  • Donnie Copeland (H-38)
  • Les Eaves (H-46)
  • Buddy Fisher (H-14)
  • Michelle Gray (H-62)
  • Patricia Mays (H-10)
  • Lucas Roebuck (H-87)
  • Shannon Taylor (H-72)
  • Dave Wallace (H-54)
  • Mike Whitmore (H-90)
  • Dane Zimmerman (H-95)

 

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of West Virginia Primary

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, May 12th, 2014, 10:31 AM PERMALINK


With the West Virginia primary election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and state-wide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, May 13. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:
 

Incumbents:

  • Clark Barnes (S-11)
  • Tim Armstead (H-40)
  • Karen Arvon (H-31)
  • Larry W. Faircloth (H-60)
  • Marty Gearheart (H-27)
  • Eric Householder (H-64)
  • Gary Howell (H-56)
  • Larry D. Kump (H-59)
  • Joshua A. Nelson (H-23)
  • John Overington (H-62)
  • Rupert Phillips (H-24)
  • Ruth Rowan (H-57)
  • Doug Skaff (H-35)
  • Kelli Sobonya (H-18)
  • Linda Sumner (H-30)
  • Ronald N. Walters (H-39)

 

Challengers:

  • Gary Johngrass (S-7)
  • Robert Karnes (S-11)
  • Michael L. Queen (S-12)
  • Lance Wheeler (S-17)
  • Charles L. Basford (H-36)
  • David Bender (H-16)
  • Saira Blair (H-59)
  • Michael Folk (H-63)
  • Cindy Frich (H-51)
  • Kevin P. Hagerty (H-54)
  • W. Matthew Harris (H-67)
  • Joe Hutchinson (H-18)
  • Michael Ihle (H-13)
  • Gary W. Kelley (H-60)
  • Ryan Keyser (H-58)
  • Patrick Lucas (H-16)
  • Philip Mallow (H-50)
  • Steve Marcum (H-19)
  • Ed “Buddy” Randolph (H-48)
  • Ralph Rodighiero (H-24)
  • Patricia Rucker (H-67)
  • Mary Sprouse-McDavid (H-35)
  • Christopher A. Stansbury (H-35)
  • Jill Upson (H-65)
Photo Credit: 
O Palsson

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Pete Pirsch Signs Taxpayer Protection Pledge in Nebraska Attorney General Race

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Posted by Will Upton on Saturday, May 10th, 2014, 5:14 PM PERMALINK


State Senator Pete Pirsch signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in the primary race for Nebraska's Attorney General. He is the only candidate to have signed. 
 
The Pledge, championed by Americans for Tax Reform, is a commitment to the people of Nebraska to "oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes." ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal office since 1987. Currently, 41 U.S. Senators and 219 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge. Additionally, fourteen incumbent governors and over 1,000 state legislators have signed the Pledge.

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Missouri House Overrides Gov. Nixon’s Veto, Enacts Historic Tax Cuts

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Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014, 11:05 AM PERMALINK


Today – following the lead of the State Senate – the Missouri House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Tim Jones has overridden Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 509. For the first time in nearly 100 years, Missouri taxpayers will be given broad-based tax relief.

This vote to override the governor’s veto will provide $620 million in tax relief for hard working Missourians. The legislation includes a reduction of the top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent and a 25 percent exemption from income taxes for small businesses. The latter is a provision to help Missouri small businesses compete with Kansas small businesses which pay no state income tax. Yesterday the state senate voted 23 to 8 to override the governor’s veto.

Photo Credit: 
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CBO Disproves Paul Davis’s Talking Points on Kansas Revenue Numbers

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, May 5th, 2014, 2:54 PM PERMALINK


Democrat gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis should probably stop letting reporters advise him on tax policy. Citing a Hutchinson News editorial, Davis – the Lawrence, Kansas Democrat – has dubbed Governor Brownback’s tax reform efforts, “A Kansas failure-tale.”

Why is it, in the eyes of Davis and Hutchinson News editorial board, a “failure-tale”? Because of a $92 million gap between April revenue estimates and what actually came in to the state. Hutchinson News pointed the finger at Brownback and Davis more than obliged by adopting their editorial as his own set of talking points – going so far as to post it on his campaign’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

There’s only one problem with the claim that Gov. Brownback’s tax reform is responsible for the $92 million gap. The Congressional Budget office and Democrats in other states say otherwise. They point to the shift of capital gains income from 2013 to 2012 to avoid higher tax rates due to the Fiscal Cliff as the cause of state revenue shortfalls compared to estimates.

A quick glance at the CBO’s Monthly Budget Review would have provided some clarity for Davis and Hutchinson News. For instance, the January 2013 report notes: “Nonwithheld tax receipts for the first four months of the fiscal year rose by $15 billion (or 18 percent), mostly owing to the January boost brought about by taxpayers’ shifting of income from calendar year 2013 into late 2012 in anticipation of higher tax rates.

By April 2013, total nonwithheld receipts had risen by 30 percent – and the CBO’s reason for why?

Nonwithheld receipts rose by $80 billion (or 30 percent), primarily because of higher payments made during the tax-filing season (February through April). Those payments—largely representing final payments for the 2012 tax year—increased by $66 billion (or 36 percent). Income tax refunds declined by $6 billion, further boosting receipts. The large increase in payments accompanying people’s income tax returns probably reflects the fact that higher-income taxpayers, anticipating changes in tax law, realized more income in 2012.

Yes the Kansas revenue estimates were higher than what was actually taken in, but it was not Brownback’s tax reform that caused the gap. It was President Obama’s insistence against the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the Fiscal Cliff that caused taxpayers across America to shift their capital gains into 2012 to avoid the tax hikes in 2013. That shift of taxable dollars impacted states as well.

Paul Davis’s own party leaders acknowledge that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts caused gaps between collections and estimates. Connecticut’s The Day noted:

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced on Monday that the projected $505 million surplus would be down by several million dollars. His budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, said this was likely due to the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts that encouraged people to claim capital gains in 2012 and likely discouraged them from claiming them in 2013 when taxes increased.

How bad is the shortfall in Connecticut? The Day notes: “Connecticut’s budget surplus this year, recently projected at $505 million, has dropped to $43.4 million, while next year’s revenues are projected to come up $282 million short.”

Other states are in a similar boat. Oklahoma’s collections in the month of February fell nearly 10 percent below state estimates. The Courier-Journal in Kentucky cites a report that estimates the state will fall $27.7 million short of budgeted expectations.

Paul Davis’s penchant for political gamesmanship over facts and his reliance on the expertise of the Hutchinson News editorial board when it comes to questions of tax policy should make Kansas voters wary of who would advise him if he ever managed to get elected governor.

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of Ohio Primary

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, May 5th, 2014, 1:28 PM PERMALINK


With the Ohio primary election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and state-wide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, May 6. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:

 

Incumbents:

  • Gov. John Kasich
  • Aud. Dave Yost
  • Shannon Jones (S-7)
  • Bob Peterson (S-17)
  • Peter A. Beck (H-54)
  • Terry Blair (H-42)
  • Andrew Brenner (H-67)
  • Jim Buchy (H-84)
  • Mike Dovilla (H-7)
  • Anne Gonzales (H-19)
  • Cheryl Grossman (H-23)
  • David Hall (H-70)
  • Ron Hood (H-78)
  • Ron Maag (H-62)
  • Jeff McClain (H-87)
  • Kristina D. Roegner (H-37)
  • Clifford Rosenberger (H-91)
  • Lynn Slaby (H-38)
  • Andy Thompson (H-95)
  • Ron Young (H-63)

 

Challengers:

  • Mark Auer (H-31)
  • Tom Brinkman, Jr. (H-27)
  • Joseph Ebbing (H-52)
  • Brett Eley (H-82)
  • Ron Ferguson (H-96)
  • John Insco (H-44)
  • Mary Jo Kubicki (H-54)
  • Dan Mefford (H-20)
  • Robert Sherwin (H-57)

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of Indiana Primary

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, May 5th, 2014, 1:26 PM PERMALINK


With the Indiana primary election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and state-wide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, May 6. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:

 

Incumbents:

  • Jim Banks (S-17)
  • James R. Buck (S-21)
  • Mike Delph (S-29)
  • Dennis K. Kruse (S-14)
  • Jim Tomes (S-49)
  • Greg Walker (S-41)
  • John Waterman (S-39)
  • Jim Baird (H-44)
  • Robert Behning (H-91)
  • Timothy Brown (H-41)
  • Woody Burton (H-58)
  • Martin Carbaugh (H-81)
  • Bob Cherry (H-53)
  • Wes Culver (H-49)
  • Steven Davisson (H-73)
  • David Frizzell (H-93)
  • Bob Heaton (H-46)
  • Todd Huston (H-37)
  • Eric Allan Koch (H-65)
  • Don Lehe (H-25)
  • Jud McMillin (H-68)
  • David Ober (H-82)
  • Rhonda Rhoads (H-70)
  • Jerry R. Torr (H-39)
  • P. Eric Turner (H-32)
  • Thomas Washburne (H-64)
  • Tim Wesco (H-21)
  • Cindy Ziemke (H-55)

 

Challengers:

  • Eric Bassler (S-39)
  • Chris Shepherd (S-6)
  • Jeffrey Snyder (S-15)
  • Jesse Bohannon (H-48)

 

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of North Carolina Primary

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Posted by Will Upton on Monday, May 5th, 2014, 1:25 PM PERMALINK


With the North Carolina primary election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and state-wide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes. ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, May 6. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:

 

Incumbents:

  • Philip Berger (S-26)
  • Andrew Brock (S-34)
  • Peter S. Brunstetter (S-31)
  • Warren Daniel (S-46)
  • Kathy Harrington (S-43)
  • Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr. (S-36)
  • Brent Jackson (S-10)
  • Wesley A. Meredith (S-19)
  • Louis M. Pate Jr. (S-7)
  • Ronald Rabin (S-12)
  • John Marshall Blust (H-62)
  • Robert Brawley (H-95)
  • Rayne Brown (H-81)
  • Dana Bumgardner (H-109)
  • Justin P. Burr (H-67)
  • George Cleveland (H-14)
  • Jeffrey L. Collins (H-25)
  • Jerry C. Dockham (H-80)
  • Nelson Dollar (H-36)
  • Kelly E. Hastings (H-110)
  • Julia Craven Howard (H-79)
  • Linda P. Johnson (H-83)
  • Tim Moore (H-111)
  • Michael Speciale (H-3)
  • Edgar V. Starnes (H-87)
  • Sarah Stevens (H-90)
  • Harry Warren (H-77)
  • Robert A. Rucho (S-39)
  • Daniel F. Soucek (S-45)
  • Jerry W. Tillman (S-29)
  • W. Tommy Tucker (S-35)
  • Dr. Trudy Wade (S-27)

 

Challengers:

  • Justin LaNasa (S-9)
  • Apryl Major (S-15)
  • Elretha Perkins (H-65)
  • Sidney Pierce, III (H-5)
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