ATR Supports the Health Savings Act of 2017

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Friday, January 13th, 2017, 4:45 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform recently sent a letter supporting H.R. 35, the Health Savings Act of 2017 sponsored by Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas). By making important improvements to HSAs this commonsense legislation gives individuals and families the ability to make the best decision for their medical needs.

The incoming Congress is committed to reform our health care system by repealing and replacing Obamacare as well as implementing reforms that put patients first and are fiscally responsible. The Heath Savings Act of 2017 will expand the limits of HSAs, helping to ensure patient-centered healthcare reforms by keeping costs low and allowing Americans to make decisions that fit their needs.  

ATR support the Health Savings Act of 2017 and urges all members of congress to vote is support of this commonsense legislation.

The letter can be read here.

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This is NOT "commonsense" legislation! The funds that go into an HSA come out of the worker's pockets!! We had an HSA when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We had to pay a deductible of $4k. It took us over 2 years to pay that off - in that time, we almost lost our house due to the unexpected medical bills!!! We did not make enough to have had that amount put aside "in case".

The ACA MUST NOT BE REPEALED until there is another plan in place. DO NOT leave the American citizens who work so hard every day high & dry!! PLEASE. I'm begging you.

ATR Joins Coalition Urging Confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Head

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, 1:26 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week joined over 20 other free market organizations in sending a letter to U.S. Senators supporting and urging confirmation of Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Highlights from the letter are below with a PDF of the full letter

"Attorney General Pruitt has consistently fought for Oklahoma families and communities and has been a stalwart defender against federal intrusion into state and individual rights. Notably, Mr. Pruitt led a multi-state effort opposing the EPA's unlawful attempt to take over the nation's electricity grid under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act," the letter states. 

In addition to Mr. Pruitt's work fighting Obama's Clean Air Act overreach, the letter also cites that, "Attorney General Pruitt has stood up for states, families, and the Constitution by opposing the Administration's unconstitutional regulatory overreach through the re-definition of the waters of the United States." 

Both the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. Rule infringe state sovereignty, impede the Constitution, and will have far reaching negative impacts on jobs, income, and economic prosperity across America if they are allowed to move forward.

Americans for Tax Reform supports all the work Mr. Pruitt has done to fight these instances of overreach and others, and urges Senators to support his confirmation as EPA Administrator. 


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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Amendments to Obamacare Repeal Resolution Aim to Delay and Distract

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017, 8:36 AM PERMALINK

Possible Prescription Drug Importation Amendments Are Not the Solution to Reducing Prices

The Senate is expected to soon vote on S.Con.Res.3, a budget resolution providing for repeal of Obamacare. This “repeal resolution” is step one in undoing the legacy of broken promises under the Barack Obama presidency which have led to higher healthcare costs, cancelled plans, lost doctors, and more than one trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) in tax increases which hit American families and small businesses.

This is a huge win for taxpayers, and should be supported by all Senators. During consideration of the repeal resolution, it is expected that Senators will also offer a number of amendments during consideration of the repeal resolution with the aim of distracting and delaying the process. One example of this is a series of introduced amendments that call for the importation of market distorting price controls on prescription medicines.

Members of the Senate should vote “no” on any importation amendments – and many of the other amendments expected to be offered during consideration of the repeal resolution. The purpose of this budget resolution is to allow for an expedited process to repeal Obamacare through budget reconciliation. More time wasted on amendments threatens the entire process of repealing Obamacare.

Importation schemes are not the solution to lower prices or a more efficient healthcare system. Instead, they would disrupt the system of medical innovation and increase long-term costs through the domino effect of fewer life-saving and life-preserving medicines. These amendments are simply an attempt by some Senators to play political games by proposing a seemingly free market way to reduce prescription drug prices.

The truth is, allowing importation of prescription medicines is not pro-free trade. Almost every other country in the world has excessive price controls on medical innovation. Prices are not determined by the free market but by politicians offering voters seemingly cheap medicines. In turn, allowing importation of a drug also means for the importation of the price controls.

This is the opposite of free trade. Free trade means transparent prices with no tariffs, barriers, or price controls. The U.S. is one of the few countries that allow drug prices to be (mostly) set by the free market, and is also a leader in medical innovation. Reversing this trend by allowing ill-thought out importation policies will hurt American innovators which pour billions of dollars each year into creating new innovative medicines that result in substantial long-term savings for our healthcare system.

The Senate will soon vote on a repeal resolution that will lead to a giant tax cut for American families and small businesses. This is a huge win.

Members should not dilute or threaten this win by passing amendments that slow or endanger the process, especially those that promote dangerous, anti-free market policies like importation of price controls on prescription medicines.


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Email Privacy Act Reintroduced in Congress

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Posted by Andreas Hellmann on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, 10:44 AM PERMALINK

On Monday, January 9th, 2017 Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)  and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced the Email Privacy Act. This bipartisan bill will plug a loophole that allows civil and criminal investigative agencies the ability to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of our online content. 

The Email Privacy Act would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 to underline that all a warrant is required in order to search Americans’ online communications, regardless of when the email was crafted.  ECPA contains an unintended loophole that allows the government to search any email older than 180 days stored on a third-party server, such as Google Mail, Yahoo Mail or Apple’s iCloud, without a warrant.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform strongly argued in favor of the Email Privacy Act legislation. "American privacy was the big winner when the House passed the Email Privacy Act! They send the bill to the Senate after a 419 -0 vote.  If the Senate concurs the government will need a warrant to read your e-mails—just as they have always needed a warrant to read your snail mail.”

Katie McAuliffe, ATR’s Federal Affairs Manager and Executive Director of Digital Liberty said,

“Passage of the Email Privacy Act was a large bipartisan effort and a major victory in securing American’s digital privacy. Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is absolutely necessary in order to secure the privacy of emails and other items stored in the Cloud.” 

In the 114th Congress (2015-2016) the House voted 419-0 to pass the legislation, but the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee after amendments were offered that privacy advocates said would give the civil and criminal investigative agencies even more "unwarranted" surveillance power than the status quo.

Both House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) are original cosponsors of the bill. Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Will Hurd, (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Susan DelBene (D-WA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Judy Chu (D-CA) have also joined as original cosponsors of the bill.

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Indiana Republican House Speaker Bosma Pushing for Gas Tax Hike Again

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Posted by Miriam Roff on Monday, January 9th, 2017, 3:12 PM PERMALINK

New Year, New Me? Not if you’re Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-88). For the second year in a row, the Speaker is pushing a hike in the state’s gas tax.

House Republicans unveiled a series of tax hikes last Wednesday in an effort to raise about $800 million in new funds for the state’s transportation infrastructure over the next two years. The plan would not only slap Indiana taxpayers with a 10 cents per gallon gas tax hike but it would also index the tax to inflation, and increase the special fuel and motor carrier surcharge tax.

From the new revenue generated, the state would allocate roughly $300 million in new dollars to state roads in fiscal year 2018 and between $480 million and $540 million the following year. The proposal would also redirect the remaining 4.5 cents of the sales tax on gasoline that is currently diverted to the general fund to the state highway fund, starting in 2019.

The proposal also imposes a new annual $15 fee on every vehicle registered in the state and a $150 per-year fee on electric vehicles. These taxes are projected to generate $92 million per year and would be allocated to local roads.

As detailed above, the proposed solutions to the state’s transportation needs are only focused on raising taxes and not reforming government or reallocating currently collected resources. By allowing the gas tax rate to increase automatically every year, lawmakers are placing tax hikes on autopilot and are stripping from the budget process the responsibility and accountability that come with annual decisions about tax rates.

Second, gas tax revenue will continue to be diverted to the state’s general fund until 2019. If transportation funding were truly a priority, lawmakers would immediately use gas tax revenue for its intended purpose: roads. Legislators would also permanently codify the earmarking of gas tax revenue to new and existing transportation projects.

Third, the gas tax is not a user fee. Consumers must be presented with a choice of either purchasing the service from the government (by paying the fee) or purchasing the services from a private business in order to qualify as a true user fee. Because anyone who purchases gasoline in Indiana is forced to pay the tax, they are not considered user fees. Gas tax increases are tax increases in the same way that income and sales tax increases are. Road tolls, however, are an example of user fees. Tolls are user fees because commuters have the option of using the roads they are imposed upon or not.  

Now that hardworking Hoosier families can finally afford to fuel their cars and heat their homes, legislators should not strip them of economic opportunity by making gas increasingly unaffordable. Reasonably and low-priced gasoline allows people to spend more money on groceries and other necessities, including long-term investment savings. Americans for Tax Reform will closely monitor this issue as it develops in the coming weeks and working to educate taxpayers of where their legislator stands on tax hikes and government reform.



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ATR Urges Passage of S.Con.Res.3, The Obamacare Repeal Resolution

Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, January 9th, 2017, 7:00 AM PERMALINK

Passage of Repeal Resolution is First Stage in Passing A Trillion Dollar Tax Cut

Congress is expected to soon vote on S.Con. Res. 3, a budget resolution providing for repeal of Obamacare. The “repeal resolution” is step one in undoing the legacy of broken promises under the Barack Obama presidency which have led to higher healthcare costs, cancelled plans, lost doctors, and more than $1 trillion in tax increases which hit millions of middle class families.

All members of the House and Senate should vote “yes” on the repeal resolution. The record of Obamacare is one of broken promises and failed policies. Poll after poll has shown the law is unpopular with the American people. Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare and this resolution will allow them to fulfill that promise.

Members of the Senate should also vote “no” on the numerous amendments expected to be offered during consideration of the repeal resolution. The purpose of this budget resolution is to allow for an expedited process to repeal Obamacare through budget reconciliation. These amendments will slow down the process and are largely an attempt for members to play political games.  

Passing the repeal resolution will allow members of Congress to pass the first of many tax cuts over the next four years by repealing the more than $1 trillion in higher taxes over a decade. Obamacare’s tax hikes directly hit middle class families, in violation of President Obama’s “firm pledge” not to raise any tax on any family earning less than $250,000 per year. Passing the repeal resolution will allow members of Congress the opportunity to pass the first of many tax cuts over the next four years by repealing these taxes.

The Obamacare law imposed taxes on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts and imposed an income tax increase on Americans with high medical bills. Obamacare levied a new tax on health insurance, a tax on medical devices, a tax on employer provided care, a steep “indoor tanning tax” and even a tax for not buying “qualifying” government-mandated insurance.

[Full List of Obamacare’s One Trillion Dollars in Tax Hikes]

Passing the repeal resolution will also allow Congress to undo a long list of wasteful subsidies including the risk corridor and reinsurance programs as well as the Prevention and Public Health slush fund. Each of these programs and agencies have seen billions in taxpayer dollars wasted on partisan activities at a time when the federal government already spends far too much.

Support for S.Con. Res. 3 is the first step toward enacting a conservative, patient-centered, fiscally responsible healthcare system and eliminating the broken promises, wasteful spending, and higher taxes of the Obama years. 


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I read the resolution and can't get past the budget increases of almost $1T/year. Am I missing something?

State Overspending May Be A Significant Problem for Vapers in 2017

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, January 4th, 2017, 8:09 AM PERMALINK

As the 2017 legislative session kicks off in states across the country, three-fifths of states face overspending problems that will force serious discussions about currently collected tax revenue and future spending levels. More commonly but incorrectly referred to as budget shortfalls, states across the country face a conflict between anticipated revenue levels and out of control budget growth. It should come as no surprise to consumers of vapor products that this presents the threat of new product taxation in states where sin taxes have not yet been imposed.

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products are used by millions of consumers in the United States as a means to quit smoking combustible, or traditional cigarettes. The mounting evidence suggests that these smoking cessation products are at least 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. That, however, hasn’t deterred lawmakers from targeting the growing multi-billion dollar industry and its consumers with tax hikes.

By sheer number of threats in recent years, vapor products have been the number one targets for tax hikes of any product or type of tax imposed by states, including cigarettes. And while lawmakers have succeeded at raising or phasing in more increases in state cigarette taxes (15 times since 2013), the imposition of entirely new sin taxes on vapor products in 6 states (plus once by voters) is a trend we at ATR will continue to monitor.

In each of the seven states that will impose an excise tax on vapor products in 2017, six came about as part of a tax package between 2012 and 2016 that also increased the state cigarette tax rate. The trend of considering tax increases on both products at the same time mirrors a national problem the vapor industry and its consumers face; the incorrect perception that the products are similar because vaping looks like smoking and thus a natural extension of a cigarette tax hike is an e-cigarette tax hike as well.

Related: Cigarettes: A Case Study in the Slow Rise of Excise Taxes  

Until the emergence of vapor products, cigarettes were the number one targets of tax hikes in the states. Between 2000 and 2016, 48 states and the District of Columbia passed 135 state cigarette tax increases, five times the number of tax hikes passed on liquor. 

Below is a summary of legislative tax changes imposed last year alone. As you can see, state tobacco tax hikes represent the second largest type of tax hike from FY17. 

Cigarettes are a popular scapegoat for overspending and shortfalls because the taxes can bring in somewhat significant revenue quickly without much opposition from consumers, even if it the money may be short-lived, cause budget volatility, lead to black markets, and punitively punish the poor. Regardless, cigarettes remain a top target for tax-hungry politicians.

In an era (post-2010 GOP gains across the country) of opposition to broad-based tax increases (a win for most taxpayers), sin taxes are an easy target for politicians in tough economic times who wish to raise as much money as possible from as few voters opposed. Though misguided, it’s the reality. As such, with more than half of U.S. states facing overspending problems (shortfalls), 2017 may be a tough year for lawmakers, “sinful” product consumers, and small businesses across numerous industries.

To preview the states where new vapor product taxes may be a real risk, I’ve compared the states with budget shortfalls (MultiState rundown here) to those that have passed a cigarette tax increase in recent years. In most cases, states that have passed a cigarette tax in the last four years are unlikely to do so again this year and new standalone vapor taxes will be rare, though possible.

Overspending problems aren’t the only things that cause tax hikes; some politicians are simply addicted to your money. As such, I’ve also included a number of states where budget discussions and the political climate lend itself to a real threat that a vapor product tax may be sent to the governor’s desk regardless of a stable budget outlook.

Click here for a larger version of the map. 

States with a defined overspending problem in 2017 where cigarette taxes have not been raised in the last four years (2012-2016), and the projected budget gap:

  • Alaska: $4 billion;
  • Colorado: $119 million;
  • Delaware: $350 million;
  • Illinois: greater than $10 billion;
  • Indiana: $378 million;
  • Iowa: $132 million;
  • Maryland: greater than $175 million;
  • Missouri: greater than $200 million;
  • Nebraska: nearly $1 billion;
  • New Mexico: $69 million;
  • New York: $689 million;
  • North Dakota: $310 million;
  • Oklahoma: $868 million;
  • Virginia: $861 million;
  • Washington: $474 million;
  • Wisconsin: $693 million;
  • Wyoming: $156 million.


States with an undefined but possible shortfall and no recent cigarette tax hike:

  • Montana – governor has already called for a tobacco tax hike;
  • South Dakota;
  • Texas: lackluster forecast. 


States with a budget shortfall, cigarette tax hike in last four years, and possible vapor tax:

  • Alabama: greater than $40 million;
  • Connecticut: greater than $1.3 billion;
  • Massachusetts: nearly $300 million;
  • Oregon: $1.7 billion;
  • Rhode Island: $112 million;
  • Vermont: greater than $40 million.


States without a budget shortfall but possible vapor tax:

  • Ohio – vapor tax proposed by current governor in prior years;
  • Hawaii – the state with more tobacco bills annually than anywhere else.


States without a shortfall or reason to believe there will be a successful effort to impose a vapor tax in 2017 include Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah.

Summary, in case you skipped to the bottom: A lot of states have overspent tax dollars in recent years, quickly forgetting (or neglecting) the impact of slow recession-era growth on budgets and state governments. Unfortunately for consumers, targeted excise taxes on products like cigarettes and a misconception that vaping is smoking by another name has put consumers of life-saving products like electronic cigarettes in the crosshairs of the ever-present threat of tax increases at the state level.

Americans for Tax Reform opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle and will continue to monitor and fight efforts to subject life-saving products like vapor products to new and higher taxes.

To keep up to date on all of Americans for Tax Reform’s work on vapor issues at the local, state, and federal level, subscribe to our newsletter, Vapor News and Views, by clicking here

Publisher's note: The assessments made in this post are based predominantly on the fiscal conditions of states in 2017. It is quite possible that additional states, like Utah and Nevada, will consider proposals to tax vapor products despite a nonexistent need to balance the state budget beyond projected tax collections and spending rates. It is also possible that states labeled possible threats will not consider excise taxes on vapor products as smarter alternatives such as spending restraint is considered instead. This map and post simply serves as a suggestion that where tax hikes are considered, history can be a strong but not guaranteed indicator of future outcomes.  

If you’re interested in more information on 2017 state budget conditions, read the National Association of State Budget Officers most recent “Fiscal Survey of States.”

Top Comments

Marsha Benda

TAXES, TAXES TAXES.....cut welfare reform, food stamps division to able bodied workers from 21-50 years old and cut the national debt.....stop your budget wastes and government over-reach to cut costs...can't ANY of you learn from your past mistakes and failures? Put people to work doing something....picking up liter off the highways, helping out in community activities, clean up their own neighborhoods, paint houses, DO SOME WORK....stop the HANDOUTS TO MANY WHO CAN DO SOMETHING....and stop taxing, taxing, taxing the working middle class!!! WE ARE SICK OF IT!!!

Lawmakers Must Repeal Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017, 7:00 AM PERMALINK

President-elect Donald J. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have all promised repeal of Obamacare will come in early 2017. As part of this commitment made to the American people, they must repeal the Obamacare tax on health insurance and all of Obamacare’s one trillion in higher taxes.

Obamacare contains numerous taxes that directly impact middle class families including taxes on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts, an income tax increase on high medical bills, and even a tax for failing to buy “qualifying” health insurance – as defined by the federal government.

In addition, Obamacare directly increases the cost of healthcare through the health insurance tax. This tax is projected to cost taxpayers – particularly those in the middle class – $130 billion over the next decade. 

The total revenue this tax collects is set annually by Treasury and is then divided amongst insurers relative to the premiums they collect each year. While it was suspended in 2017, the tax will total $14.3 billion in 2018 and will increase in subsequent years.  Those effects will start to be felt in the next several weeks as businesses start to renew coverage that will extend into 2018.

While the negative impacts of the Obamacare health insurance tax are partially obscured from taxpayers, it undoubtedly hurts the economy and disproportionately impacts middle class families and small businesses. If lawmakers are serious about upholding their commitment to eliminating Obamacare, they must repeal the health insurance tax together with the nearly 20 other Obamacare taxes early in 2017.

Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax is Bad Policy

Ideal tax policy should meet several criteria. One goal should be for taxes to be applied with a broad base so as not to pick winners and losers. This allows economic decisions to be made with the fewest distortions present which in turn promotes the efficient allocation of capital and creation of jobs.

On this measurement, the Obamacare health insurance tax fails. Not only is it levied in the form of a discriminatory excise tax on one product, the health insurance tax falls only on fully insured plans and thus exempts large corporations and labor unions who are almost universally self-insured.

Tax policy should also be transparent so that taxpayers – and voters – are fully aware and able to make educated decisions on the cost and size of government. If a certain tax is obscured from the view of taxpayers, it is far easier for politicians to raise that tax without any accountability.

On transparency, the health insurance tax fails too. Because the costs of the health insurance tax are baked into  health insurance premiums the negative impacts of the tax are obscured.

The Costs of the Tax are Passed on to the Middle Class, Seniors and the Poor

Despite its indirect nature, the costs of the health insurance tax are inevitably passed on to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees, and middle class families through higher premiums. In addition, the tax impacts the care received by seniors through Medicare advantage coverage and low-income Americans that rely on Medicaid managed care.

According to the American Action Forum, the Obamacare health insurance tax will increase premiums by up to $5,000 over a decade and will directly impact 1.7 million small businesses, 11 million households that purchase through the individual insurance market and 23 million households covered through their jobs.

The Health Insurance Tax Hurts the Economy and Suppresses Job Creation

Typically, small businesses purchase insurance through the small group insurance market, while larger employers have the scale to provide healthcare through self-insured plans, which are excluded from this tax. 

Because it falls disproportionately on small businesses, the health insurance tax hits a key driver of American growth and jobs.

Small businesses account for half of all jobs in the US and two-thirds of new jobs in recent decades so this tax will mean businesses across the country can spend less investing in new equipment, hiring new workers, or providing higher wages.

One estimate, conducted by the National Federation for Independent Businesses estimates the tax could cost up to 286,000 in new jobs and reduce small businesses sales by $33 billion through 2023.

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Beth Marquardt

You forgot the 10% tan tax on indoor tanning salons which has forced thousand and thousand of salins to close putting thousamds and thousands of people out of work. Not to mention it is a rax on the middle class white, mostly women.

ATR Statement on Obama's Offshore Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, December 22nd, 2016, 11:31 AM PERMALINK

Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will indefinitely ban new oil and gas offshore drilling leases in vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans:

“President Obama’s announcement this week that he will ban oil and gas drilling leases in large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is an unprecedented and ideologically driven move to appease far left environmentalists undertaken in the waning hours of his administration.   

“Obama’s move to ban oil and gas drilling chokes off the vast economic potential these areas would offer the American economy through increased energy production and the creation of good paying jobs. In the Arctic alone, these areas are estimated to hold 27 billion barrels of oil and over 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Obama’s actions are all too typical of a president concerned only with ‘green’ vanity at the expense of American prosperity. ATR looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to undo this and a number of other economically disastrous policies put forth under the Obama administration.”  


Photo credit: DCBlog

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Katie Calahann

This is just another childish move to try to tie our new President Trump's hands. I am sure he has a smart person to unravel this

ATR Statement on Puerto Rico Economic Growth Report

Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016, 7:49 PM PERMALINK

The Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico yesterday released its recommendations to lawmakers. Most importantly, the report acknowledged the need to implement tax policy that encourages and strengthens investment, jobs, and economic growth.

While legislation passed earlier this year by Congress addressed the short-term debt crisis of Puerto Rico, more needs to be done over the long term to ensure the island can recover and thrive. Moving forward, any solution to Puerto Rico's economic woes must include permanent, pro-growth tax policies that encourage competition and investment as acknowledged in the report. 

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