Doug Kellogg

Dem Supermajority's Attempts to Burn NY to the Ground Could Scorch Rest of the Nation

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, June 9th, 2021, 8:53 PM PERMALINK

Governor Cuomo and state legislators recently approved an expensive, tax-hiking, bloated mess of a state budget. Even after Cuomo begged for a federal bailout of the state to close a budget gap – which President Biden and Congressional Democrats granted – he signed a budget that raises taxes on high earners.

The state was already sending the message that these people and businesses were not welcome, New York lost population and Congressional seat in the Census. The budget just amplified that message.

For most states this would be more than enough damage to cause in one legislative session, but in Albany, New York state legislators continue to dig an even deeper hole.

The Democrat supermajority’s late session priorities include phony antitrust legislation, a government takeover of healthcare, and a second gas tax.

Twenty-First Century Anti-Trust Act (SB 933) pushed by New York City Senators Mike Gianaris, and Democratic-Socialist Julia Salazar, would use a new, European-style “dominance” rule to determine if a company should face jacked up fines and criminal penalties in response.

A company is presumed dominant if they have 40% of the market as a seller, or 30% as a buyer – so their competitors would control most of the market, yet that company would be considered “dominant.” 

In a giveaway to trial lawyers, the bill would make it so any successful business can be sued into oblivion through class action suits.

This disastrous policy would force companies to either stop doing business in New York, or cower in fear of regulators imposing huge fines. The problem for the rest of the country is that any company adapting to these rules in New York would effectively transfer them on other states. New York would get set a de facto standard for the rest of the country.

Gaining market position sounds like the entire point of starting a business. Obviously, New York is not open to business.   

Activists and avowed socialist politicians driving away Amazon’s HQ2 was not a blip, that was the new normal for New York, and now with this absurd anti-trust policy all business sectors would face heavy scrutiny.

For families who want some choice in their healthcare, Albany has the New York Health Act. The bill would have government control healthcare in the state, ending private insurance. This “free” healthcare system would cost $140 billion in new taxes.

If fewer jobs, and losing your healthcare doesn’t sound bad enough, how about paying more to live your everyday life?

The Climate and Community Investment Act would create a second gas tax, at 55 cents-per-gallon, more than doubling the states effective gas tax. This would give New York the highest combined gas tax in the nation.

Not only does this regressive tax hurt people driving to work, or to run daily errands, it will make good shipped into the state more expensive. New York’s completely unaffordable cost-of-living would go even higher with this tax.

This legislation takes aim at businesses, families, workers, and taxpayers, it would make the already-unaffordable state a complete nightmare. With Republicans relegated to watching the Democrat supermajority run the show, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders will have to allow session to end without passage of these measures for New York to have a future.  

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

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New Jersey Has a Chance to Cut Taxes for Once

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, June 3rd, 2021, 6:19 PM PERMALINK

It may be hard to believe after three years of Gov. Murphy hiking taxes, increasing spending and taking on debt like there is no tomorrow, but there is a chance to cut taxes in New Jersey.

As the legislature wrangles with the state budget, there is a proposal to reduce the tax on beverages with less than 9.9% alcohol-by-volume, like seltzers, to match the rate on beer products. Really, this policy just taxes alcohol content the same for products that are very similar.

It likely makes sense to any consumer that these products would be taxed the same, but the current rates are wildly different. Non-beer products are taxed at a rate of $5.50 a gallon, compared to 12-cents a gallon for beer.

That is a more than 450% difference, a significant tax cut. It is necessary given the absurdly high tax burden on seltzers, ciders and similar drinks is making it difficult for producers to make ends meet.  

This is a win for businesses and New Jersey consumers. It’s a rare chance for Jersey residents to pay less for products thanks to the tax rate going down instead of the usual up. Adding to the very welcome surprise is that the bill has bipartisan support, and has been introduced by Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Republican Senator, and Taxpayer Protection Pledge-signer, Anthony Bucco said at a hearing, “It's not often, as a Republican, we see bills coming through to cut taxes… So, I understand your concerns, but whenever we get a chance to cut the taxes here in the state, we like to do that.”

New Jerseyans should spring at this opportunity, and urge their legislators to support cutting the tax on these low alcohol content beverages.

You can find your Senator and Assembly member contact info at the state legislature’s website, let them know you support cutting taxes on canned cocktails.

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Arizona Must Finish the Job on Conservative Criminal Justice Reform With Earned Release Expansion

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, May 21st, 2021, 2:07 PM PERMALINK

As we near the end the 2021 legislative session in Arizona, major conservative priority legislation remains on the table: one proposal to significantly reduce Arizona’s tax burden, and the other would incentivize low-level criminal offenders to address addiction issues and gain job skills.   

Senate Bill 1064, sponsored by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, would expand earned release credits in the state,

Earned release credits allow someone to complete programming that teaches them job skills, addresses addiction, or mental health issues, and more. The goal is to address problems that are more likely to drive someone to re-offend, reducing crime and improving safety. The alternative has been doing next to nothing with offenders who are going to get out of prison one day no matter what.

These are commonsense, conservative policies that work to keep people out of trouble, reducing recidivism rates. This ultimately improves public safety and reduces costs to taxpayers at the same time. Just look at the results other states have had.

South Carolina expanded their earned release credits, along with other changes, seeing declines in reoffending (-5.6%), and prison population (-14.5%), from 2010-2017.

Kentucky saw its recidivism rate fall (-5.3%), and its prison population fall (-23%) since 2011 reforms.

In 2008 and 2013, Mississippi significantly curtailed truth-in-sentencing requirements that effectively limited the ability of offenders to earn credits off their sentence. The results have been falling rates of violent crime, a decrease in property crime, to go along with a smaller prison population.

In addition to these great examples of successful red state reforms, the federal government is still in the process of implementing the First STEP Act – earned release credit legislation passed under President Trump.  

These reforms are improvements to the criminal justice system that put public safety first. Credits incentivize people, largely non-violent drug offenders, to do the work necessary to get ready for their imminent release from prison so they can contribute to society.

It’s no surprise that this is a drastic improvement over the status quo. Since the vast majority of people in prison are going to get out one day, it is no-brainer level stuff to address the problems that can drive them to re-offend. Mainly these are addiction problems, and not having a decent job.

In the end, this also boosts public safety as millions of taxpayer dollars are saved which can then be reinvested in the system, with a focus on policies and programming that improve public safety. Arizona Senate Bill 1064 could save more than $600 million that would otherwise be spent in ways that do not optimally protect the public.

Legislators in the House and Senate have already done great work passing civil asset forfeiture reform, and ending driver’s license suspension for owed court debt. These are key improvements to Arizona’s criminal justice system. But there is still a major priority remaining, SB 1064, and legislators and Governor Ducey should support and approve the bill this session.

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Sports Betting Proposal Back on the Table in Massachusetts

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, May 18th, 2021, 5:33 PM PERMALINK

Legislation to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts looked down for the count this session, but a late amendment to the budget has gotten it back in the game. Senator Tarr has introduced the amendment to the Senate’s state budget legislation, which would allow for in-person and digital sports betting in the commonwealth.

The proposal includes competitive tax rates of 10% of revenue for in-person betting, and 12.5% for online betting (and daily fantasy sports). While lower is always better –Iowa and Nevada have the lowest state tax rates at 6.25% – these rates are comparable to other states that have had success with sports betting, like New Jersey.

The problems with high tax rates are many, including making it more difficult for sports books to make ends meet, which threatens growth, job creation, and competition. A Copenhagen Economics study showed this effect in European countries, as tax rates over 15% reduce legal betting activity.

When betting activity is prevented from moving to the legal market, black market operators win. These activities can threaten integrity in sports, and drive funds toward shady, even criminal enterprises.

The Supreme Court ruling allowing states to legalize sports betting led to a 25% decrease in spending with illegal books in 2019. There is still a long way to go to limit what was estimated to be a $150 billon black market for sports betting.

Senator Tarr’s proposal in Massachusetts would be a win on multiple counts, creating a competitive market for online and in-person sports betting with modest tax rates, creating economic growth in the legal market and reducing illegal betting activity. It certainly seems overdo for a sports-hungry state.

There are still pitfalls that must be avoided by the state’s gaming commission, which will have regulatory authority. Licensing fees, which can amount to just another tax when jacked up to grab revenue, must be kept low into the future. Further, the state should steer clear of regulatory traps, like official league data mandates that require all sports books to use the preferred data of sports leagues (even though sports stats are public information and there are many providers).

These same guidelines should also be followed by Florida, as a new compact with the Seminole tribe moves forward that would allow sports betting in the state.

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Free Market, Not Mandate, Offers Better Road Forward on EVs for Pennsylvania

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, May 17th, 2021, 1:23 PM PERMALINK

At the federal level, Joe Biden has proposed a costly $174 billion plan to expand electric vehicle infrastructure, meanwhile a number of states have used taxpayer dollars to subsidize building out electric vehicle stations. 

This top down approach is an expensive one for taxpayers, and unnecessary. In Pennsylvania, some legislators are aiming to have the Public Utilities Commission approve plans from electric utility providers for electric vehicle station expansion, with Senate Bill 435.

The process avoids the major expenses of some other state’s plans, but still takes a top-down approach, mandating a 50% increase in electrification by 2030. It also has just the utilities putting together plans, which the government approves, leaving out other relevant parties. 

Why is the government so involved at all? In Kansas, a major utility company built new electric vehicle stations on their own. The state legislature declined to install a fee or tell them how best to build out stations. The results have been many new charging stations, while taxpayers pay no additional cost. 

With governments at multiple levels already subsidizing EV’s, plenty of demand exists. 

Further, if emissions are the focus, much of the reduction in emissions from vehicles has not occurred because of electric vehicles, but because of improvements in gas-powered vehicles. If Pennsylvania wants lower emissions, mandating electric vehicles isn’t the solution. 

This is reminiscent of Pennsylvania’s leading natural gas industry driving down the state’s emissions as much as other northeastern states who took a top-down, cap-and-trade approach by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The state produces 20 percent of the natural gas in the United States, and Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions have gone down by 30 percent as natural gas use has grown in recent years.

Pennsylvania saw massive economic growth from natural gas by letting the market work, and environmental benefits. 

Instead of following California’s lead with heavy government involvement to expand electric vehicles, Pennsylvania should let the market work, like Kansas did.

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More Effective Criminal Justice System Coming to Tennessee, As Bills to Focus on Work, Treatment Pass

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, April 29th, 2021, 3:17 PM PERMALINK

The Tennessee Senate has approved legislation that will bring significant improvements to Tennessee’s criminal justice system by focusing on treating addiction, and getting people leaving the system back to work, among other provisions.

These conservative reforms are a huge win for public safety, and taxpayers. Addiction and not having a job are two major factors that drive people to reoffend. As long as they remain untreated, addicts are more likely to reoffend. Having a decent job is a key factor in reducing recidivism, and poverty is also a leading recidivism factor.

People who have committed low-level offenses are going to be released from incarceration one day. It only makes sense to address their individual issues and set them on a better path when they return to society.  

A task force assembled at Governor Bill Lee’s request tackled these issues and offered recommendations, leading to the legislation that just passed (HB 784/SB 767, and HB 785/SB 768).

The legislation removes unnecessary government licensing barriers to work for former offenders, updates community supervision practices to concentrate on risk, and offers alternatives to jail where appropriate, like drug treatment. More serious offenders who currently would be released without supervision, will have one year of supervision added, further protecting public safety.

Governor Lee deserves immense credit for leading the charge on these bills, along with legislative leaders, Speaker Sexton, Senate Majority Leader Johnson, and sponsors, including Rep. Curcio, Rep. Lamberth, Sen. Stevens, Sen. Bowling, and Sen. Yager, among many others who helped these needed reforms become reality.

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Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Passes Overwhelmingly in Arizona

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, April 28th, 2021, 5:23 PM PERMALINK

The Arizona Senate has passed civil asset forfeiture reform by a huge 29-1 vote margin. The bill already sailed through the House with 57 yes votes to only 2 nays. It is an overwhelming and deserved victory for legislation that will finally protect innocent Arizonans from having their property taken by the police.

Sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, House Bill 2810 requires a criminal conviction for someone to permanently lose their property. If there is no crime, it remains a dangerous standard to allow the authorities to take the property of citizens.

Last year, similar legislation looked primed to pass, but Democrats in the House killed the effort, unanimously rejecting the bill.

Under current asset forfeiture laws, Arizonans can have their property seized by law enforcement without a crime having been committed. They can also lose their property if it was used in a criminal activity without their knowledge – authorities do not have to prove the property owner knew. Combine these issues with a difficult-to-navigate process for citizens trying to get their property back, and the deck is inappropriately stacked against Arizonans.

On top of the conviction requirement, reforms in HB 2810 will address these issues through transparency and more reasonable time frames for petitioning to get one’s property back.

Despite the claims of opponents, the bill will not impede prosecutors’ ability to build a case. Anything seized that is evidence in a case can be kept by the authorities, and people who flee or allowed their property to be used in a crime lose that property just like before.

The bill heads to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature. Should the Governor sign the bill, Arizona will join 15 other states who have conviction requirements. Three states, New Mexico, Nebraska, and North Carolina ended civil asset forfeiture entirely.

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Podcast: What’s Next for Sports Betting? Grover Norquist, FanDuel, American Gaming Assoc. Discuss

Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, April 26th, 2021, 2:56 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, FanDuel's Andrew Winchell, and Jessica Feil with American Gaming Association talk about how states can win with low taxes and good regulatory policies for sports betting during a recent panel event.

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Sorry Democrats, Florida Most Definitely Did Not Raise Taxes

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, 1:30 PM PERMALINK

Democrats across the country, and especially in Washington D.C. continue to push tax increase after tax increase. That includes Democrats championing online sales taxes long before they were even legal.

That isn’t stopping Florida Democrats from pretending they care about taxpayers. But, just like Joe Biden’s bogus promise to not raise taxes on people earning less than $400,000 annually, their charges are completely false, and based on the assumption their audience won’t check their claims.

That claim is that Senate Bill 50, which implements an online sales tax, is a tax increase. In reality, the legislature has fully offset any new revenue from that tax. The bill uses that revenue to avoid automatic payroll tax increases, and also significantly cuts the commercial rent tax. It will most likely be a net tax cut over time.

Small businesses, many of whom have been hurt by the pandemic, will save money by paying less tax on their rent. In fact, Florida is the only state that even has such a tax on renting property to run a business. It is a significant accomplishment to cut this tax, and lawmakers can now target completely eliminating it next session. This is the kind of tax that adds costs that get passed down to Florida consumers, who will pay a little less to shop near home.

North of $1 billion will be saved annually once the cut to the commercial rent tax is implemented.

On top of that, billions of dollars worth of payroll taxes will be avoided. The pandemic exhausted Florida’s unemployment fund, and refilling it would have triggered automatic tax hikes on many beleaguered businesses. SB 50 avoids this scenario.

Congress, controlled by Democrats, has become actively hostile towards states trying to avoid such tax increases. Sen. Joe Manchin inserted language in the latest relief bill that attempts to stop states from even ‘indirectly’ preventing tax hikes if they accept relief dollars.

It is dishonest to make it sound like this bill is a stealth tax hike, signed by Governor DeSantis in the dead of night. In reality, this legislative package has been worked on publicly over months, amended to ensure Florida taxpayers are protected, and passed in the bright of day.

Florida Democrats, just like their colleagues in Washington, have no credibility on taxes, except when it comes to raising them.

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Ohio House School Funding Plan Would Lock In Massive Bills for Taxpayers

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, April 19th, 2021, 11:33 AM PERMALINK

Ohio legislators are on the verge of falling into a trap on education funding that would stick taxpayers with future tax hikes to fund big pay for teachers’ unions.

As they consider the next two-year budget, lawmakers must wrangle with education funding. Expanding school choice options has been a priority in recent years, and a worthy one at that. It has never been more clear that parents need control when it comes to choosing where and how their children are educated.

As legislators aim at a new school funding formula that will serve expanding school choice, they must take care that the formula does not lock in more spending growth than Ohio taxpayers can afford. That would lead to tax hikes.

Unfortunately, the proposal being advanced by the Ohio House of Representatives would do just that. Worse, it would lock in unaffordable spending levels by giving teachers unions power to drive up costs for the state.

House Bill 1 is the school funding bill, now part of the House’s biennial budget, HB 110. The legislation would increase school aid from the state, for traditional school districts it would go up by nearly 24% compared to current law.

That is a significant amount of spending and worth a closer look by taxpayers even if it can be paid for by naturally rising revenues or changes in spending priorities. But these numbers don’t even represent the full cost of HB 1. They only reflect what the cost of HB 1 might have been in 2018, without additional funding for economically disadvantage children.

You may have noticed it is 2021, not 2018, presumably Ohio representatives also are aware of this. So why are they using old, 2018 numbers for district costs and salaries to inform a formula that will go into effect in 2022?

Whatever the reason, an already significant increase in aid spending (24% for traditional districts) is actually a lowball figure. It’s based on old school district costs. It also does not take into account ongoing analysis of how to aid economically disadvantaged students, which will add more guaranteed spending to state aid.

In short, old data on school district spending, and outstanding recommendations on additional aid for students from low-income families will significantly drive up the projected cost of the new school aid formula.

Taxpayers don’t know the true cost, but if this version of the funding formula passes, they will be on the hook for whatever that cost ends up being. If the state tries to go under the formula, school districts will be able to sue to get money to fill any such gap. Since their costs and salaries are under their control and feedback into the formula to demand more aid, districts can drive up costs for state taxpayers.

Legislators who support this version of the school aid formula are locking Ohio taxpayers into paying far higher aid costs than they do today, and empowering teachers unions to keep driving those costs up. On top of that, future demands for additional school funding will be made on top of the ever-rising baseline guaranteed by the formula. Before deciding on a final formula, legislators should address these concerns, and be clear on what the state will actually end up spending.

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