Doug Kellogg

Wyoming Lawmakers Set Table for Criminal Justice Reform

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, December 10th, 2018, 5:06 PM PERMALINK

With a new year and new legislative session rapidly approaching, leaders in the Wyoming state legislature got a head start on criminal justice reform.

The state desperately needs additional reforms as the prison population has boomed, overloading the state system, and leading to added costs for holding prisoners in county jails and private facilities.

Without any adjustment, the state would be hit with an estimated $50 million in added costs. To set the table for reform to address the issue, the legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee endorsed three draft bills to reduce the prison population in a way that prioritizes public safety.

Parole and probation reform are the center of the reforms. Ensuring supervision is used to protect the public and in a way that facilitates reentry to society, rather than tripping up former offenders, would go a long way toward curbing prison population.

One measure advanced by the committee would cap probation terms to avoid wasting limited state resources supervising people who have not broken their probation terms for years. Another would provide more options for judges in sentencing. They could sentence offenders to unsupervised probation, and reduce sentences based on assessments of their risk to public safety.

The high costs are a sign that something is wrong with the system, and an impetus for reform. But the end goals of public safety and stronger families and communities must remain the focus.
 


NJ Licensing Reform Bill Would Create Jobs, Reduce Crime

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, December 3rd, 2018, 10:15 AM PERMALINK

One major issue for former offenders who have served their time and are trying to reintegrate into society is finding a job. There is probably nothing more important for rebuilding their lives than being able to find work, contribute, and earn a living. Without that stepping stone, they are more likely to commit a crime again - which adds avoidable costs to our criminal justice system.

The last thing government should do is get between ex-prisoners and a job. Yet, that is exactly what is happening through occupational licensing regimes that are complicated and costly.

This is a problem in many states, including New Jersey. Now, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Lopez, and Senators Singleton and Gill (A3872/S1589) would do something about this issue in the Garden State.

Currently, New Jersey has a broad morality requirement that means anyone with a prior conviction can be denied an occupational license even if the crime was not related, happened a long time ago, the person has not committed a crime since, and they can show they are on the straight-and-narrow.

An ex-offender applying for a license can put in time, effort, and money, and be denied for a past unrelated offense with no chance to fix the situation.

To address these issues, A3872 would require that occupational licensing boards consider whether an offense was directly related to the profession an applicant is seeking, and would impact their ability to do the job. Boards would also have to give notice to applicants if their past conviction was going to be a problem. And sex crimes would still be considered relevant for disqualification from any license.

This would go a long way toward making sure people who've committed non-violent crimes, been punished, and applied themselves toward training and a career, are not needlessly barred from working.

People who were denied would be given clear reason, and could take steps to further rehabilitate, and reapply at a later date.

This kind of common sense reform earns broad bi-partisan support for good reason. The vast majority of prisoners will be released one day. The best way to make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient is to ensure they are ready to become productive members of society. That cannot happen without meaningful work.

A3872 would create jobs and reduce crime. It deserves consideration and support in the legislature.


NJ Bill Would End Tipped Wage, Killing Jobs & Restaurants for No Benefit Whatsoever

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, November 9th, 2018, 1:44 PM PERMALINK

Is there a more mindless far-left policy than ending the minimum wage tip credit? For people who are supposed to care about workers, Democrats that support this move aren’t showing it.

In New Jersey - now governed by sentient left-wing interest group Phil Murphy - legislation has been proposed to end the tipped wage credit.

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter is the main sponsor of Assembly Bill 1972, which increases the base wage for tipped workers and moves to eliminate the credit entirely. Lawmakers are negotiating an amendment that would affect the phase in timeline.

Governor Murphy was quick to laud the measure and wants action by the end of the year. Murphy is also spearheading efforts to increase the state minimum wage to $15-per-hour, even though New Jersey’s wage is already indexed to inflation.

The wildest thing about the push to eliminate the tipped wage is that it is entirely unnecessary. Servers who work under the tipped wage credit already must make minimum wage at the end of the day.

As Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, told NJBIZ: “Nobody is making $2.13, and if they are, that is a wage-theft problem that should be reported… Everybody has to make at least minimum wage.”

There is no possible positive outcome for this policy. There are plenty of negative outcomes though…

Ending the tip credit would destroy a system that has been working for decades, for both businesses and workers.

For each $1 increase in the base wage for tipped workers, a median-rated restaurant is at a 14 percent increased risk of closing, a Harvard Business School study found in studying San Francisco, as California does not have a wage tip credit.

You don’t have to look cross-country to see negative consequences. In New York, over 270 restaurants closed after the minimum wage for tipped workers was increased by 50 percent in 2015.

Maine, which recently made a similar change to the tip credit, saw their legislature restore it less than a year later because it was such an overwhelmingly unpopular move. The concerns servers voiced about their net pay decreasing without the tip credit proved to be very real in practice.


Minimum Wage Hike Ballot Measures Win, Workers & Taxpayers Lose

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, November 8th, 2018, 3:29 PM PERMALINK

On Tuesday, notable ballot measures passed in Arkansas and Missouri that mandate increases in each state’s minimum wage.

Arkansas Issue 5 will increase the state minimum wage to $11.00-per-hour by 2021. The measure passed with 68% of the vote.

Missouri’s Proposition B increases the minimum wage to $12-per-hour by 2023. It received 62% support.

Clearly voters continue to think minimum wage increases sound nice. They should not.

The negative consequences may be slow cooking, but they are apparent, while the labor movement’s support for these efforts is not about the well-being of the workers they say they aim to help.

Missouri and Arkansas voters are just the latest to fall for these policies.

The pioneer city in the recent fights for higher minimum wage mandates, Seattle, continues to offer warning signs. A University of Washington study found that as the minimum wage increased, low-wage workers received a wage increase on average. However, their hours declined, and their likelihood of remaining employed declined.

Some businesses have also reacted by hiring more experienced workers. If they have to pay a higher cost, why not get the experience they’re paying for? This risks removing entry-level opportunities for low-skill workers.

Voters may not realize it, but they are making it illegal for a teenager to get a part-time starter job.

Automation has also exploded in popularity, fueled by radical minimum wage hikes. FoodNewsFeed.com writes:

“The affordability of the technology and rising labor costs are undoubtedly contributing to the trend, too. In 2015, 14 cities and states approved $15 minimum wages—double the current federal minimum. According to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Fortune magazine, 17 percent of Americans will live in a state or metro area with a $15 minimum wage in less than five years.”

Voters think they are getting a “living wage” for Joe, instead they’re boosting C-3PO.

And don’t forget taxpayers. New York State’s 2016 move to increase the minimum wage (going to $15 downstate, and $12.50 upstate) is estimated to cost the state $838 million in added Medicaid costs in 2020.

Big labor continues to offer big support for these proposals, but they are only looking out for themselves.

The AFL-CIO says it’s about social and economic justice. However, their New York State President let the truth slip at a rally with Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo when he said, “brothers and sisters, those of you who are making 16, and 17 and 18 dollars an hour, the next time your union goes in to negotiate, they’re gonna ask for 19 and 20 and 21 dollars, and up! That’s what this is about.”

The movement pushing these radical wage increases is going as fast as it can, now Louisiana’s Governor is talking up Missouri and Arkansas wage hikes as reason for his state to do the same.

Before it’s too late, the reality that aggressive minimum wage hikes hurt the workers they’re supposed to help must be made clear to voters.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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7 Reasons Cuomo’s “Opioid Stewardship” Scheme Is a Disaster

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, October 25th, 2018, 4:03 PM PERMALINK

After failing to get a direct tax on opioid medication passed that would have made it more costly for patients, and driven up insurance costs for everyone in the state, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo turned to the Opioid Stewardship Fund concept during this year’s budget negotiations.

The fund is built on a $100 million annual fee, over six years, imposed on any companies that provide opioid medication in the state.

This rushed plan may have been more politically acceptable to legislators, but it is as bad, if not worse than a direct tax. Now that it is being implemented (poorly), its problems are becoming more clear. It’s no wonder the state has been sued.

Recently, the state attorney general requested a lawsuit be dismissed under the logic that the Stewardship system is just a tax. This totally misses the point of the lawsuit, and the problems with the fund.

Here are 7 reasons the Opioid Stewardship Fund is a disaster:

  1. The fee is arbitrary and unconstitutional. The Governor provided no reason why these companies owe $100 million to the state other than rhetoric. The state now is figuring out which companies owe what, but that is entirely based on volume of sales and activity in the state, not any due process to back the Governor’s blame claims. That is why the state has been sued by pharmaceutical distributors.
  2. It could cause a collapse of the market. The total amount owed never changes, it is a flat $100 million. So if one company that is being slammed with the fee determines it is not worth doing business in the state, then the remaining companies all pay more, causing a domino effect.
  3. Burden will impact commerce across state borders. The law says costs from the fee cannot be passed on to consumers. This is politically-convenient thinking that ends up interfering with interstate commerce. The costs have to go someplace, and the way the law is written sticks distributors with the tax bill because they are the ones physically operating in the state. If distributors hold shipments because it’s not worth sending them into New York, pricing and supply in other states will be impacted.
  4. The dream of the 1890s is alive in New York. Because some older drugs, like morphine, are exempted from the Stewardship scheme, these older opioids may continue to be sold in the state without issue. Oddly, it is more advanced, modern painkillers that could stall at the border. This would turn back the clock in a dangerous way.
  5. New Yorkers can pay now, or they will pay later. Many of the effects the state was warned about with a direct tax would still be on the table. A report from two Union College economists showed insurance premiums would go up for everyone in the state. Also, hospitals would see higher costs, and taxpayers would as well well since public hospitals are impacted by availability and cost issues for drugs and the state pays more for Medicaid.
  6. It was just a money grab, not a solution for a public health crisis. The Stewardship Fund does fund programs that are supposed to address the opioid crisis. However, it only replaces existing money, which could then be shifted to a different part of the state budget. The fund offers no new approach to fixing the opioid crisis. It seems to be more about Governor Cuomo finding more cash for spending increases that are higher than he admits.
  7. Patients will be pushed to the black market. Sadly, disrupting the supply of legitimate medicine could drive more New Yorkers to seek far riskier drugs. If patients in need of medicine can’t get it they may turn to options on the black market. Deaths from illicit fentanyl, largely from China and Mexican cartels, spiked to 5,000 in 2014 and rocketed to over 26,000 in 2017, according to Bloomberg News.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Florida: Gillum Platform Could Kill $12B In Economic Growth with $2.6B Tax-and-Spend Spree

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, October 22nd, 2018, 12:35 PM PERMALINK

Maybe Florida is tired of winning. The state is seeing a competitive election between leftist Democrat, Bernie Sanders’ acolyte Andrew Gillum and Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis. 

This, despite the fact Florida has been an overwhelming success story. After two-terms of Governor Rick Scott and a Republican legislature, the state’s low, and no tax environment has sparked a boom that is the envy of other states. People and businesses have flocked to Florida, and the economy has grown. 

Just this week, Florida recorded a record jobs gain for the past year, adding over 407,000 jobs between September 2017 and September 2018. 

 The highly populated, diverse state, is the shining example of how right-of-center, conservative governance works. 

But Andrew Gillum’s agenda would change all that, as a new analysis from James Madison Institute (JMI), Florida’s free market think tank, shows.

Gillum is calling for a 40 percent hike in the corporate income tax rate, which will immediately move Florida from leading the region in competitiveness to last. 

The story only starts there. The candidate estimates this is a $1 billion tax hike, but (as JMI notes) this is a static estimate. Surely some businesses will change behavior, and move out, reducing the actual revenue haul. 

Even the rosy $1 billion estimate does not come near paying for Gillum’s $2.6 billion wish list. 

If he actually wants to cover his proposed new spending, the corporate rate would have to go to 11 percent, or 49th in the nation. That drops Florida behind Germany internationally as well. 

Let’s be clear, that means Gillum’s policies would cost the Florida economy a massive $12 billion, while driving up costs for consumers. 

Why would Floridians, who have enjoyed a booming state economy, want this? Maybe it should be no surprise Gillum has so many fans outside Florida, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, George Soros, and Bernie Sanders. 

It could be far worse. These figures do not cover Gillum’s rhetoric in support of “Medicare-for-All”. 

If he pursued that at the state level, it would cost $163 billion. That is quintuple the size of Florida’s $32 billion budget. If funded through sales tax, that would require an inconceivable 39 percent sales tax rate. 

That’s a talking point that Gillum can’t cash, not without massive tax increases that will make Florida unaffordable. 

Gillum of course pitches more spending on education as the reason for his tax hikes. Yet, a quick look at Florida’s performance in education shows the state has already increased education spending 37 percent during Gov. Scott’s tenure. 

Education reforms have helped boost the state’s performance, currently Florida outperforms the nation in 8th grade reading and math (according to NAEP data). 

New York State, for example, trails Florida despite New York routinely ranking at-or-near the top in spending-per-pupil. 

Gillum’s “education” spending does not seem motivated by what’s best for student progress, but grabbing more tax money to hand to his pals at the American Federation of Teachers who have boosted his campaign. 

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis has pledged to protect taxpayers from any and all tax hikes in order to keep Florida’s welcoming tax climate, and maintain the state’s success over the past decade. 

 DeSantis would also phase out the bizarre business rent tax, and trim Florida’s corporate income tax rate to compete with the lowest tax states, and focus on school choice and continuing the state’s successful policies on education. 

The numbers don’t lie. The choice for Florida is between Andrew Gillum’s massive tax hikes that will make the state more unaffordable for families and businesses, and Ron DeSantis’ policies that will protect taxpayers and keep the state growing and prospering.  

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PA Legislators Should Not Be Fooled, HB 1511 is a New Tax Hike

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, October 15th, 2018, 2:53 PM PERMALINK

At the last possible second, with session winding down and budget passage far in the rearview mirror, Pennsylvania legislators are considering tax hikes on anyone who books a hotel stay through a third party. The bill has now passed the Senate.

The bill is a tax hike that would hit online travel agents directly, driving up costs for consumers, and discouraging the very tourism it is supposed to promote by grabbing more hard-earned dollars from Pennsylvanians and visitors to the state.

Adding insult to injury, this is happening on the watch of Republican lawmakers.

Here’s why Pennsylvania Representatives should reject HB 1511:

1) There is no collection problem. That is bunk. This bill is a straight-up tax increase, and would violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Online Travel Agents (OTAs) - like Expedia, Travelocity, and others - make it easier for people to book hotels or other accommodations online. Taxes are already collected on the price these agents arrange with a hotel.

2) The bill would add the sales tax to the small service fee these platforms charge, which would add to the state’s tax burden, and still likely fail to meet revenue promises. This could also drive pressure for additional tax increases.

3) This tax hike would hit Pennsylvanians directly, when they move around their home state, tourists and out-of-state travelers, and anyone that books travel online - like a travel agent.

 

The House should reject this tax hike. You can tell your Representative NO last-minute tax hike. Find their contact information here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/.

 

Photo Credit: PennLive


Congestion Pricing is a Tax

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Posted by Doug Kellogg, Hans Schundler on Monday, October 8th, 2018, 10:09 AM PERMALINK

Left-of-center think tanks and advocacy groups, along with city politicians are often pushing new taxes and fees as ways to mitigate traffic congestion.

In New York City, the topic has been hot, as public transit falters.

The City Council majority supports a plan that will implement fees to enter certain zones within the city. A recent New York Times op-ed from a former San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bureaucrat outlines a plan to hike parking fees and enhance the regulation of parking lot operators.

These officials, and so-called transit experts, say new fees and mandates are needed because traffic congestion is a problem. They believe that if they tax driving enough, it will force some onto the public transit system, clearing up roads, while the new tax revenue will assist in improving the quality of a beleaguered subway system.

The reality is these congestion pricing schemes are a tax on going to work. They would punish commuters for government’s failures, making an already unaffordable city worse and then shoving more people into a mass transit system that can’t handle its current ridership.

The city’s mass transit is a disaster that has become so unreliable that ridership declined despite a rising population. Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are often blamed for traffic, but it is government’s failure to run a decent transit system that is a self-inflicted wound.

Taxing people, when it is the MTA (New York’s transit authority) that has allowed the system to fall into ruin is cynical blame shifting. The MTA operating budget is $17 billion, and the agency has a capital budget over $35 billion. It taxes businesses downstate for direct revenue. It has resources, and has shifted them to political priorities rather than maintaining the system.

The congestion tax mentality is similar to what we also see in Washington, DC. In the nation’s capital, the Mayor has hit ridesharing with a massive tax hike, blaming it for declines in WMATA (the Washington metro authority) ridership.

Again, this is an authority rife with cronyism, waste, and a culture of cashing in rather than providing good service.

The reality is commuters and taxpayers have already been hit up for billions of dollars to support infrastructure and public transit in order to ease traffic. Now government wants to pass the buck, and attack transportation alternatives, because transit authorities have spectacularly failed to do their jobs.

If government wants to make it easier to get to work by running an effective mass transit system, fine. They shouldn’t be making it harder to get to work through other means because it shines a light on their failures.

Accountability and transparency and competition are the answer, not tax hikes. 


Worst-in-Nation Bill to Ban Plastic Bags, Straws, Styrofoam Containers Advances in NJ

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018, 12:54 PM PERMALINK

The most aggressive attack on plastic bags, plastic straws, and polystyrene containers in the nation advanced out of the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee late last week. The bill heads to the budget committee.

The legislation also slaps a 10-cent per bag fee on paper bags. ATR offered testimony opposing the legislation at a September 27 hearing.

This is a disaster on many levels for a state that has long-term debt problems, a flagging economy, and just raised taxes by over $1 billion to patch a broken budget. By further attacking businesses on the heels of a massive corporate income tax hike, New Jersey risks losing jobs, economic activity, and ultimately revenue.

Next year 78 percent of new revenue is expected to come from the recently passed package of tax hikes, a sign that the state’s economy is not naturally growing enough to sustain its growing budget.

New Jersey is already unwelcoming enough, ranking dead last in the entire country in business tax climate. A whopping 2 million people left the state between 2006 to 2014.

It’s no wonder New Jersey’s jobs picture is bleak.

The state’s labor force lost 34,000 workers from August 2017 to August 2018, and 61,000 workers since January 2015, according to data from the Department of Workforce and Labor Development, and analysis from Garden State Initiative.

The ban bill only make life more difficult for New Jersey’s remaining businesses, which the state desperately needs.

The plastics industry employs 18,000 people in New Jersey. The state has companies producing styrofoam, and even those recycling it that would be hurt by a ban.

Foam containers are relied upon by moderately priced restaurants with a high volume of take out orders. Banning them will drive up costs for these business-owners and reduce quality. Meanwhile, foam containers are convenient, reliable, FDA-approved, and safe.

Banning plastic bags means stores have to buy costlier bags and pass on costs to customers, or eat them. Perhaps even worse, lower income folks, and seniors who may not be able to carry around reusable bags at work or in a car will end up paying more- and they cannot afford the 10-cent paper bag fee.

And for what benefit? A New Jersey Clean Communities Council survey found grocery-style plastic bags made up just 0.8 percent of New Jersey litter.

Governor Phil Murphy is cheerleading the ban, which he brought into the spotlight after vetoing a misguided, revenue-grabbing fee on plastic and paper bags. He would be expected to sign the measure, so it’s up to the legislature to see the light.


ATR Testimony Opposing New Jersey Bill to Ban Plastic Bags, Straws, & Foam Containers

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, September 27th, 2018, 12:41 PM PERMALINK

ATR Opposes Senate Bill 2776

Thank you Chairman Smith, and members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Energy for listening to my testimony, and the testimony of so many others who would be impacted by a ban on bags, straws, and styrofoam containers as outlined in Senate Bill 2776.

My name is Douglas Kellogg, I am State Projects Director for Americans for Tax Reform. ATR was founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist - at the request of President Reagan - to advocate for tax reform. Today, we continue to advocate for taxpayers, and work for policy that protects taxpayers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and fosters a vibrant economic climate that enables taxes to be few, low, and simple.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to live and work in this great state, and with family who have called New Jersey home, it is an honor to be here today.

Unfortunately, the legislation I am here to voice our strong opposition to would make New Jersey a more difficult place to live, work, and do business.

A first-in-the-nation ban on plastic bags, straws, and polystyrene containers, all in one go, is an overaggressive policy that will punish your residents and businesses, introduce a slew of unintended consequences, and still may fail to provide predicted environmental rewards.

A whopping 2 million people left the state between 2006 to 2014, and that is just one metric among many showing that people cannot build a future here. Departing residents have taken more $35 billion in income with them since 1992, IRS and Census Bureau data show.

New Jersey remains dead-last in business tax climate, on the Tax Foundation’s index, behind New York and California. Your recent tax hikes are not helping. Neither is having the highest average property tax bill in the nation.

The last thing New Jersey needs are more burdens for businesses.

Despite recent month-to-month job figures improving, the state’s labor force lost 34,000 workers from August 2017 to August 2018, and 61,000 workers since January 2015, according to data from the Department of Workforce and Labor Development, and analysis from Garden State Initiative.

An incredible 78% of revenue growth projected for next year will come from tax hikes.

All these numbers go to show the tax base is being jeopardized, and revenue is leaving. And the state cannot afford to make the problem worse by piling on bans on products that create jobs, and efficiency for New Jersey businesses.

The plastics industry employs 18,000 people in New Jersey. You have companies producing styrofoam, and even those recycling it that would be hurt by a ban.  

Foam containers are relied upon by moderately priced restaurants with a high volume of take out orders. Banning them will drive up costs for these business-owners and reduce quality. Meanwhile, foam containers are convenient, reliable, FDA-approved, and safe.

Banning plastic bags means stores have to buy costlier bags and pass on costs to customers or face higher costs. The transition will burden stores. Perhaps even worse, lower income folks, and seniors who may not be able to carry around reusable bags at work or in a car will end up paying more.

Plastic bag replacements must be used many times more than a plastic bag to maintain a similar environmental footprint.

The straw ban is a moral panic driven by social-media-era virtue signaling and phony numbers crafted by a grade-schooler.

Beyond imposing new costs on businesses, unintended consequences of a straw ban will hurt people with certain disabilities who rely on straws.

For what benefit?

An analysis by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) found 90% of plastic going into the sea comes from 10 rivers, eight in Asia and Africa. The legislation you are considering will not help this issue.

New Jersey is considering attacking these industries with a move more radical than your eastern neighbor New York, and while your western neighbor in Pennsylvania is fostering first-in-the-region infrastructure for natural gas and plastics that will create billions of dollars in value and new jobs.

We urge you to reject Senate Bill 2776 and Assembly Bill 4330 and instead focus on recycling and proper disposal of these materials, rather than a heavy-handed ban that will make New Jersey less attractive and competitive in the region - and further chase away jobs and taxpayers.

Thank you.


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