House Passes Bill to End Obama Slush Fund Payments

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Posted by Johnathan Sargent on Friday, September 9th, 2016, 11:06 AM PERMALINK


This week the House of Representatives passed a bill to end the strong-arm tactics used by the executive branch to solicit donations. In a surprising show of bipartisanship, House Democrats joined House Republicans on Wednesday to pass H.R. 5063: the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act. Introduced by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act prohibits government officials from crafting settlement agreements that require any donation to a third party group. This bill is a crucial first step in reining in our bloated executive branch.

As it currently stands, whenever the Department of Justice settles a lawsuit with a corporation or individual, the settlement can include an option to pay back some of the settlement by “donating” it to “approved” organizations. These organizations can and have included groups that engaged in political activities.

These organizations conduct voter registration, engage in community organizing, and donate money to other organizations that share the same ideological beliefs. Meaning that the executive branch can choose to use settlement money to reward their most loyal supporters. Sounds like the executive branch is participating in interest group favoritism doesn’t it?  

Remember those multi-billion dollar settlements against the banks? Instead of all of it going to the U.S. Treasury, millions of dollars were funneled into several prominent political organizations. According to the House Judiciary Committee, the amount of money directed to third-party organizations could be close to $1 billion. This is money that should have gone to the U.S. Treasury and used to fund any number of projects to help the American people. Instead the administration chose to use it to further their political agenda.

Over the past decades the executive branch has continued to grow in power and influence. This has come at the cost of the voice of the American people. The actions of the executive branch are nothing more than political favoritism and do not serve to benefit the American people. This abuse of power must be stopped, and a big step was taken with the passage of H.R.5063, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, in the House of Representatives. We can only hope that the Senate will follow the example set by House Republicans and Democrats, and pass this crucial bill.

 

Photo credit: Pictures of Money 

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Lawmakers Set to Investigate Flawed Budget Estimates

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016, 2:50 PM PERMALINK


Our federal budget process is clearly broken and in dire need of reform. Congress has adopted only 7 budgets in the past 15 years. In the last 40 years, the appropriations process has been fully completed just four times. Within the last 20 years, it has only been completed once.

The budget process is plagued with insufficient oversight, unaccountable spending, expired programs, and partisan disagreements. In turn, the broken of process means the outlook to fixing the dire fiscal state of nation faces an uphill battle.

Clearly, drastic change is needed. To fix this broken system, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) have both put forward a range of proposals. These proposals are aimed at reforming budget making and enforcement so that federal spending is properly authorized through regular order, not passed at the last minute.

While leaders in Congress have shown leadership in these efforts, they are also conducting strong oversight over narrower, but no less important issues.

Later this week, Chairman Price will investigate the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of proposed tests by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the Obamacare agency responsible for designing and testing new payment and delivery structures. CBO is responsible for producing cost estimates on all legislation and so is an integral part of the budget process.

Currently, CBO utilizes a flawed approach that shows any attempt to block or correct CMMI proposals as costing the government money. This binds the hands of lawmakers by forcing them to consider offsetting spending cuts whenever they wish to exert proper and necessary oversight over federal programs.

Flawed methodology will make it that much harder for Congress to do its job of passing a budget. If lawmakers are needlessly bound by CBO budget estimates, they will have little hope of restraining Washington’s spending problem and returning to regular order.

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ATR Releases Coalition Letter Opposing the Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 5714)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016, 9:36 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform, joined by 21 free market organizations, today sent an open letter to Congress urging lawmakers to oppose H.R. 5714, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2016” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities, despite an estimated $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies.

While reforms are needed, the Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

Read the full letter below or here:

To Members of the U.S. Congress:

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers and consumers nationwide, urge Congress to oppose H.R. 5714, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2016” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings.

For years, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has suffered from operational and financial inefficiencies, and while reforms are needed, H.R. 5714 misses the mark and may actually exacerbate the issues facing USPS.

The USPS enjoys a monopoly on the delivery of first-class and standard mail and is exempt from state and local sales, income, and property taxes. The USPS also has the power of eminent domain, is not subject to local zoning ordinances, and has borrowed billions from the Treasury at subsidized interest rates.

Despite such special treatment, which is estimated to be $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies, USPS’s financial health is continually waning. Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities. Much of this stems from USPS’s inability to adapt to changing markets, congressional impediments, and union quagmires.

Many of the reforms provided for in H.R. 5714 lead USPS further away from the core mission of mail delivery, unfairly shift the Postal Service’s financial burdens onto the American public, and fail to address many of the underlying issues facing USPS.

Diversion to Nonpostal Products and Services. Key provisions contained in H.R. 5714 would allow the Postal Service to divert resources away from the core mission of mail delivery to providing nonpostal products and services to state, local, and tribal governments and federal agencies. The Act creates a “Chief Innovation Officer” tasked with managing the development and implementation of nonpostal products. While intended to generate new sources of revenue, such provisions are only a point of distraction, and will see the Postal Service further competing with private firms.

Postal Rate Reforms and Increases. Chairman Chaffetz’s reform bill would allow the Postal Service to increase rates by 2.15 percent on monopoly products such as stamps. Monopoly products generate the bulk of USPS profits. Increasing rates will only reduce revenue and further drive more consumers away from USPS products and services. 

Postal Service Governance Reform. The USPS Board of Governors is comprised of nine members, not including the Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General, who are Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate and serve seven-year terms. Since 2015, the Board of Governors has had only one Governor serving due to congressional hurdles. H.R. 5714 would reduce the USPS Board of Governors from a nine-member board to a five-member board. This hollow reform does nothing to actually improve USPS governance, and instead reinforces the fact that most of the provisions in the bill are simply reforms for the sake of reforms, having no real impact on the status quo.     

We recognize the need for reforming the U.S. Postal Service. However Chairman Chaffetz’s Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

It is for these reasons that we ask members of Congress to oppose this legislation.  

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist                                       
Americans for Tax Reform                           

David Williams                                             
Taxpayers Protection Alliance                      

Jim Martin                                                     
60 Plus Association                                       

Phil Kerpen                                                  
American Commitment                                 

John M. Palatiello                                         
Business Coalition for Fair Competition

Norm Singleton                                            
Campaign for Liberty                                     

Andrew F. Quinlan                                                                                       
Center for Freedom and Prosperity  

Jeffrey L. Mazzella                                        
Center for Individual Freedom                       

Tom Schatz                                                   
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste 

Chuck Muth 
Citizen Outreach

Katie McAuliffe                                             
Digital Liberty                                               

Adam Brandon
Freedom Works

George C. Landrith
Frontiers of Freedom 

Mario Lopez
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Sabrina Schaeffer
Independent Women’s Forum

Andrew Langer
Institute for Liberty

Seton Motley
Less Government

Willes K. Lee
National Federation of Republican Assemblies 

Kevin Kosar
R Street Institute

Karen Kerrigan
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

Ryan Alexander
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Judson Phillips
Tea Party Nation

 

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz

 

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Bob D

Grover, I didn't vote for you, get a real job.

The Last Patriot

Dear Grover,

No.


Congress Should Prioritize Tax Reform over Tax Extenders


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, September 1st, 2016, 10:25 AM PERMALINK


In the past, Congress has demonstrated a habit of routinely extending specific, temporary tax cuts for one or two years at a time. The ideal tax policy would be eliminating all credits and lowering the rate in a net tax cut. In lieu of this, the next best thing is to preserve these “tax extenders” where possible. While they are targeted to specific groups of taxpayers, they protect against immediate tax increases on the American people and ensure a more accurate baseline that will result in lower rates when passing pro-growth reform.

Unless they are refundable, tax credits do not affect federal spending. They reduce the amount of tax paid to the government. Repealing them does not cost the American people any money, it means the government loses money. Extending them does not mean any other taxpayer is worse off, it means the government is stealing less money from someone. In no way are they corporate welfare. 

Last year, Congress passed legislation that made many important, conservative tax provisions permanent like small-business expensing, research and development credits, and provisions to prevent double taxation on international income. Others were phased out over several years, which achieved the goal of creating a more accurate federal revenue baseline while also keeping tax cuts for individuals and businesses in place.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) best explained the significance of the extenders package:

“This bill serves as a path forward to pro-growth tax reform by ensuring that we will no longer have to spend months each year debating temporary tax extensions. Instead, Congress can focus on delivering a simpler, fairer and flatter tax code that’s built for growth.”

Conservatives have taken another positive step forward this year by releasing their “Better Way” Tax reform blueprint which calls for across the board lower rates on individuals and businesses, taxes once – at the point of consumption, and limits the number of credits in order to make the code simpler and fairer.  Lawmakers should keep to their original plans and use the remaining months to push momentum forward on pro-growth tax reform rather than revisiting legislation one year later.

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ATRF Poll Shows Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Creation of Mid-Level Dental Providers

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016, 11:14 AM PERMALINK


In a poll conducted for the American for Tax Reform Foundation by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, likely voters overwhelmingly support a new and innovative solution to America’s dentist shortage. In what has been called a “big idea” for social change, a new type of mid-level dental practitioners has emerged as a possible way to reduce health care costs while increasing access to care for millions of Americans seeking dental services throughout the United States.

Like dental hygienists, “dental therapists” or “dental hygiene practitioners” work under the supervision of dentists with collaborative agreements that allow them to provide an expanded list of services to patients. Governor Paul LePage (R-Maine) and former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) were the first to sign legislation permitting the creation of these mid-level practitioners in their states.

Conducted at the end of June, the ATRF poll found that 79% of likely voters support the creation of mid-level providers that could perform dental care services such as basic extractions and hygiene plans.

In analyzing the results, WPA Opinion Research concluded,

“This support extends across all key demographic groups including men and women of all ages, Republicans, Independents, Democrats, white, and Hispanic voters. The support for such a process extends across a wide swath of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity or gender.

77% of Republicans, 80% of Independents, and 80% of Democrats support the process of creating these new positions, which takes an act of the legislature in most cases. Additionally, 58% of voters strongly support this position, “illustrating that the support is not just casual and implementing this process would be welcomed by voters across the country.”

In an article for the Wall Street Journal titled, “You Don’t Need to Be a Dentist to Fill a Cavity,” Reason.com reporter Eric Boehm recently explained the issue and some of it’s misguided opponents:

“Other states are considering dental therapy, but professional associations of dentists stand opposed. Take Michigan, where state Sen. Mike Shirkey introduced a dental therapy bill in June. Shortly thereafter, the Michigan Dental Association urged its members to oppose the bill. The association says that Michigan already has 7,500 dentists and 10,300 hygienists, which it insists should be enough to cover the state’s needs.”

In an interview with Wendell Potter at the Huffington Post, ATR president Grover Norquist went further in explaining ATR’s interest in this issue:

“When I asked Norquist recently why he has gotten involved in the fight to expand the dental workforce to include mid-levels—often called dental therapists—he told me it’s because, in his view, opponents are engaging in tactics to preserve a profitable status quo at the expense of millions of Americans. To him, this smacks of “crony capitalism” in which businesses and professionals exert influence on government officials, usually through campaign contributions and lobbyists, to get favorable treatment.”

Of the opportunities these new mid-level dental practitioner positions present, Grover went on to note:

“It’s going to have significant pay off, not only for people trying to move ahead in their careers and for consumers who need dental care” but also for dentists, who, Norquist notes, will be able to spend more time doing more complex, higher end procedures."

While the states have grappled with implementing a wide range of federal health care mandates, questions about rising costs the next steps in health care reform have lingered in Washington. Fortunately, states don't have to wait to act. Efforts to expand the scope of practice for dental hygienists with this new position do present great promise for qualified dental professionals and the millions of Americans interested in taking advantage of the services they can provide.

The full cross tabs of the national ATRF health care poll can be found here.

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Frank Catalanotto

Why is that only one organization- the American Dental Association-
opposes dental therapy and just plain lies about the facts supporting
dental therapy including their own Council on Scientific Affairs, and
evaluation data from Alaska and Minnesota. They claim to be an evidence
based profession, yet they ignore or just lie about the evidence.
Meanwhile about 190,000,000 people in the USA cannot access dental care,
primarily because of costs but also other reasons.


European State Aid Ruling Undermines U.S. Tax Base

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, 11:07 AM PERMALINK


The European Commission today ordered that Apple must pay the Irish government 13 billion euros (about $14.5 billion) plus interest following a judgment that the company’s tax rate constituted “illegal state aid.” Bureaucrats in Brussels do not accuse Apple of dodging taxes, but of paying too little, a charge that undermines the tax sovereignty of Ireland and existing rules of international taxation. 

EU officials are taking money that rightfully belongs to American taxpayers and businesses. This will mean less tax revenue, less money reinvested in our economy, and even threatens to undermine the prospects for pro-growth tax reform.

Leaders in Congress and the Treasury Department agree that the investigations are discriminatory and will set a precedent allowing the EU to tax income that rightly belongs to the American people. American businesses like Amazon and McDonalds are vulnerable to tax hungry European bureaucrats because our system of double taxation has stranded an estimated $2.1 trillion in American income overseas.

Under our tax code, businesses headquartered in the U.S. must pay taxes on income they have earned overseas, even after it has been taxed in the country it was earned. This creates a significant competitive disadvantage because businesses headquartered in most developed countries do not face this double taxation. 

The trillions in stranded income is one indicator of our broken tax code, but it also represents a key part of any pro-growth tax reform effort. Pro-growth tax reform efforts, like the the “Better Way” plan released by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) rely on the revenue being raided by Europe for two reasons. First, to help ensure that reform remains revenue neutral, and second to ensure that the plans break the shackles of our stagnant two percent economic growth.

In the past, Congress has allowed businesses to repatriate double taxed income at a rate of just over 5 percent, resulting in $320 billion returning to the country that was reinvested in the economy, in higher wages, and in federal revenues. Now, with more than two trillion stranded overseas, the time is ripe for another round of repatriation that can finance pro-growth tax reform. But the more money that Brussels strips away from the American people, the dimmer these hopes become.

While European officials claim these investigations are a matter of fairness, this is simply a thinly veiled argument to continue raiding money that rightly belongs to the American people. The more money that Europe can strip away from American taxpayers, the less is available to be repatriated back to the U.S. economy to finance tax reform and reinvest in our economy. 

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ATR Recognizes Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers Ahead of Tuesday’s Primary

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Monday, August 29th, 2016, 4:41 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform recognizes the incumbents and candidates who have taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people ahead of today's primary. The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a written commitment to the voters and the American public to oppose tax hikes.



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Lake Ray Leaves the Door Open to Higher Taxes

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Friday, August 26th, 2016, 11:38 AM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform calls on Congressional candidate, State Rep. Lake Ray, to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to his constituents. The Pledge is a written commitment to the voters to oppose higher taxes. It’s time for Ray to prove his commitment to defending taxpayers and standing up to special-interests in Washington, D.C.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge has been offered to every candidate running for federal office since 1986. In the 114th Congress, 220 Congressmen and 48 Senators have signed the Pledge, including Rep. Ander Crenshaw (Fla-04).

Politicians often run for office saying they won't raise taxes, but then quickly turn their backs on the taxpayer. The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing. The last thing the taxpayers of Florida need is a career politician open to raising taxes, especially after President Obama saddled them with 20 new or higher taxes through Obamacare, with seven hitting the middle class.

Three of Mr. Ray’s opponents, Sheriff John Rutherford, Hans Tanzler, and Deborah Pueschel have taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and made the promise to the hardworking families of Florida’s fourth district to not raise taxes.

“The voters in Florida have a right to know where a candidate stands on the issues before electing them to Congress. Ray’s refusal to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge puts him outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. Eighty-nine percent of all congressional Republicans have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. He would be one of a small group of Republicans open to raising taxes,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “The only reason Ray wouldn't sign the Pledge is if he intends to raise taxes.”

Voters should keep this in mind as they head to the polls in Florida, next Tuesday, August 30. 

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Study: Net-Metering Costs Non-Solar Customers $36 Million Annually

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, August 26th, 2016, 10:16 AM PERMALINK


A new study released this month examined what, if any, benefits Nevada’s net-metering program produces for the state and residents. The study, conducted at the request of the Nevada Legislative Committee on Energy, focused on the cost-effectiveness of net metering and the impact of the program on ratepayers. The results of the study overwhelmingly showed Nevada’s net metering program amounts to all cost and no benefit for the state and residents.

Nevada has long been a focus point in the debate over net metering. In general, net metering programs require electric utilities to purchase excess electricity generated by customers with rooftop solar installations at the full retail rate, as opposed to wholesale. As a result, solar customers avoid paying many of the fixed costs of the grid that are factored into their monthly bills. As such, these fixed costs are then shifted onto non-solar customers.

As part of the study on Nevada’s net metering program, researchers looked at the impact the program has on Nevada ratepayers. The cost-shifting impact was undeniable. The study found a clear “cost-shift from NEM [solar] customers to non-participating customers for both existing installations and future installations.”

Nevada’s net metering program was shown to “shift approximately $36 million per year” in costs from existing solar customers onto non-solar customers. It was also found that future planned installations would shift an additional $15 million per year in costs onto non-solar customers. Thus non-solar customers are essentially subsidizing a portion of solar customer’s electric bills.   

Even more concerning is that the study found the state’s net metering program produces no benefit for the state as whole. Overall, net metering from existing and future planned solar generation systems “increase total energy costs for Nevada.” In fact, the program was even found to have no real benefit from the solar user perspective. 

Even when considering the “non-monetized benefits” of renewable generation the net-metering program still has little to no positive impact. Factoring in “externalities and non-monetized health benefits of reduced air emissions from self-generation, does not significantly change the results…for the costs and benefits” of net metering for Nevada overall. The study concludes, “There is no substantial net emissions reduction or additional health benefits attributable to NEM systems.”

Nevada’s net metering program is clearly all cost and no benefit. Not only does the program shift $36 million in costs annually onto non-solar customers, but also increases total energy costs for the state while having no impact on emissions or health.

As such, one can only wonder why Nevada, or any state for that matter, would continue net metering programs that quite literally have no beneficial impact on consumers or the environment, and instead serve only to burden residents and the state with higher energy costs.  

 

Photo credit:  Marufish

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Ofer Imanuel

It may well have an effect on the willingness of consumers to install solar panels. I installed solar on my house only after understanding fully the economical pros and cons. Without net-metering, how much of the electrical bill I will actually save?


ATR Recognizes Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers in Florida’s First Congressional District

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Thursday, August 25th, 2016, 10:53 AM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform recognizes the candidates in Florida’s First Congressional District who have taken the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is a written commitment to their constituents and the American public to oppose tax hikes.

  • Cris Dosev (R)
  • Rebekah Bydlak (R)
  • James Zumwalt (R)
  • State Rep. Matt Gaetz (R)
  • State Sen. Greg Evers (R)

Candidates running for office like to say they will not raise taxes, but often turn their backs on the taxpayer once elected. The Taxpayer Protection Pledge requires these candidates to put their rhetoric in writing. It is offered to every candidate for state and federal office and to all incumbents. Nearly 1,400 incumbent elected officials, from state representative to governor to US Senator, have signed the Pledge.

Pledge signers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady are also pledge signers.

On the state level, approximately 1,000 incumbent state legislators are Pledge signers. Thirteen incumbent governors are pledge signers including Scott Walker (R-Wis.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), and Pat McCrory (R-N.C.).

“The American people are tired of the tax-and-spend policies coming from Washington and they are looking for solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and get the economy going again. Signing the Pledge is the first step in that process,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.  

In the 114th Congress, 48 U.S. Senators and 220 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are pledge signers. That’s about 90 percent of incumbent Republicans in the House and Senate.

“We are ecstatic about their commitment to the taxpayers of Florida. I challenge all candidates for Florida’s 1st Congressional district to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” continued Norquist.

Florida’s primary will take place on Tuesday, August 30.

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