Trump EPA Ends Taxpayer-Funded Gym Memberships

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Monday, June 19th, 2017, 5:20 PM PERMALINK

The Trump EPA under Scott Pruitt is ending taxpayer-funded gym memberships for agency employees. The move will save taxpayers $900,000 each year.

Documents brought to light earlier this year showed that the Obama-era EPA improperly purchased luxury gym memberships for agency employees. Americans for Tax Reform reported the EPA’s Las Vegas office used taxpayer funds to purchase $15,000 worth of gym memberships at 24 Hour Fitness for government employees.

Memberships included access to the gym’s “thousands of square feet of spectacular workout space, complete with premium gym equipment, unmatched amenities and some of the best studio classes around.”

As residents of Clark County, Las Vegas EPA employees already had – and still have -- access to UNLV’s state-of-the-art fitness center, which lifestyle magazine Vegas Seven named the “Best Fitness Center” in the city.

“We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year,” said Jahan Wilcox, EPA spokesperson. “Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment.”

The announcement underscores the Trump administration’s pledge to cut government waste and provide tax relief to millions of American families and businesses. Trump’s EPA budget proposal is $5.7 billion, a 31% budget reduction from the previous administration. In total, the Trump budget will reduce spending by $3.6 trillion over the next decade.

As noted by Pruitt on Fox and Friends, “It was the previous administration that granted those memberships.” Pruitt stated, “The key, with respect to how we restructure, is recognizing that Washington has become way too big.”

As reported today by E&E News, the EPA union bosses received a notice last week:

On Thursday, EPA union leaders received an email from an agency labor attorney saying the agency planned to stop funding for fitness subsidies and fitness centers by the end of next month.

"This serves as official notice that the agency will discontinue fitness subsidies and fitness center funding agency-wide, which will result in a savings of nearly $ 900K per year for the agency. Discontinuation of this funding is targeted for July 31, 2017," said the attorney in the email, which was obtained by E&E News.

Union officials expressed anger at the EPA notice.

ATR president Grover Norquist praised the move. “Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA has just saved American taxpayers $1 million each and every year. Kudos to him. Shame on the EPA bureaucrats who wasted taxpayer dollars. We need more leaders like Pruitt and fewer government employees who keep sticking their hands in the pocket of working Americans.”

 

 

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Podcast with IWF on Vaping and the Rugulatory Assault its Consumers Face

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, June 19th, 2017, 1:28 PM PERMALINK

In a recent podcast with Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women's Forum, Americans for Tax Reform's Paul Blair discussed the politics and policies surrounding the government's regulatory war against vapor products. What exactly is an electronic cigarette and what is vaping? Topics covered include a conversation about tobacco harm reduction and the role that innovation is playing in the tobacco product space that may help smokers transition to less harmful alternatives. 

Learn more about ATR's work in vapor issues at www.stopvapetaxes.org and feel free to sign up for Paul's monthly newsletter Vapor News and Views

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Lawmakers Call for Preserving Carried Interest Capital Gains in Tax Reform


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, June 16th, 2017, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

Tax reform should ensure that carried interest remains treated as a capital gain, 22 Members of Congress led by Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) wrote in a letter released earlier this week.

As the lawmakers note, carried interest meets all the criteria of a capital gain. It is not a loophole as some suggest and there is little justification for taxing carried interest capital gains as ordinary income.

Those who derive income from carried interest capital gains don’t have some special deal – they pay the same capital gains rates as everyone else. Carried interest is simply the share of an investment partnership allocated to the investor. These partnerships occur when individuals with capital and individuals with expertise pool their resources together. All income from this partnership is derived from a long-term investment in a business or real estate and so all income is treated as a capital gain.

While some have called for increasing taxes on carried interest by increasing the rate from 23.8 percent to 43.4 percent, this would be a mistake. Increasing taxes on carried interest raises little revenue and hurts the economy. Pro-growth reform should instead look to reduce taxes on capital.

As noted by the Joint Committee on Taxation, taxing carried interest as ordinary income would raise just $19.6 billion over the next decade, a drop in the bucket compared to the projected $41.7 trillion that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be raised over that time frame.

However, after accounting for effects on the economy, the Tax Foundation estimates revenue from taxing carried interest as ordinary income would fall to just $13 billion due to negative macroeconomic effects.

This negative impact would be felt by pension funds, charities, and colleges that depend on investment partnerships as part of their savings goals. In addition, small businesses would find themselves increasingly shut out from investment money available to them from these partnerships.

Ideally, none of the income derived from a capital gain should be taxed as it is one of several layers of taxation in the existing tax code. This tax is levied on income that has already been taxed at the individual level and is then reinvested into the economy. This extra layer of taxation creates a bias against savings and suppresses productivity and new investment. In turn, this hinders the creation of new jobs, higher wages, and increased economic growth.

In fact, capital gains taxes are already high. Over the past eight years, the top rate increased from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. A study by Ernst and Young placed the top U.S. integrated rate at 56.3 percent after accounting for the corporate tax, federal and state capital gains taxes, and the Obamacare net investment income tax. In contrast, the average integrated rate amongst nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the five member BRICS countries sits at just 40.3 percent.

Rather than push for a tax increase on capital gains, lawmakers should look to reduce the tax to promote economic growth and end the distortions in the tax code.

 

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West Virginia Lawmakers Urged to Pass Balanced Budget Without Tax Hikes in Special Session

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Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, June 16th, 2017, 6:35 AM PERMALINK

As a budget shutdown looms in West Virginia, lawmakers in the House and Senate have now both passed balanced budgets that reject the tax hikes called for by Democrat Governor Jim Justice. After vetoing a balanced budget earlier this year, lawmakers were called back into Special Session and asked to raise taxes yet again by a Governor who ran for office - this time with a revitalized call for a transportation bonding, gas tax, and DMV/car tax scheme. 

Both chambers of the legislature, which is under control by Republicans, have passed balanced budgets, however. In response to ongoing budget discussions and the debate over tax reform, ATR President Grover Norquist sent a letter to lawmakers this morning. 

The full letter from Grover can be read here

Dear Members of the West Virginia Legislature,

I write today in support of a FY 2018 budget that relies on spending restraint instead of tax increases to fund the government beginning on July 1.

Despite running for office promising not to raise taxes, Gov. Jim Justice kicked off the 2017 legislative session calling for the largest tax hike in West Virginia history. He has vetoed a balanced budget and called for even more reckless spending while doubling down on his push for tax hikes. We have urged lawmakers to stand strong against Gov. Jim Justice’s call for job-killing tax increases from day one and as a government shutdown looms, we urge lawmakers to remain opposed to out-of-control government growth, spending, and net tax hikes.

For months, the House, Senate, and Governor have debated two distinctly separate issues: how to solve an overspending problem and the identity of West Virginia’s future tax code, an important element of making the Mountain State a more appealing place to raise a family and start a business. After the most recent votes in the House and Senate, both chambers have now passed balanced budgets that reject tax hikes.

The second question before the House and Senate is on the topic of tax reform. Tax reform must not be a Trojan horse for tax increases, as the governor has insisted. But tax reform is a multi-year process. Tax cuts can absolutely be phased in to make the full impact of a tax reform plan revenue neutral for taxpayers at worst. This can be achieved through reasonably conservative revenue triggers or through mandatory reductions over several years. Reducing the impact of the personal income tax should remain a top priority for lawmakers. Taxing earnings discourages savings and reduces a state’s competitiveness.

ATR also urges lawmakers to reject gas tax increases that are not paired with offsetting tax reductions elsewhere. If transportation is truly a legislative priority, it should be funded first with currently collected revenue, not last with bonds, fees, and higher gas taxes on families and commuters. Raising taxes is what lawmakers do instead of reforming government to make it cost less.

Any net tax increase will be scored as a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the written commitment many lawmakers have made to West Virginia voters. We will continue to monitor these issues and will be educating taxpayers on the outcome of the budget and tax reform.

For a list of signers of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in West Virginia, click here

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Grover Norquist and David McIntosh: Use a 25-Year Budget Window to Achieve Permanent Tax Reform

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Thursday, June 15th, 2017, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

How can taxpayers get permanent tax reform? ATR president Grover Norquist and Club for Growth president David McIntosh say Congress should use a 25-year budget window, an idea being championed in the Senate by Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Norquist and McIntosh write:

We say extend the budget window to 25 years. Why? Because the people creating jobs and investing in new products think long-term. Depreciation schedules for new plant and equipment often run to 25 years or more.

Lawmakers simply should write this year's budget to say that all tax cuts can last 25 years, which would allow rate reductions to go into effect now and be offset later with revenue from higher growth or spending restraint.

According to Norquist and McIntosh, there is no good reason why budget windows conventionally last 5, 7, or 10 years. They write:

The idea of modifying the time frame isn't new, and it certainly isn't radical. The budget window was expanded in fiscal year 1995 from five years to seven. Congress used the 10-year window for the first time in 2000, but then went back to five years again as recently as 2007.  

Together, Norquist and McIntosh have arrived at a proposal that may slice through the many obstacles to tax reform, unraveling a quagmire they liken to the legendary Gordian knot. “Extending the budget window to 25 years,” they write, “would cut the Gordian knot, unravel the Byrd rule, and allow serious tax reform to create millions of jobs in the years to come.”

Read the full op-ed here

 

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ATR Applauds Wisconsin Legislature for Passage of REINS Act

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Posted by Patrick Gleason & Shane Otten on Thursday, June 15th, 2017, 10:10 AM PERMALINK

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Legislature made history when the State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 42, the Regulation from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, commonly referred to as the REINS Act. This legislation, which has already been approved by the state Senate, now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, will provide much-needed protection from costly and onerous new regulations. The REINS Act requires any new regulation with an economic impact over $10 million to receive signoff from the legislature.

Co-authors Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) modeled their pro-growth bill on similar legislation first introduced at the federal level in 2011 by then-Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) The federal version of the REINS Act, which has been passed by the U.S. House of Representative multiples times only to stall in the Senate, would subject all federal regulations with an economic impact greater than $100 million to Congressional approval. The federal REINS Act was most recently passed by the U.S. House in January of this year, and its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month.

In a statement issued following passage of Wisconsin’s REINS Act, Sen. LeMahieu explained how enactment of the REINS Act is going to make the Badger State a more attractive place to live, work, do business, and invest:

"State agencies currently have the power to pass harmful regulations with little oversight from the legislature that can cost Wisconsin businesses and citizens tens of millions of dollars in compliance and lost revenue. The REINS Act improves transparency in the rule making process and gives the legislature more power to hold unelected bureaucrats accountable."

Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign the REINS Act into law, as this landmark regulatory reform was included in the executive budget he rolled out earlier this year.

"The cost of the federal regulations is now greater than personal and corporate income tax collections combined. Though Washington has been unable to control regulations, Wisconsin has now made clear that they can and will. The REINS Act--blocked by special interests in Washington--can be enacted in Wisconsin to reduce the costs and delays of overregulation," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "By becoming the first state to pass a state version of the REINS Act, Wisconsin will further solidify its reputation as one of the nation's top government reforming states. This should serve as inspiration for the U.S. Senate to follow Wisconsin’s lead and send the federal version of the REINS Act to President Trump’s desk. 

 

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ATR Supports Chairman Hensarling’s Efforts to Reform NFIP and Protect Taxpayers

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, June 15th, 2017, 8:11 AM PERMALINK

This week the House Financial Services Committee will mark up a package of bills that would reform and reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) supports Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s much needed efforts to reform the NFIP by allowing for private market competition and putting in place measures to protect American taxpayers.

The NFIP has faced persistent challenges since it was created decades ago and those challenges are only slated to grow. Over half the U.S. population now lives in coastal counties and according to government statistics, more than 90 percent of all presidentially declared national disasters involve flooding. It is also the case that roughly five percent of U.S. households carry flood insurance.

The NFIP is currently indebted to American taxpayers by almost $25 billion, and allowing the status quo to continue will only further increase this burden and the potential for taxpayer exposure to losses.

The package of bills now set to be marked up by the Financial Services Committee would begin the process of reforming many of the issues facing the NFIP. A number of the bills being considered by the Committee seek to better protect taxpayers by allowing for private insurers to compete in the market, thereby providing an alternative to keeping taxpayers on the hook.

Now more than ever Congressional lawmakers have the opportunity to enact positive reforms to the NFIP, which has for too long placed a burden on taxpayers to subsidize the program’s functions.

Although ATR is concerned with some of the provisions contained in the package, Chairman Hensarling and the House Financial Services Committee’s efforts overall to address issues facing the NFIP are greatly needed in order to protect policyholders, American taxpayers, and the overall viability of the program.  

 

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Grover Podcast: The U.S. Senate Should Repeal all Obamacare Taxes

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Posted by Matthew Adams on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017, 5:32 PM PERMALINK

On this week’s episode of The Grover Norquist Show, Grover discusses one of the biggest issues on the GOP’s summer legislative agenda, Obamacare repeal.

Grover Norquist: “Talk to your Congressman and Senators if you see them and say: “Hey, are you gonna get rid of all the Obamacare taxes or just some? … Because they all really did say that they would get rid of all of these taxes”

To make good on repeal, Congress should eliminate the nearly 20 Obamacare taxes that equate to roughly $1 trillion dollars pulled straight from the pockets of American families and businesses.

In hopes of accelerating this process, 47 free market groups and activists recently signed onto a letter urging Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to eliminate all of the Obamacare taxes. The coalition letter can be found here: 47 Conservative Groups and Activists: The Senate Should Repeal All Obamacare Taxes

To learn more, listen to Grover’s latest podcast and be sure to subscribe to the weekly Grover Norquist show to stay updated! 

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Free Market Groups Urge Trump to End Cuba Embargo

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Lorenzo Montanari on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017, 3:47 PM PERMALINK

 

Today, free market groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, sent the President Trump a letter urging him to consider lifting the remaining restrictions for trade with Cuba. The groups urge the administration, and Congress, to “solidify a growing agricultural trade relationship, increase the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba, and remove the remaining constraints on private-sector industries doing business in Cuba.”

The Castro dictatorship should certainly be judged by its political repression and the historic human rights abuses. Nonetheless, it is no longer fair to expect American individuals and companies to bear the burden of the embargo. Now is the time to ease the travel and trade embargo. This is not about giving a life line to the Cuban government, rather the costs of restricting American’s economic and travel liberties have moved to outweigh the benefits.

President Trump rightly focused on American jobs and the domestic economy in his successful presidential campaign. Conversely, studies show that reversing the recent gains on economic freedom with Cuba would deprive the American economy of $6.6 billion over 4 years and over 12,000 jobs.

The best way to spread free markets and democracy is to engage with the world. History has shown that there is no better system to generate wealth and prosperity than capitalism. For this reason, we see no reason to deprive Americans of their own economic freedom for a policy that is not keeping them safe, or advancing national interests.

We hope that leaders in Washington will take a serious look at what is best for America, and her citizens. It is time to reconsider the trade restriction policy in favor of expanding American economic opportunity.

Here is the text of the letter,

Dear President Trump,

We, the undersigned free market organizations representing millions of Americans, write in strong support of easing trade restrictions with the Republic of Cuba. Representatives Crawford, Sanford, McGovern, Emmer, and Castor have all introduced legislation that would gradually remove trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba and have significant economic benefits for America in the long-run, while opening a new pathway to effecting change in Cuba. The proposals solidify a growing agricultural trade relationship, increase the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba, and remove the remaining constraints on private-sector industries doing business in Cuba.

H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, would remove the remaining restrictions on farm exports by allowing Cuba to access credit when purchasing agricultural products from America. H.R. 351, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, restores the ability of Americans to travel to the only nation they are currently prohibited from visiting. H.R. 442, The Cuba Trade Act, lifts the rest of the embargo.

The United States prospers by engaging with the world. Access to foreign markets unleashes domestic productivity and gives workers a greater range of employment opportunities. Likewise, Americans should be allowed to travel to other nations and serve as diplomats who can spread our soft power abroad.

Scaling back the decades-long embargo with Cuba would be a needed boost to the American economy with a nation that had historically strong ties with the United States. Estimates predict that the agricultural sector alone could see $365 million

in additional sales to Cuba and support 6,000 American jobs.  More importantly, by increasing trade with the United States, more and more Cubans and Cuban government officials will encounter the infectious spirit of the free market. 

Establishing free trade with Cuba is not an endorsement of a communist dictatorship. Rather, restrictions on trade violate the rights of American citizens without any policy benefit.

Crucially, H.R. 442 enforces a

Prohibition On Foreign Assistance And Financing Of Trade With Cuba.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States Government may not provide any foreign assistance to Cuba or any financial assistance, loans, loan guarantees, extension of credit, or other financing for exports to Cuba.

Violation of political rights by the Cuban government deserve strong condemnation. But today there is a glimmer of hope and an openness to new ideas.  The Cuban government has taken some steps towards supporting local entrepreneurship and attracting more U.S foreign direct investment.  Today, the sanctions are a hindrance to the opening of Cuba.  Instead of spurring change, the sanctions now provide the regime with an easy scapegoat for their own failed policies, obscuring the real source of hardship by placing blame on the United States. Gradually ending the embargo can help to dispel the fiction that America is responsible for the Cubans’ plight. 

Engagement with other communist regimes has proven that American influence grows as trade develops. Countries like Vietnam, Burma, Laos and most famously China prove that previously hostile countries can move in a better direction when encouraged to trade with free nations. National security would greatly benefit from trade and travel relations with Cuba that will improve stability in the region.

Conversely, reversing the recent improvements in America-Cuba trade and travel would put thousands of U.S. jobs at risk. Your successful presidential campaign was correct in stressing the need to boost the job market; putting up more trade barriers runs counter to that goal. Congress must act to continue economic gains.

We urge you and every member of Congress to support proposals to increase travel, ease of business, and economic ties with Cuba.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President,

Americans for Tax Reform

Norm Singleton

President,

Campaign for Liberty

Jeffrey Mazzella

President

Center for Individual Freedom

Katie McAuliffe

Executive Director,

Digital Liberty

Matt Kibbe

President,

Free the People

Jason Pye

Director of public policy and legislative affairs,

FreedomWorks

Lorenzo Montanari

Executive Director,

Property Rights Alliance

David Williams

President,

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Austin Carson

Executive Director

Tech Freedom

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Louisiana's Criminal Justice Reform Success Story

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017, 2:36 PM PERMALINK

Louisiana’s legislature has finally worked out a deal to address their enormous incarceration rate and mounting expenditures. The state’s correctional institutions have surpassed the point of diminishing returns with respects to its incarceration rate. This is causing a major headache for communities and taxpayers.

Working with the Sheriffs Association and District Attorneys Association, lawmakers in both the State House and Senate sent a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system to the governor for his signature this afternoon. Legislators constructed and finalized a comprehensive package before last Thursday’s deadline. Some notable achievements included in this reform range from decreasing the prison population by 10% to generating $78 million in taxpayer savings over the next decade.

Ideas for bipartisan justice reform have been tossed around in the last few years, but serious pushes have consistently been shot down as prison populations shot up. Louisiana is now confronting their highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate, alleviating the burden that communities have been increasingly marred by.

According to American Press, “the bills would reduce mandatory minimum sentences; expand parole eligibility; relieve inmates of financial burdens when they are released; and guarantee victim notification when inmates are considered for probation and parole.” Initiatives like these have been shown to improve reintegration into society and save money for taxpayers.

The passage of this package through both state chambers cements Louisiana as a leader in comprehensive criminal justice reform. Other states with growing deficits and prison populations should take note of work getting done to improve the lives of residents. Watch the bill signing ceremony here this afternoon.

 

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