Eight Reasons Congress Should Let Ex-Im RIP

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie, Emma Boone on Monday, June 29th, 2015, 4:40 PM PERMALINK


Tomorrow the charter for the Export-Import Bank expires, putting an end to an icon of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. Ex-Im’s supporters continue to insist American businesses rely on the bank to compete despite these claims being proven false time and time again.

Many in Washington hope to renew the charter of the bank in the coming months. Here are eight reasons why Congress must not bring Ex-Im back:

1. $3.2 Billion in Loans to State Owned Airlines in Oil-Rich United Arab Emirates

Between 2009 and 2012, Ex-Im has given out $3.2 billion in loan guarantees to three state owned airlines from the United Arab Emirates to purchase airplanes from Boeing. One of the companies, Emirate Airlines, has stated such loans are unnecessary. Nevertheless, the oil rich nation officials are more than happy to accept billions of American taxpayer dollars to subsidize such generous loans.

2. Ex-Im Finances Transactions Between Two Chinese Government Entities

In yet another ‘Deal of the Day,’ Ex-Im has provided the second largest non-US company in the world, Sinopec, over $200,000 in loans only for the corporation to facilitate exports to Sinopec’s U.S. subsidiary. If you’re having flashbacks of the $15 million Caterpillar, Inc. loan that allowed the giant corporation to buy products from themselves, you would be correct.

3. Solyndra Receives $10 Million A Year Before Declaring Bankruptcy

In another wasteful loan, Ex-Im gave Obama’s favorite renewable energy company Solyndra a $10 million loan for exports. Unsurprisingly, just a year after receiving this hefty loan, Solyndra went bankrupt, as predicated by the Department of Energy.

4. $700 Million Loan Given to Australian Mining Giant

Nearly $700 million in loans was given to companies exporting equipment to Australian based mining giant, Roy Hill Mine. It’s questionable that a loan this large was even necessary considering the mine is owned by the richest woman in Australia. Adding to the disappointment, the Heritage Foundation estimated a $1.2 billion decrease in U.S. sales will be the result of this loan, as the company competes with U.S. iron ore exports.

5. Ex-Im Finances Indian Coal Plant that Displaces Indigenous Population

Despite the Obama Administration’s efforts to crack down on fossil fuels and impose burdensome regulations on American coal plants, Ex-Im gave $917 million in loans to the Sasan Coal Power Plant in India. According to a report by the Sierra Club, this power plant may have displaced indigenous residents. The report described numerous alarming abuses including forced relocation, lack of compensation for residents who lost property and denying children access to schools.

6. State Owned Saudi Arabian Oil Giant Receives Nearly $5 Billion Loan

In 2012 the Saudi Arabian owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, was given $4.97 billion in loans. Given the fact that this is the world’s largest oil company, it’s extremely unlikely that the company was in dire need of such a large loan. Even if it was, the company could have received such a loan from the private sector.

7. Ex-Im Finances $3 Billion Natural Gas Project that leads to Villagers Deaths

Ex-Im gave $3 billion to help finance a liquefied natural gas project in Papua, New Guinea. The House Financial Services Committee noted that three environmental and development groups had warned the Ex-Im bank about potential environment, social, and human rights risks behind the project, including a possible landslide due to “poor management practices at a local quarry.” On January 12, 2012 a landslide did occur, taking the lives of 27 villagers.

8. 500 Million Loan Given to Mongolia Copper Mine

Despite the Copper Market Forecast predicting that refined copper was to exceed demand by more than 390,000 metric tons this year, Ex-Im still deemed it necessary to give competing Mongolian copper mine $500 million in loans. This loan undoubtedly competes with excavations in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, to name a few.

Photo Credit: 
Emmett Tullos, https://www.flickr.com/photos/emmett_ns_tullos/

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ECPA Reform Finally on House Radar

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Posted by Timothy Wilt on Monday, June 29th, 2015, 2:44 PM PERMALINK


Recent reports indicate that the House Judiciary Committee intends to mark-up a bill that will finally extend Fourth Amendment protections to email correspondence. The bill, H.R. 699, The Email Privacy Act, introduced by Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, ensuring constitutional protections and legal standards desperately missing in today’s digital world. 

Although the bill enjoys wide bipartisan support and recently became the most cosponsored bill in the House with 284 cosponsors, the Judiciary Committee has neglected to move the bill. As part of the Digital Fourth Coalition, an ideologically diverse group that actively campaigns for Fourth Amendment rights in the digital world, Americans for Tax Reform has recently penned a letter urging Congress to consider this important piece of legislation.

Shortly thereafter, POLITICO reported a markup expected in July.  

Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager at ATR, released this statement supporting the bill:

“When ECPA was written in 1986, most Americans did not have email accounts. It was impossible for Congress to foresee the type of technological advancements nearly three decades later. As a result, our emails, photos, documents and other items stored in the cloud are in jeopardy of government intrusion. Privacy rights should not stop online. The Email Privacy Act is an important bill to protect the privacy of all Americans and should be voted on without delay.”

The Email Privacy Act would require government agencies to get a warrant before searching through an individual’s private emails, which is a more stringent requirement than the mere subpoena needed to do so under current law. There should be no discrimination between a citizen’s physical mail and their electronic mail, and yet under ECPA electronic mail is given vastly fewer protections.

The Fourth Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution do not apply to only some forms of communication, but are rather safe-guards against all forms of government intrusion into the privacy of citizens.  In 1986, when the ECPA became law, few considered the Internet the robust medium for interaction that it is today and it is understandable the policy reflects this sentiment.

Today, however, we live in a world that can no longer deny the prolific role of Internet for communication. In this world, every day that passes without sensible policy that acknowledges electronic correspondence as the same as physical mail, and thus worthy of the same privacy protections, is an insult to the founding principles of our nation.

The time to end digital discrimination is now. The Email Privacy Act is the first step in this fight, the people want it, all political ideologies agree on it, and it is time for Congress to act.

Photo Credit: 
Josh Hallett

Norquist: “The criminal justice system does a great deal of damage”

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Posted by Danil Zelenkov on Monday, June 29th, 2015, 10:38 AM PERMALINK


Grover Norquist made an appearance on MSNBC’s Politics Nation to discuss the state of our nation’s criminal justice system. In the exchange, Norquist noted that in its current form, “the criminal justice system does a great deal of damage.” Recently-launched groups like the Coalition for Public Safety have started a new campaign to rein in the excesses of our justice system. The Coalition—which includes Americans for Tax Reform and Right on Crime—will tackle wasteful and counterproductive practices found at all levels of government. Watch Norquist’s full interview bellow:

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Montgomery County Maryland's Misguided Vapor Tax

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Posted by Nathaniel Rome on Monday, June 29th, 2015, 10:01 AM PERMALINK


This August, Montgomery County, Maryland will become the first county in the country to adopt a specialized excise tax on e-cigarettes. A tax of 30 percent will be charged on distributors who operate in the county. This new tax - while masked as a public health initiative - is yet another attempt by local governments to raise cash while strangling new industries.

The lead sponsor of this bill, Councilman Tom Hucker, argued that “E-cigarettes should be treated similarly to tobacco products,” referring to the current 30 percent tax on tobacco products in Maryland.

This is fallacious for several reasons. First, e-cigarettes and vapor products are far healthier than traditional combustible cigarettes. E-cigarettes are tobacco-free and lack the carcinogenic chemicals that make smoking so deadly. Second, e-cigarettes are being used by many as an effective way to quit smoking, since users can wean themselves off of the nicotine. As one business owner put it, watching customers quit is a “concern we have for our business… but it’s very rewarding.”

If e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco products and can help people quit smoking, why would the government want to subject the industry to a crippling tax?

Because it’s not about health, it’s about money. Advocates claim that this tax would raise between $1.5 and $2.5 million for county coffers. This is absurd. Many customers will simply purchase vapor products online or across county lines to avoid the tax. More likely than not, consumers will have no trouble getting their products tax-free and retailers may be forced across county lines or out of business.

A 20 cents per mL vapor tax that just passed statewide in Kansas is predicted to generate only $2 million in optimistic estimates. Given that Montgomery County has just one-third the population of Kansas and has much greater access to products in neighboring counties, it is hard to imagine that the Montgomery County tax would raise anywhere near the projections.

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products should not be subjected to “sin taxes”; the users are overwhelmingly people trying to atone for their sins by quitting their use of tobacco.

Montgomery County’s misguided new tax - and tax proposals like this all around the country - threatens to kill this fledgling new industry. It does this while adding a disincentive for consumers to make the switch from tobacco to tobacco-free technology products, working at cross-purposes of decades of anti-smoking efforts to improve public health. 

Photo Credit: 
Ecig Click, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecigclick/

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Lickylick

What does anyone expect from the greed infused lying scumbags that are known better as politicians? They lie, they steal and they cheat. They are greedy, self righteous, self serving hot air bags.


How Exactly Did Lois Lerner’s Hard Drive Receive “scoring on the top platter”?

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 29th, 2015, 9:59 AM PERMALINK


Newly released information on the Lois Lerner email scandal raises questions as to whether there was some kind of deliberate act to physically damage Lerner’s hard drive.

According to testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), an IRS technician examining Lerner’s hard drive noticed “scoring on the top platter of the drive.”

As the written testimony states:

“After receiving the hard drive from the IT technician, the IRS-CI technician attempted, but was unsuccessful in recovering data, so he returned the hard drive to the IT depot at the IRS headquarters building for its ultimate destruction. According to the IRS-CI technician, he noted some scoring on the top platter of the drive, and he believed there were additional steps that could have been taken to attempt to recover data. IRS IT management determined the extra effort to recover data from Ms. Lerner’s hard drive was not worth the expense.”

While the testimony notes “scoring” it does not provide specific information on the extent of the damage, or speculate as to what caused the damage.

[Pictured below is a hard drive with top platter]

So how did the scoring get there? Let’s start with what is known:

- According to the testimony, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

- According to the testimony, "Based on consistent network reporting for more than a week, the laptop computer was likely located in Ms. Lerner’s office." 

- On Monday June 13, 2011, Lerner reported the laptop inoperable. 

- Her laptop was then serviced by an IRS IT staff technician and a Hewlett-Packard contractor. Note how the HP contractor thought the hard drive crashed due to a physical impact:

“When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed.” An earlier inspection of her laptop noted no “visible damage to the laptop computer itself.”

- As the report states, TIGTA was unable to determine whether anyone had entered Lois Lerner’s office during the date in question because entry logs had been destroyed after a year in keeping with the vendor's operating procedures. As the report states:

“Attempts were made to determine if anyone entered Ms. Lerner’s office prior to the hard drive crash on June 11, 2011; however, the entry logs that would have recorded any entry into the building were destroyed by the building security vendor after one year of retention, or sometime in 2012. The destruction of the logs after one year falls within the vendor’s standard operating procedures.”

- TIGTA’s testimony states that the laptop as a whole appeared undamaged. When Lerner’s laptop was first inspected by both an assigned IT specialist and Hewlett Packard contractor they both stated that “they did not note any visible damage to the laptop computer itself.”

The testimony does not speculate how the hard drive was “scored” yet the computer remained undamaged. However, given these facts it seems logical to question what -- or who -- caused the damage to the hard drive.

TIGTA officials have said they plan to release the full findings “in the very near future.” 

Photo Credit: 
Simon Cunningham; https://www.flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo/

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Daniel Braisted

When is someone in the Obama ("not smidgen of wrong doing at the IRS") Administration Going step forward and out his secret dealings or are they waiting for a book deal. Guess we could wait for the President to read about the above in the morning paper and be "shocked" and promise to "get to the bottom of this".

Lickylick

You can throw hard drives against a brick wall and the top platter won't get scoring on it. The way you score those platters is by shoving something metal into one of those holes that are covered by stickers on the drive that say on them "removing this label voids warranty". It is that simple. Lerner knew how to destroy the drive and did so. If I was a pos like Lerner and was caught doing what she did, I too would have destroyed the evidence. Can't blame her but it doesn't change the fact she is a pos and should be thrown in jail along with her accomplices.


Lindsey Graham Introduces Restoration of America’s Wire Act in Senate

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, June 26th, 2015, 2:38 PM PERMALINK


WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 24, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), S. 1668. The bill’s purpose is not to “restore” any legislation to its original intent, but for the fed to further encroach into state’s jurisdiction.

The following can be attributed to Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:

“State legislatures are more than capable of making their own decisions about gambling online in their states just like they have done with live casinos.  They don’t need the federal government babysitting them.  The Internet should be a freedom zone, and this is a piece of that pie.”

Precedent since the birth of the Republic has been to leave decisions about gambling in the hands of the states. The states should continue to make their own decisions about the regulation of intrastate online gambling, just as they have done with brick-and-mortar gambling for hundreds of years. It has served the country well for these matters to be settled at the state level.

There are strong opinions and business interests surrounding gambling in general, but, fundamentally, this is a question of the defense of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Photo Credit: 
Thomas Hawk - https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

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Mike Qualley

Thank you for speaking out against this senseless bill that restores nothing and protects no one other than Sheldon Adelson and his casinos. Furthermore, it is basically a smokescreen to use Congress to stop free market competition for his casinos. Take note in this new bill the carve-out for online gambling (everything but poker) via mobile apps. Adelson has been making money off online gambling via two mobile apps offered by his Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas for the past 2-3 years now. It is blatantly obvious what he is up to with his RAWA bill. This video show it... https://www.youtube.com/watch?...


Runaway Spending: A Bipartisan Problem

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Posted by Patrick Gleason, Nathaniel Rome on Friday, June 26th, 2015, 9:44 AM PERMALINK


In a time when it seems like Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on anything, there is something that appears to have bipartisan agreement: overspending. In an analysis of state government spending in all 50 states, it is clear that all state governments are growing at an unsustainable rate, some more so than others.  

A reasonable baseline is for a state to adjust spending in line with inflation and population changes. Americans for Tax Reform used the Tax Foundation’s handy state spending calendar to find out how state spending over the last decade compared to inflation and population growth. The chart below shows how cumulative state spending in all 50 states has increased at a much faster rate than population growth and inflation. The orange line below shows change in population and inflation from 1999 to 2009. The blue line represents growth in total state government spending during that period.

First, here is the national trend, looking at all 50 states:


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Tax Foundation)

This information is more useful if we break it down state-by-state to see who the worst offenders of overspending are. Below is a table of each state and the percent that they overspent beyond the rate of growth the population and inflation over the 10 year period from 1999 to 2009:

State

Overspending  Percent

California

36%

Wyoming

33%

Oklahoma

31%

Mississippi

31%

Kansas

31%

Wisconsin

31%

South Carolina

27%

Rhode Island

27%

Florida

27%

Maine

26%

New Mexico

25%

Indiana

25%

Colorado

24%

Nebraska

24%

Vermont

24%

Pennsylvania

24%

Kentucky

23%

Illinois

23%

Louisiana

23%

Ohio

23%

Maryland

23%

Arkansas

23%

Minnesota

22%

New Jersey

22%

Missouri

22%

Arizona

22%

Delaware

22%

North Carolina

22%

Iowa

21%

Alabama

21%

Idaho

20%

Texas

20%

Tennessee

20%

Michigan

19%

Montana

19%

New York

18%

Alaska

18%

Virginia

16%

Washington

16%

Georgia

16%

North Dakota

16%

Massachusetts

16%

South Dakota

16%

Hawaii

15%

West Virginia

14%

Oregon

14%

Connecticut

14%

Utah

12%

New Hampshire

9%

Nevada

8%

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Tax Foundation)

The biggest overspender is (unsurprisingly) California. California alone overspent by nearly $347 billion – more than the GDP of Denmark – over the decade from 1999 to 2009. But what is surprising is that each and every state overspent by billions of dollars. 33 states overspent by more than 20 percent beyond the rate of growth in population and inflation, and all but two states overspent by at least 10 percent.

State budgets have been a mixed bag this year, with some states confronting shortfalls and some who have surpluses. For state lawmakers still grappling with how to balance a budget – either through cutting spending, raising taxes, or a combination of the two – the numbers demonstrate that the problem is on the spending side of the ledger.

 

 
Photo Credit: 
401(K) 2012, https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/

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Governor LePage Plans March to Zero on Income Tax in Maine

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Posted by Caroline Anderegg on Friday, June 26th, 2015, 9:39 AM PERMALINK


Governor Paul LePage (R-Maine) is taking no prisoners on the road to zero state income tax.  The governor vowed to send back vetoes on every piece of legislation that comes across his desk until Maine’s legislature passes his bill.  He sent back 50 vetoes on Monday and Tuesday of this week alone.

LePage wants to do away with income tax in his state; however, he’ll need cooperation from Maine’s legislature.  In response to their pushback, the governor has decided to try the route of a citizen’s initiative in order to lower the income tax on the road to fully getting rid of it.

Because eliminating Maine’s income tax would require an amendment to the state constitution approved by the state House and Senate as well as the majority of voters, and the legislature isn’t giving their necessary two-thirds stamp of approval, LePage is postponing his plan to totally cut the income tax.  In the meantime, he plans to lower the income tax to 4 percent through a ballot initiative, beginning in September.

“I can’t eliminate it through a people’s initiative, but we can lower it. And I will be doing that," he said. “And I’m also going to bring back a bill in January to eliminate the income tax again. Since it happens to be an election year, I want in fresh in people’s mind when they go to the polls.”

Getting the initiative on the ballot will be no small feat, though.  LePage plans to gather the thousands of signatures necessary to get the measure to a vote by using a town hall-style approach to get his message out, as he did earlier in the year when he was pushing his original tax reform proposals.  Though he has a lot of work to do to accomplish his goal, his method of taking his message to the people has had mixed reviews in the past but he believes it can work this time.

Gov. LePage is unwavering in his dedication to lowering and eventually doing away with Maine’s income tax entirely, and rightfully so.  Of states levying an individual income tax Maine’s ranks 9th highest in the nation at 7.95 percent, down from 8.5 percent when he signed the largest tax cut in state history in 2011.  LePage’s ballot initiative is the necessary next step in allowing the people in Maine to keep more of their hard earned income.

Photo Credit: 
Maine Department of Education (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mainedoe/)

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Meet the Shredder That Destroyed Lois Lerner's Hard Drive

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Thursday, June 25th, 2015, 2:15 PM PERMALINK


Lois Lerner’s hard drive met its end in the amoral maw of an AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder, according to testimony submitted today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

In 2011, after an IRS-contracted Hewlett Packard technician serviced Lerner's laptop and determined the hard drive "more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort," and after a different technician in the IRS Criminal Investigation Division noted there was “some scoring on the top platter of the drive,” the hard drive made its way to a recycling facility in Florida operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The testimony states:

“We determined by obtaining the certificate of destruction dated April 16, 2012, interviews with the facility manager, and a search of the facility, that this shipment of hard drives was destroyed using an AMERI-SHRED AMS-750HD shredder. TIGTA agents observed the shredder in operation and noted that the shredder cut the inserted hard drives into quarter-sized pieces, and according to the facility manager, those pieces are then sold for scrap.”

Video footage of the 7.5 horsepower, 2,700-lb. shredder in action can be found here

Photo Credit: 
Ameri-Shred Corp., http://bit.ly/1NksoEn

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ATR Opposes Massive New Excise Tax on Vapor Products in Washington State

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, June 25th, 2015, 2:11 PM PERMALINK


In a letter to legislators in Washington, Americans for Tax Reform reminded members of the House Finance Committee of the potential consequences of raising taxes on electronic cigarettes and vapor products. Now into their second special session on the budget, legislators are scrambling to tie up loose ends to fund their overspending problem.

Click here for a PDF of the letter. 

This afternoon, behind closed doors, legislators will debate House Bill 2211, which includes a new 60 percent tax on the wholesale cost of e-cigarettes and vapor products sold in Washington. The threat of this tax has already forced a medium-sized company that employs more than 100 Washington residents to begin its relocation to Arizona.

“These bills are a clear existential threat to our business,” Mt. Baker Vapor explained. “Even if the bills did fail, Governor Inslee has another year left in office and has made it clear that he will continue tormenting our industry.”

The vaping industry and the consumers who are using the products have been a top target for state lawmakers since the products began gaining popularly among smokers looking for an effective way to quit with a healthier alternative product.

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products don’t contain the tar or countless carcinogens that can produce cancer, illness, and disease. Where some see a new technology that is helping people quit smoking, cash-hungry politicians like Gov. Inslee and his legislative allies in Washington see a new target to tax.

The letter to the House Finance Committee from ATR president Grover Norquist can be read below:

Dear Representative,

I write today in opposition to House Bill 2211, which would impose a 60 percent tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products sold in Washington. Not only is this a massive tax increase that will hurt small businesses in Washington, but to impose a massive tax on vapor products makes little sense from a health perspective as well.

This 60 percent tax will make Washington extremely uncompetitive in e-cigarette and vapor product pricing, leading to an increase in online purchasing. E-cigarettes will prove to be an extremely volatile source that costs in-state businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales, resulting in even less revenue for the state government. 

The threat of onerous taxation on vapor products and businesses has already resulted in the announcement that Mount Baker Vapor, which employs more than 100 Washington residents, will be relocating to Arizona this year. The income, property, and sales taxes generated by this medium-sized company will no longer be collected in Washington as a result of legislative threats like HB 2211.

Taking aim at e-cigarettes with higher taxes works at cross-purposes with efforts to cut down on the harm associated with smoking. Mitch Zeller, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA has recognized this reality. He recently noted, “If we could get all of those people to completely switch all of their cigarettes to one of these non-combustible products, that would be good for public health.” 

A number of studies have shown that electronic cigarettes stand to improve health and prevent disease. By choosing to “vape” e-cigs instead of smoking traditional tobacco, consumers get their nicotine fix without the combustion and smoke, which are responsible for many of the negative health effects of tobacco cigarettes.

With e-cigarettes, the free market has provided a solution to a problem that social engineers have not been able to address through stiff government regulations. The imposition of new taxes on innovative products that reduce smoking and people’s dependence on tobacco cigarettes is misguided and will impede proven harm reduction methods. It makes little sense in this fragile economy to impose hundreds of thousands of dollars in higher taxes on a product that provides consumers a viable and harmless alternative to traditional tobacco products.  

I would urge you to reject House Bill 2211 in its present form and in any form that imposes an excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products. Not only will the tax yield insignificant revenue for the state, it will keep smokers from transitioning to a far healthier alternative. While this might protect state cigarette tax revenue, it will continue to impact state health care costs in a far more detrimental way. 

Support our efforts to fight e-cigarette and vapor tax hikes by clicking here. 

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Chris

That's a great letter from the boss. ATR has been doing an amazing job standing up for both small vapor products businesses, and tobacco harm reduction. It's much appreciated by this small vapor products business owner.


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