Louisiana Needs Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

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Posted by Sarah Caplin on Thursday, April 13th, 2017, 3:25 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Louisiana lawmakers urging them to support legislation containing policy recommendations from the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force.
 
For too long Louisiana has been the nation’s incarceration leader, locking up residents at a rate nearly twice the national average. Louisiana’s punitive sentences and parole policies are out of line with neighboring states – and they aren’t working.
 
Over the past 10 years, more than half the states have adopted bipartisan criminal justice reforms to control costs and provide taxpayers with a better return on their public safety dollar. Anchored in data and research about what works to change criminal behavior, these reforms are reducing incarceration and crime, allowing states to safely close prisons and invest the savings in victim services and other public needs. 
 
If adopted, Louisiana’s reform package will safely reduce the prison population by 13% and save the state $305 million over the next decade.
 
The full letter can be found here and is below:
 
April 13, 2017
 
Dear members of the Louisiana legislature,
 
We write you today in support of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force’s policy recommendations reflected in a bill package including SB16, SB139, SB220, SB221, HB116, HB177, HB249, HB426, HB489, and HB519. 
 
If adopted, Louisiana’s reform package will safely reduce the prison population by 13% and save the state $305 million over the next decade. Since Texas embraced reform in 2007, the imprisonment rate has dropped 16% and crime has fallen 30%. Along the way, Texas has saved more $2 billion and closed numerous prisons. South Carolina has a similar story. Since passing its reform package in 2010, the state has closed six prisons and saved half a billion dollars while experiencing a crime drop of 16% . These recommendations will focus prison beds on people who pose a serious public safety risk while strengthening community supervision and reducing barriers that prevent former offenders from finding work and housing upon release.
 
Now Louisiana is poised to join this group. For too long Louisiana has been the nation’s incarceration leader, locking up residents at a rate nearly twice the national average. Louisiana’s punitive sentences and parole policies are out of line with neighboring states – and they aren’t working. One in three people leaving a Louisiana prison returns within three years, despite a corrections budget that tops $600 million a year.
 
Reforms that lower excessive penalties for drug, property, and nonviolent crimes are especially necessary. Louisiana incarcerates such people at twice the rate of South Carolina and three times the rate of Florida, even though crime levels are nearly identical in these states. Louisiana also has made felonies out of behavior that other states treat as misdemeanors. Stealing an $800 bike in Louisiana is a felony, but in Texas theft is not a felony unless the property is worth $2,500. The bottom line? Louisiana locks up people for behaviors that would not lead to incarceration in other states, and it’s not making Louisiana any safer.
 
Over the past 10 years, more than half the states have adopted bipartisan criminal justice reforms to control costs and provide taxpayers with a better return on their public safety dollar. Anchored in data and research about what works to change criminal behavior, these reforms are reducing incarceration and crime, allowing states to safely close prisons and invest the savings in victim services and other public needs. The Justice Reinvestment Task Force has produced a strong package of recommendations that can produce the positive results similar to states such as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and others.
 
These outcomes are not a fluke. They are the result of smart, evidence-based policies and practices adopted by legislators who grew weary of watching their correctional systems produce the same disappointing results year after year. This is why I encourage you to support this package of bills. Thank you for your leadership.
 
Regards,
 
Grover G. Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform
 
Photo Credit: 
Lisa Kennedy

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104 Years of the Income Tax: Then and Now

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Posted by ATR on Thursday, April 13th, 2017, 11:40 AM PERMALINK

 

As Americans finish yet another tax filing season, let’s take a look at the 104-year history of the income tax:

  • In 1913 the top marginal income tax bracket was 7% -- today it is 39.6%.
     
  • In 1913 the marginal income tax bracket range was 1% - 7%. Today the range is 10% - 39.6%.
     
  • In 1913 there were 400 pages in the tax code. Today there are 74,608 pages in the code.
     
  • In 1913 the family standard deduction was $98,425.45 in today’s dollars. The family standard deduction now is just $12,600.
     
  • When the income tax started in 1913, only 358,000 Americans had to file a 1040. Today 148,606,578 Americans file 1040s.

 

 

"The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty,"

said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Slowly. Constantly. Inexorably."

Photo Credit: Chris Potter

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List of Tax Hikes Supported by Virginia Candidate for Lieutenant Governor Glenn Davis

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Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017, 8:32 PM PERMALINK

In the contested race for the Republican nomination as Lieutenant Governor this year in Virginia, voters should beware: Delegate Glenn Davis has a history of raising taxes and growing government. 

Here are just a few of the billions of dollars in tax hikes he has supported during his time as a Delegate to the General Assembly and City Council-member:

Sales Tax Hikes

Six Percent Sales Tax Increase Statewide (HB 2313, 2013);

Twenty Percent Sales Tax Increase in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads (HB 2313, 2013); 

Gas Tax Hikes

Statewide Gas Tax Increase (HB 2313, 2013);

Targeted Hampton Roads Gas Tax Increase (HB 2313, 2013);

Wholesale tax on motor fuels increased by additional 2.1 percent beyond statewide level for Hampton Roads;

Real Estate Tax Hikes

Northern Virginia Real Estate Recording Tax Increase (HB 2313, 2013);

15 cents per $100 of property value added to the real estate recording fee On real property where a deed, instrument, or writing is recorded;

Virginia Beach Real Estate Tax Increase (Virginia Beach’s 2013 City Budget);

6-cent tax rate increase tied to state funding on top of the city’s existing 89 cents per $100 of assessed value tax (Virginian-Pilot, 10/5/13);

Hotel Tax Hikes

Two Percent Hotel Occupancy Tax Increase (HB 2313, 2013);

Car Tax Hikes

Car Titling Tax Increase from 3 to 4.14 Percent (HB 2313, 2013);

Personal Property Tax Increase on Cars from $3.70 to $3.80 per $100 of Value (James Spore, Resource Management Plan, 2010);

New Internet Taxes

New Tax on Internet Purchases (HB 1501, 2017);

Davis filed legislation this year to tax internet sales, a move that could have raised taxes by more than $250 million a year (Fiscal Impact Statement, Department of Taxation).

But wait, there’s more. Delegate Glenn Davis supported Obamacare expansion in Virginia. When his colleagues were rejecting the misguided expansion of Medicaid for able-bodied adults, Davis was penning op-eds and spending his time arguing, “We take the money, or it goes someplace else.” 

Delegate Glenn Davis is not a mainstream conservative. He's out-of-touch with the real needs of taxpayers. 

Unlike the last Republican Lt. Governor, Davis refuses to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to you, Virginia voters, to oppose even more tax increases. Can taxpayers trust Davis as the leader of the Virginia state Senate? On June 13th, you’ll have the chance to decide. Taxpayers deserve better. 

Photo Credit: 
Virginian-Pilot Online

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Oxfam Report is Wrong on the Problems of the Tax Code and Misses the Need for Reform

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017, 6:00 PM PERMALINK

In its 2017 report on corporate taxation, Oxfam America uses numerous misleading or inaccurate statements to argue that U.S. businesses do not pay their fair share of taxes.

In page after page, the report misses the mark. It mixes effective tax rates and statutory tax rates to claim that businesses pay a rate far lower than they should.

The report also ignores the true reason that trillions of dollars of U.S. income is trapped overseas -- the U.S. has one of the most complex, internationally uncompetitive tax codes and double taxes income earned abroad. As a result, this money is unable to be reinvested back into the economy.

Businesses don’t pay taxes – people do, so any higher tax rate on businesses is passed onto employees, consumers, and investors. The problems with the U.S. tax code hurt American taxpayers through lower wages, fewer jobs, and stagnant economic growth. 

Contrary to the claims of the report, the House Republican “Better Way” Tax Reform blueprint would reverse these trends. The plan, proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), makes numerous dramatic pro-growth changes that will increase income for taxpayers across the board, and give a booster shot to the U.S. economy.

U.S. Tax Rates Are High By Any Measure
The report claims that U.S. companies do not pay enough in taxes because they have an effective rate of just 25.9 percent even though the corporate rate is 35 percent. However, this analysis purposely compares effective tax rates with statutory marginal tax rates to make it appear as if companies are paying less in taxes than they are supposed to.

There is a clear distinction between statutory rates and effective rates. The statutory rate is specified in law and applies to business income before any deductions. In contrast, the effective rate is the percentage a business actually pays in income tax. The effective corporate tax rate is calculated after a business takes deductions – such as employee wages and benefits.

In almost every case, the effective rate is lower than the statutory rate for taxpayers. While the U.S. combined state/federal corporate rate for ALL U.S. corporations is 39.1 percent, the effective corporate tax rate is just 18.6 percent after deductions and credits.

By any measure, the U.S. rate is too high. The U.S. has the highest statutory rate amongst the major economies of the Group of 20, as noted by the Congressional Budget Office. Major competitors have rates ten or twenty points lower including Canada (26.3 percent), China (25 percent), and the United Kingdom (20 percent).

Even when using effective tax rates, the U.S. has the fourth highest rate in the world. At a rate of 18.6 the U.S. effective rate is higher than Germany (15.5 percent), Australia (10.4 percent), China (10 percent), and Canada (8.5 percent).  

Trillions Trapped Overseas Due to Complex Worldwide System of Taxation
This U.S. competitiveness problem has only gotten worse in recent years as other countries have modernized their tax codes. Today, only six modern countries have this system, and more than a dozen have abolished it for the simpler, more competitive territorial system of taxation.

While the Oxfam report alleges that trillions are “stashed” overseas, this money is actually stranded because of the U.S. worldwide tax system. The second layer of tax stemming from the U.S. worldwide system impedes the ability of U.S. businesses to compete and means these trillions are in limbo, unable to be brought back to America to be reinvested in new jobs or higher wages or paid out to shareholders.

The solution to this problem should be simple – enact repatriation at a single digit rate as part of a transition to territoriality, so that businesses can bring back after tax income with the second layer of taxation.

This would end the lockout problem for good and give the U.S. economy a booster a strong boost as occurred when Congress enacted temporary repatriation in 2005. This repatriation allowed businesses to bring back double taxed income that had been deferred at a rate of 5.25 percent, resulting in $320 billion returning to the country that went to federal revenues, or was reinvested in the economy.

The Real Problem is the Outdated U.S. Tax Code
The Oxfam report misses that the fact that the many legal, yet self proclaimed "tax dodging" strategies are symptoms of a tax code that is overly complex and outdated. When it comes to globally tax competition, the U.S. is decades behind.

Since 2000, 32 of the 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) have reduced their corporate rates. Today, only the U.S. and Chile have higher corporate tax rates than they did at the start of the century.

The winners here are not U.S. businesses, but foreign countries and corporations that benefit from new jobs, higher wages, economic growth, and revenue at the expense of American taxpayers and businesses.

Between 2004 and 2014, almost 50 American businesses left the country through an inversion. When these companies move their headquarters from the U.S. to a more competitive environment, they also take high paying jobs with them.

Similarly, the U.S. had a net loss of nearly $180 billion in assets that have been acquired by foreign competitors over the past decade, according to a report by Ernst and Young. The uncompetitive code means that foreign competitors are able to acquire assets at a far greater pace than American businesses. The report estimates that a corporate rate at the developed average of 25 percent would have resulted in U.S. businesses acquiring almost $600 billion in assets over the same period.

The House GOP Blueprint is Strongly Pro-Growth
Maintaining high tax rates and an uncompetitive system does not only hurt U.S. businesses; it is passed on to the entire economy. A 2006 CBO report found that roughly 70 percent of the corporate tax is borne by labor, while a report by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute find that every dollar increase in taxes decreases wages by two dollars.

Any proposal must involve changes to the tax code, not new rules that have already tried and failed.

One way to resolve the many problems with the U.S. tax code would be passing the House Republican “Better Way” Tax Reform Blueprint. Among the many pro-growth changes, the plan calls for a competitive 20 percent corporate rate, full territoriality, and immediate full business expensing.

Despite the fact that this plan is hugely pro-growth, the Oxfam report falsely claims that the blueprint would not fix the problems with the code, and would hurt consumers.

In reality, the plan increases wages, and offers a net tax cut for all American families. The new border-adjusted cash flow business tax would incentivize doing business in the U.S. by taxing based on where a good or service is consumed, rather than where the income is earned. This plan cuts taxes for all businesses by 42 percent, and dramatically decreases the complexity of the tax code. This competitive new system will put an end to the exodus of jobs and assets to foreign competitors.

Every developed country in the world has a border adjustable tax system except the U.S., which disadvantages American businesses operating overseas and offers a benefit to foreign competitors importing into the country.

While the border adjustable component of the plan raises one trillion in revenue over a decade, the plan is a net tax cut of more than two trillion dollars. In fact, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, this plan will increase wages by close to $5,000 per family, create 1.7 million full time jobs, and increase economic growth by 9 percent. 

Photo Credit: 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictures-of-money/

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Las Vegas EPA Caught Using Taxpayer Funds for 24-Hour Gym Memberships

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Posted by ATR on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017, 12:02 PM PERMALINK

Documents show government credit card charge for $14,799 for "Super Sport" 24-hour gym memberships for Vegas EPA employees

Newly obtained documents show the EPA’s Las Vegas office used a government purchase card to charge nearly $15,000 for 24-hour gym memberships for employees. Courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

The documents show the EPA office on the campus of UNLV charged U.S. taxpayers $14,799.63 on April 11, 2016 for 37 “1 Year Super Sport” packages at 24 Hour Fitness, which touts its facilities as “the ultimate daily retreat” complete with “thousands of square feet of spectacular workout space, complete with premium gym equipment, unmatched amenities and some of the best studio classes around.”

This basketball court is part of the "spectacular workout space" offered at the EPA's preferred gym.

The Las Vegas EPA office made the purchase even though employees have access to the nearby state of the art 165,465-square foot fitness center on the UNLV campus. Local lifestyle magazine Vegas Seven named the UNLV facility as “Best Fitness Center” in the city and noted that it is “available not only to UNLV students but also Clark County residents.” The magazine praised the “large cardio center facing multiple television screens, a lap pool and spa, all kinds of weight machines, a 200-meter indoor running track, a four-court gym, and a café and juice bar.”

But this was apparently not good enough for the EPA.

According to the EPA Inspector General, this and several other agency purchases failed to comply with internal controls and procedures, “enough to warrant an audit because of noncompliance with existing controls.” The failures are documented here.

The EPA's preferred gym encourages clients to see the club as the "ultimate daily retreat."

“The corruption and waste in the EPA ends now,” said Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist. “Those apologists who pretend that reducing waste and corruption in the EPA is an attack on Mother Earth stand exposed as the frauds they are. Ending corruption and self-enrichment is good for the environment and other living things.”

During his eight years in office President Barack Obama made the Environmental Protection Agency wholly unaccountable to American taxpayers. In doing so he fostered a culture of bureaucratic superiority within the agency such that EPA officials and employees were more concerned with reaping the newfound benefits of unchecked power and less about maintaining the integrity of their taxpayer funded activities, leading to historic levels of waste and abuse with taxpayers footing the bill.

The Las Vegas gym incident highlights the level of blatant disregard the EPA has for American taxpayers. It is representative of a culture of mismanagement from EPA officials in D.C. that has permeated federal and state operations.

The EPA’s actions in Nevada are only one example of myriad wasteful and improper employee actions that have been recorded ranging from drug use to timecard fraud. For instance, a senior EPA official was caught watching up to six hours of pornography on his government-issued computer during work hours, and had been doing so for almost four years during the Obama presidency. That official ironically received a number of performance awards during his time at the EPA.

The former Director of the EPA’s Office of Administration under Obama was caught selling jewelry and weight loss pills out of her office using her government e-mail account. That same employee hired 17 of her family members as paid interns, and paid her daughter, also an EPA employee, directly from her agency’s budget account. She was somehow given the Presidential Rank Award in 2010 under Obama for which she also awarded $35,000.

Spacious locker-rooms are just one of many "unmatched amenities" for EPA employees courtesy of their taxpayer funded "Super Sport" gym memberships.

The culture of mismanagement and unaccountability at the EPA, and resulting waste of taxpayer funds, was promulgated under Obama and allowed to fester throughout his tenure.

Since taking office President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have vowed to get the EPA back to its core mission, and rein in government overreach and wasteful spending.

Photo Credit: 24 Hour Fitness, Texas GOP Vote


ATR Urges DHS to Oppose Obama’s EB-5 “Midnight Rule”

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Posted by Sarah Caplin on Tuesday, April 11th, 2017, 10:59 AM PERMALINK

In a letter to Secretary Kelly, Americans for Tax Reform urged the reconsideration of an EB-5 regulation proposed by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on January 13.
 
The regulation aims to increase the financial burdens of obtaining the visas, putting the entire program at risk. Such a sudden change to the program would send the wrong message to companies and investors, possibly chilling investment in American jobs and the economy. 
 
The EB-5 visa program has been an important source of investment for the American economy. Changes to the program should be handled in the legislative branch, where democratically elected representatives can best represent their constituent’s priorities. Congress and DHS should be looking at ways to safely expand the program, not shrink it. 
 
Below is the text of the letter, which can also be found here.
 
April 10, 2017
 
Dear Secretary Kelly,
 
I am writing to you today to ask for the reconsideration of Obama’s EB-5 “midnight rule” that would compromise the integrity of the program. The EB-5 visa program has been an important source of investment for the American economy. Changes to the program should be handled in the legislative branch, where democratically elected representatives can best represent their constituent’s priorities. 
 
The EB-5 regulation proposed by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on January 13 (see 82 Federal Register 4738) should be pulled from consideration like the rest of the previous administration’s 11th hour rules.
 
The regulation aims to increase the financial burdens of obtaining the visas, putting the entire program at risk. The new rule would increase the lower visa cost from $500,000 to $1.35 million and the high end from $1 million to 1.8 million. Simply put, this will discourage investment in American job markets that need it most. Investors will have the option of going to Australia, or Canada—high income countries with lower visa monetary requirements.
 
The Commerce Department has recently conducted a study of the job-creating impact of the investor visa program. In just one year 11,000 immigrant investors provided $5.8 billion in capital for FY2012 and FY2013 to support an estimated 174,039 thousand jobs in the United States. Much of it in construction and infrastructure. USCIS has been unable to determine the possible impact of the new rules. DHS should not put 174,000 American jobs at risk for an Obama administration holdover.
 
Instead, DHS should wait for the legislative branch to act. Such a sudden change to the program would send the wrong message to companies and investors, possibly chilling investment in American jobs and the economy.
 
Congress should also work to reauthorize the EB-5 regional centers program before its expiration this month. Given the consistent backlog on visa requests, and the global demand from investors for these visas, Congress and DHS should be looking at ways to safely expand the program, not shrink it. The influx of capital could help spur the private market towards infrastructure investment. 
 
I encourage you to take a close look at this program and its well-documented benefits for the economy and rescind this Obama regulation. To remain competitive, America needs to welcome investments that employ more workers and improve infrastructure.
 
Regards,
                                                                                    
Grover G. Norquist                                                       
President                                                                       
Americans for Tax Reform
 
Photo Credit: 
Los Angeles District

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ATR Urges Colorado Lawmakers to Support Taxpayers' Right to Privacy

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Posted by Patrick Gleason on Friday, April 7th, 2017, 12:16 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Colorado lawmakers last week urging them to support SB 17-238, legislation that seeks to protect Colorodo taxpayers’ right to privacy and freedom of association by amending the state’s anticompetitive “Tattletale Law.”

SB 17-238, if enacted, would repeal the Orwellian requirement that out-of-state businesses collect and remit the purchase history of Colorado residents to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee last week, and now heads to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for further consideration.  

The letter ATR sent to Colorado legislators reads as follows:

March 31, 2017

To: Members of the Colorado Legislature

From: Americans for Tax Reform

RE: SB 17-238

Dear Members of the Colorado Legislature,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Colorado, I write today urging you to support Senate Bill 17-238, which removes the requirement for businesses to tattle on the specifics of Coloradans purchases to state tax authorities.

Coloradans value their privacy, and the Colorado law requiring out-of-state retailers to report on Coloradans’ purchasing habits to the government is in gross violation of that privacy and our Freedom of Association.

The law, appropriately dubbed “the Tattletale Law,” forces businesses to turn over detailed information to state tax authorities relating to internet purchases, including: the retailer name, customer name, billing address, shipping address, and cost of purchase.

Privacy is key to our Freedom of Association.  By tracking an individuals associations with retailers and addresses, and having no confidentiality requirements relating to the information collected, the law infringes on an individual’s ability to express him or her self, particularly when it comes to political, religious, or social preferences.

The Tattletale Law is Colorado’s attempt to get around the Supreme Court’s 1992 Quill v. North Dakota decision that prevents states from reaching across their own borders to regulate and tax other citizens.

SB 17-238 does not solve all the ills of the Tattletale Law.  It still gives Colorado the opportunity to regulate business in other states, track consumers’ purchases and send consumers a report on their likely sales and use tax owed from transactions with that business.  However, removing the requirement for out of state businesses to tattle to state tax authorities is a significant improvement on the intrusive law.  As such, Americans for Tax Reform urges you to support SB 17-238.

If you have any questions, or if ATR can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact Patrick Gleason, State Affairs Director, or Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager, at kmcauliffe@atr.org, and 202-785-0266.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

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ATR Statement in Support of AHCA Progress


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, April 6th, 2017, 5:15 PM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist released the following statement following the House Rules Committee approval of the Palmer-Schweikert Amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

“The Palmer-Schweikert Amendment will help reduce premiums and move to a competitive health insurance market. This progress shows that consensus on enacting the House Republican Obamacare repeal and replace legislation is growing stronger.

“In all, the American Health Care Act is a $1 trillion tax cut and $1.2 trillion spending cut over the next decade. It's passage makes fundamental tax reform possible this year. The AHCA also block grants Medicaid and expands Health Savings Accounts. It’s a giant step forward in reforming our nation's health care system.”

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No Jail Time for Speeding Tickets in Mississippi

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Posted by Sarah Caplin on Thursday, April 6th, 2017, 3:20 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) released a letter to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant today urging the signing of HB 1033, a criminal justice reform measure that will reduce the state’s overcrowded prisons and prioritizes taxpayer dollars.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that locking people up merely because they cannot afford to pay court fines is contrary to American values of fairness and equality embedded in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With this action, Mississippi moves away from jailing traffic violators and ensures that sentences must not go beyond the maximum sentence set by the legislature for the given offense.
 
The State of Mississippi has already demonstrated a desire to improve public safety through smarter crime policies, and this bill represents another step in the right direction. We commend continued pursuit of achieving the best possible results through smart, fiscally responsible decisions that help break the cycle of recidivism and improve oversight and accountability.
 
Please read the letter here or below.
 
April 6, 2017  
 
Dear Governor Bryant,
 
Last week, nearly three years to the day they embarked on landmark criminal justice reform, Mississippi took a significant step in building on the foundations of their commitment to improving public safety by passing HB 1033. HB 1033 further builds on the foundation of the reforms contained in HB 585 and provides technical fixes that carry out the intent of the earlier legislation, garnering further taxpayer savings. 
 
With this action, Mississippi moves away from jailing traffic violators and focuses the state’s overcrowded prisons on dangerous offenders and prioritizes taxpayer dollars simultaneously improving state public safety and fiscal health.
 
In 2014, the state faced spending $264 million on additional prison space to accommodate a growing prison population. Instead, leaders passed a package of policies in HB 585 designed to safely lower incarceration. These are evidence-based policies, backed by the best available research, proven to work in the areas of sentencing, parole, and reentry. Reform works and HB 1033 continues those successful lessons.
 
As we know, fines can often be incurred by small civil infractions. They include municipal violations like speeding and littering. Most Americans commit these infractions on a regular basis. Though some people find tickets annoying there are many who lack the money to pay their fines. Those individual’s lives can be seriously harmed by the state as they enter a cycle of incurring ever greater costs which in turn can lead to job loss, imprisonment, and further recidivism.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that locking people up merely because they cannot afford to pay court fines is contrary to American values of fairness and equality embedded in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This legislation would insure that people are not being locked up due to their inability to pay traffic fines and fees.
 
In addition, HB 1033 will make sure the state’s most expensive public safety resources, prison beds, are used on offenders that pose a public safety threat. Many of the new requirements, which are specifically designed to reduce recidivism, address planning for and implementation of evidence based practices in transitioning inmates from institutions back to the communities. Judges are given greater discretion to develop a payment plan or assign community service in lieu of payment.
 
The State of Mississippi has already demonstrated a desire to improve public safety through smarter crime policies, and this bill represents another step in the right direction. We commend continued pursuit of achieving the best possible results through smart, fiscally responsible decisions that help break the cycle of recidivism, improve oversight and accountability, and further carry the intent of HB 585.
 
Sincerely,
 
Grover G. Norquist                                               
President                                                             
Americans for Tax Reform                                                                              
 
 
Photo Credit: 
Visit Mississippi

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Gov. Jerry Brown Pushes Gas Tax Increase in High Tax California

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Posted by Marc Dupont on Thursday, April 6th, 2017, 2:32 PM PERMALINK

 

The California Senate is gearing up to vote on SB 1, legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) that, if enacted, would impose a 12 cent per gallon gas tax increase, alongside further tax hikes, in order to raise a projected $52.4 billion over 10 years. If passed by the legislature and signed into law, California will become the highest gas tax state in the country, charging 30 cents per gallon overall.

Brown has attempted to justify this measure by claiming that the use of state roads is a privilege that all California taxpayers must be on the hook for. “This is a fee, a fee for the privilege of driving on our roads that the people pay for,” Brown stated. “And we've got to keep paying for them, otherwise, they're not going to work for us. It's just that simple.” Republican state legislators have continually pushed back against the bill, maintaining that the tax increase will further burden low and middle income Californians.

However, as Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist explained in a letter sent to California legislators today, Gov. Brown and others pushing for this tax increase are really admitting that transportation projects are their lowest priority:

“Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents often claim they need to raise taxes again because transportation is a “top priority” for them,” writes Norquist. “However, Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents, by claiming a tax hike is needed, are actually admitting that transportation needs are their last priority. Were that not the case, they would not have funded everything else in the budget first.”

As it stands, California legislators need a 2/3rds supermajority vote in order to impose higher taxes on their residents. Given the results of last year’s elections, however, Democrats in the state have surpassed that supermajority threshold and can now raise taxes on their own, without any Republican votes. The vote on Gov. Brown’s gas tax hike will be the first test on how easily California Democrats will leverage their supermajority status to raise taxes on a party line vote.

Below is a copy of the letter ATR sent to California legislators today, urging them to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed gas tax hike:

           “Dear Members of the California Senate,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across California, I urge you to reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to impose yet another tax increase, this time on gas, in what is one of the most heavily-taxed states in the country.

California residents already contend with the nation’s sixth highest average state and local tax burden. On top of that, your constituents have been hit with more than 20 federal tax increases over the last eight years. The last thing individuals, families, and employers across California need is to have lawmakers in Sacramento pile on with further tax hikes at the state level, especially considering they live in what is already one of the most heavily-taxed jurisdictions in the world. 

There is ample evidence that higher taxes make states less competitive, and harm economic growth. John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, analyzed 681 peer-reviewed academic journal articles dating back to 1990. Most of the studies found that lower levels of taxation and spending correlate with stronger economic performance. When Tax Foundation chief economist William McBride reviewed academic literature going back three decades, he found “the results consistently point to significant negative effects of taxes on economic growth, even after controlling for various other factors such as government spending, business cycle conditions and monetary policy.”

Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents often claim they need to raise taxes again because transportation is a “top priority” for them. However, Gov. Brown and other gas tax proponents, by claiming a tax hike is needed, are actually admitting that transpiration needs are their last priority. Were that not the case, they would not have funded everything else in the budget first.

ATR will be educating your constituents and all California taxpayers as to how lawmakers in Sacramento vote on this and other important fiscal and economic matters throughout the legislative session. Please look to ATR to as a resource on tax, budget, and other policy matters pending before you. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Gleason, ATR’s director of state affairs, at (202) 785-0266 or pgleason@atr.org

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President 

Americans for Tax Reform"

 

Photo Credit: 
Mathieu Thouvenin

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