Doug Kellogg

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.


What the Heck Did NYC Just Do to Ridesharing?

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, September 7th, 2018, 12:32 PM PERMALINK

Over the summer, the New York City Council passed a series of measures empowering the city - through the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) - to monitor and aggressively regulate ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft.

The headline-grabber is that the city will pause on handing out new licenses for drivers, which represents a first-of-its-kind cap on licenses.

Further, the city, and TLC, will have the power to continue to cap and control companies, drivers and cars based on any number of factors. These include the time cars are in use, where cars and drivers are, what fares are, how much drivers make, traffic, and on and on.

The cap is just the beginning of a slate of very significant powers city government now has to micromanage ridesharing.

The TLC can now regulate the number of cars in perpetuity. They can limit cars to regions of the city. This could set up absurd situations where drivers aren’t allowed to pick up people in certain areas of high demand, while they are stuck in a low-demand area.

They can decide what companies have to pay drivers, and what fares they must charge - which sounds an awful lot like price controls.

The new laws allow the TLC to establish a “vehicle utilization standard” and define a new entity, “high-volume for-hire” services, a.k.a. Uber, Lyft, and any other company arranging 10,000-plus rides per-day.

The TLC can change the vehicle utilization standard going forward, so to some extent they will make and enforce the rules.

Ridesharing in New York City is now at the whim of government bureaucracy and the city council. How much slower and more expensive it becomes to get a ride is no longer in the hands of free enterprise and consumers.

Interestingly, ride-hail companies reportedly offered to create a $100 million fund to help cover taxi drivers who have faced declining medallion volumes - which was due to decades of poor city policy. That was rejected, as was congestion pricing (tax on driving to certain areas of the city). But of course, congestion pricing is being pushed by the council speaker anyways on top of the new ridesharing regulation regime.

Highlights from the various bills are outlined below:

Intro 144B

  • 12 month pause on new for-hire licenses
  • Except for wheelchair accessible vehicles
  • Commission (Taxi & Limousine Commission) submits vehicle ridership impact report every 3 months
  • Can allow new licenses to aid areas where “services are needed”.
  • Establishes “vehicle utilization standard” for standard of efficient use of for-hire vehicles determined by TLC based on time spent, distance traveled, number of passengers
  • Study income drivers make, traffic congestion throughout the city, extent to which for-hire vehicles contribute to congestion, traffic safety, vehicle utilization rates, access to services by area, hours drivers are available on service, driver income and well-being, other topics TLC and DoT deem appropriate.
  • Based on study TLC will establish vehicle utilization standards for high volume for-hire services (Uber, Lyft) - review standards at least annually
  • Review number of for-hire vehicles at least annually and may regulate the number of licenses
  • TLC may vary the vehicle utilization standards and licenses based on geographic area, time of day, day of the week, wheelchair accessibility, vehicle emissions, AND OTHER FACTORS TLC deems appropriate
  • Requires data be provided to city: driver license number, for-hire license number and station number, location of pick up and drop off, number of passengers, date and time, mileage, itemized fare, toll, surcharge, any deductions company requires, tip, passenger cost, what driver earned; amount of time for-hire vehicles are transporting passengers or awaiting a fare. AND any additional information TLC requires to conduct study.
  • TLC to establish penalties from $500 to $1,000. Companies cannot deduct penalties they incur from drivers.


Intro 890B

  • Establishes minimum payments to drivers.
  • Establishes minimum rates of fare.
  • Applies only to “high volume for-hire” service.
  • TLC establishes rule determining minimum payment calculation
  • must consider duration, distance, expenses, vehicle utilization standard, rates of fare, adequacy of for-hire vehicle driver income in relation to expenses
  • Also will look at non “high volume for hire” service.
  • Based on study from other bill commission will determine whether minimum rates of fare established by commission would alleviate problems identified in study. IF SO the commission is authorized to establish rule on minimum rates of fare.
  • (what is the hail exclusionary zone? section 51-03 title 35 rules of the city of New York)
  • Review rates every year and can increase them if they want.


Intro 838C

  • Defines high volume for-hire service, electronic-based, 10,000 rides per day
  • New high volume license, license lasts two years, biennial fee set by commission
  • License given when service submits a business plan including: number of trips, base station, number of trips expected through black car base for 2 years, projection of number of vehicles needed to operate, average trips per vehicle, geographic areas of the city service intends to serve, ANY other information the commission deems important to consider for license.
  • Company must comply with assessment of impact on environment including: traffic congestion, public transit, private vehicles, transit, noise.
  • Provides a list of any fees, charges imposed on drivers/owners
  • Rates of fare given to commission.
  • Provides trip and revenue data: for each trip, driver’s license number, vehicle info, pick up location and drop off, number of passengers, date and time, mileage, date of request, itemized fare including fare, toll, surcharge, commission rate, gratuity, passenger payment, driver compensation; amount of time vehicle is connected to electronic platform, time with passenger vs. time without a passenger.
  • $10,000 fine for driving without a license.


Intro 634B

  • Reduced fee for accessible cabs from $550 to $275


Intro 958A

  • Establishes fines and penalties for driver violations, from $200 to $10,000, as well as license revocation, depending on violation.

The Big Boss Behind NYC Subway & Housing Crises

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, September 6th, 2018, 6:27 PM PERMALINK

New York faces a number of crises thanks to governments at the state and city level that continue to spend big, while failing to manage effectively.

Two of the biggest challenges facing New York City are crumbling public housing, and a mass transit system that has ground to a halt.

Political leadership - Governor Cuomo on the MTA and subways, and Mayor de Blasio on public housing - bears much of the responsibility. Either these guys have been out to lunch, or in the case of Cuomo, actively pushing resources to flashy projects, like sprucing up stations and launch parties, instead of needed fixes.

There is another factor, organized labor which has driven some of the highest construction costs in the world, specifically, big union boss Gary La Barbera who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC), which means he leads most of the construction unions in the city.

The only thing rapid about the subway system these days is its decline. High costs and shifted funds have driven a record number of delays and a decline in ridership.

Most notoriously, the Second Avenue subway extension cost $2.5 billion per mile of track. A New York Times investigation found costs around the world for similar projects were generally under $500 million per mile of track.

How can these costs be so high? Well one reason is that there were 900 workers for 700 jobs.

“Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show”, the Times reports.

Interestingly enough, New York City’s public housing has struggled with high costs as well.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has seen a string of horror stories more numerous than Scream films. Unfortunately, whether it’s the dead body in the stairwell or children with lead poisoning, these stories are very real.

NYCHA is currently stuck with an estimated $31.8 billion bill for repairs, and they’re $25 billion short on the money, thanks in large part to La Barbera and the BCTC driving up costs.

Plumbers for NYCHA have been raking in huge overtime as well, with the New York Post exposing that one made more in overtime than Mayor de Blasio’s entire salary in 2016.

These guys have been living high on the hog at taxpayer expense, and are a key part of the city’s and state’s issues with high transit and public housing costs.

Finally a campaign from the Center for Union Facts is aiming to shed light on the leadership behind the costly mess.

BCTC chief La Barbera had to settle with his own union over charges he allowed a worker to avoid payments to worker benefit funds.

The BCTC was also named in a suit over timesheet fraud, and tricking a developer to pay $42-per-hour for coffee delivery.

This kind of shadiness might be humorous, if it was not part of gouging taxpayers on an epic scale and impacting major public projects. New York taxpayers have dealt with enough abuse. The city is not just expensive, it's situations like this that drive out-of-control costs.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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NYC Council Aims to Cap & Control Uber, Lyft to Cover for Govt Failures

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, August 7th, 2018, 5:56 PM PERMALINK

Wednesday, the New York City Council will vote on Intro 144-B, which would cap the number of ridesharing cars in the city, along with other regulations.

The legislation creates a “vehicle utilization standard”, which combines factors like distance traveled, time, and number of passengers, and “other factors as the commission deems appropriate”, to judge how much a ride-hail car is being used.

The measure requires companies turn over a great deal of data to the city to enable this.

Where the rubber meets the road: the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission will use this standard to regulate ridesharing cars, and it leaves their power open ended on what factors they can add.

Yes, it’s supposedly based on the outcome of the city’s study, but it would be quite the shocker if that analysis said government should do nothing at all.

The bill will give the city the ability to go beyond an overall cap on cars. It will empower bureaucrats to control how many cars are allowed by region, time, car type, and more.

The City Council will likely pass this expansive measure in the name of studying the impact of Uber, Lyft, and Via, especially when it comes to traffic congestion.

Never mind that this issue was already studied, at a taxpayer expense of $2 million.

When Mayor de Blasio was pushing for a cap in 2015. he commissioned an analysis from McKinsey & Co. Along with heavy redactions when made public, the report was not able to pin the blame for congestion on Uber and company.

A SUNY-Purchase professor points out in a New York Times op-ed: “From 2009 (before ride hailing) through 2015, the study finds that reductions in vehicular speeds began long before ride hailing hit the stage, and the pattern did not change after ride hailing.”

Recently, it may have been made worse by added tourist foot traffic, not to mention Times Square being practically walled off for crosstown traffic.

Most notably, state leaders, notably Governor Cuomo, along with city leadership, have failed to manage the MTA and subways responsibly.

New York City’s subway system has become so bad when it comes to reliability and speed that ridership has dropped even though population has grown. That is a government failure and recipe for disaster.

The MTA has managed to let this happen despite massive budgets rising over $16 billion annually for operating, and over $35 billion for capital projects.

The biggest pressure point for the council in pushing a cap on ride-hails is taxi companies, and medallion owners.

Yet, it is city government that implemented the policies that knee-capped cabs when it came time to compete.

For decades, the city had an unmoving cap on the number of cabs through the medallion system. Even before Uber, this was a raw deal for many cab drivers who were forced to pay exorbitant prices to get a medallion, or even to just borrow one from someone who hoarded them.

It was a government created cartel that led to taxi kingpins and exploitation of drivers.

Once ridesharing exploded in popularity, the taxi system was in no shape to compete in an actual market. Their only recourse is to compete through backroom City Hall wheeling and dealing.
Incredibly, ridesharing companies reportedly offered $100 million for a fund to bailout cab drivers who are struggling because of these government policy failures.

Uber and Lyft were ready to pay for a problem they did not create, but merely exposed. That wasn’t good enough for the Council Speaker though.

Also of no concern to the politicians gunning for a cap, minority community groups worried that outerboroughs will go back to being underserved and that minorities will struggle trying to find and hail taxis again.

A state attorney general candidate even threatened to sue over the cap if elected.

The entire reason ridesharing surpassed taxis in New York City was because they served a market in outerboroughs (Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx) that was largely ignored. Though to be fair, the cap on taxis made it next-to-impossible for them to effectively cover the entire city.

Now, after ridesharing fixed this problem, the Council will risk recreating it, and the offer to make up for this from Council Speaker Corey Johnson was to hire more bureaucrats to watch the issue.

Interesting final note: Wheelchair accessible vehicles are not covered by the cap. They can still get a for-hire vehicle (FHV) license like before.

This messy example of how to make consumers and taxpayers pay for decades of government mistakes should not be followed outside New York.

Photo Credit: Pixabay


NYC Pols Won't Stop Until They Crash Uber, Lyft

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, July 27th, 2018, 5:38 PM PERMALINK

It has become abundantly clear that the New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio want to stop ridesharing. And they’re going to keep proposing different versions of a cap on Uber and Lyft cars until they get their way.

Now, City Council members are drafting new legislation that would be built around a cap, again. The measure is also said to include a minimum wage for drivers. The Mayor’s office and Taxi and Limousine Commission had been considering requiring a $17.22 per hour wage floor in recent weeks.

These are poisonous regulations. The cap would drive up prices and make it more difficult to get a ride as demand is left unmet. It would also hurt people in outer boroughs who have been neglected by taxis. By a 5-to-1 margin, respondents to a Pew Research Center poll from majority-minority areas agreed ride-sharing “serves neighborhoods taxis won’t visit.”

Now, with a new legislative fight unfolding, the NAACP and National Urban League have joined in criticizing the council's tack because it would limit the number of rides available to minority areas.

The extremely high minimum wage would clearly drive up costs for riders, and further could disincentivize drivers from picking up as many people as possible as they get paid either way.

Another core provision would require the major ride-hail companies to submit a business plan to the city showing a need for their services. You can’t make this stuff up. City Council Members who are upset precisely because of the growth of ridesharing, which clearly shows consumer need, want to make companies send them a plan.

How about the City Council send taxpayers a plan demonstrating the need for their services?

The measures also includes rules on how much time a car must have a passenger, and add wheelchair accessibility requirements. This is according to reporting from POLITICO New York and the New York Times.

To justify their aggressive regulatory schemes, the City Council Speaker, Mayor, and others continue to talk about traffic and mass transit.

Hilariously, some have even blamed Uber for declines in subway usage (that will cost the MTA over $300 million in revenue). It is the MTA’s own fault that ridership has declined.

City population and ridership were spiking in recent years. However, the MTA, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, continued to shift funds from long-term subway maintenance to flashy projects.

The result has been slower, less reliable subway service. The MTA is far more guilty of contributing to traffic problems than Uber. The unreliability of the subway and bus system has pushed New Yorkers to find other ways to get to work.

Now politicians would rather force people to walk while mass transit grinds to a halt.

Months ago a couple council members pushed the worst case scenario bill - which would have capped the number of cards, broken the city up into regions and made drivers stick to them, added exorbitant fees and short licensing renewal timelines.

That was clearly cover for a package that is nearly as bad.

The Times’ headline shouts, “New York Could Become First Major U.S. City to Cap Uber and Similar Vehicles.” A reminder of how influential this poor policy move could be around the country.

The stakes are high for anyone who cares about taxpayers, consumers, and markets across the country.

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In Florida Governor’s Race, Both Leading GOP Candidates Sign Pledge to Oppose Tax Hikes

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, July 27th, 2018, 11:43 AM PERMALINK

As Florida’s August 28th primary election approaches, both leading Republican candidates for Governor have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge stating that they will not raise taxes on Floridians if elected in November.

In signing The Pledge, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Rep. Ron DeSantis have made a written commitment to Florida voters that they will oppose and veto any tax hikes.

The Pledge is a project of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

“I applaud Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam for making this important commitment to Florida taxpayers. Florida Republican primary voters can go to the polls confident that the winner of the Republican primary will be a candidate who has committed to protecting taxpayers,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.

“Following passage of federal tax reform, the United States has become an even more attractive destination for investment. Avoiding tax increases will ensure Florida remains at the top of the list of attractive destinations in the U.S. for the expected influx of global capital. By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the leading Republicans running for governor have made clear that they recognize the importance of keeping Florida a low tax state,” added Norquist.

Florida is one of nine states with no income tax. The Sunshine State’s friendly tax climate has been at the heart of an economic boom that has the state economy on-track to be worth $1 trillion in 2018. It has sparked population growth over 11 percent since 2010, which has brought in tens of billions of dollars from people and businesses fleeing higher tax states.

As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Florida is estimated to see over 12,000 new jobs created. Nationally, companies have repatriated $300 billion since the tax reform went into effect.

Americans for Tax Reform offers the Pledge to all candidates for state and federal office. In the 115th Congress, 46 U.S. Senators and 209 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are pledge signers. 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, this commitment is shared by 11 incumbent governors including Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), Gov. Rick Scott (Fla.), and Gov. Paul LePage (M.E.), and nearly 1,000 state legislators across the country.


High-Tax States’ Lawsuit Over Federal Tax Reform Is a Frivolous Distraction

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018, 5:42 PM PERMALINK

It turns out attorneys general in some big spending, high tax states would rather waste resources filing blatantly stupid lawsuits than stop their abuse of taxpayers.

New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut filed a lawsuit today over the cap on state and local tax deductions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

This is a transparent attempt to play politics with President Trump and distract from their own responsibility for their own high taxes. They’re suing over reform that is putting money in the pockets of the vast majority of their residents.

Federal tax reform is saving 90 percent of wage earners money. In New York, for example, the average household will save over $1,000.

With the new cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT), some high tax areas will see higher income earners pay more. Obviously, the taxes they are paying more of are state or local burdens. Which (in a shocking twist) are controlled by state and local politicians who could move to cut taxes and reduce spending.

These unaffordable states often drive up local burdens with mandates as well.

Of course, that is why many of the leaders driving the lawsuit, like New York Governor Cuomo or Governor Dan Malloy in Connecticut, are upset. They don’t like the pressure to reduce, or not raise, taxes on their high earners.

They want taxpayers in other states, who can’t vote for them, to keep subsidizing their uber expensive policies. They want to keep spending on their allies through Hartford and Albany and Trenton.

The IRS has indicated the charitable contribution entity scheme New York and New Jersey tried is going to flop, now these state officials are desperate.

So when they whine about the SALT cap, and talk about how TCJA hurt their states, they are talking about government, not people.

Even in New Jersey which is estimated to have the most households paying more in taxes, only 10.2 percent will see any increase in what they owe, and the state could move to reduce their property tax burden if they wanted to help them, rather than trying to absurdly blame Washington.

The short of it: this lawsuit is a doomed waste of resources by states that refuse to take responsibility for their high tax burdens - and driven by Governors Cuomo, Malloy, and Murphy, as an excuse to tussle with President Trump.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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NJ's Twisted Version of Deal or No Deal Ends With $1B-plus Tax-Hiking Budget

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Saturday, June 30th, 2018, 8:41 PM PERMALINK

Trenton’s twisted version of deal or no deal finally came to an end this past weekend, and New Jersey taxpayers lose big as expected with over $1 billion in tax hikes to fuel a big 8 percent year-to-year spending increase.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that this will make the state even more unwelcoming, and unaffordable. New Jersey already has the worst overall business tax climate, the 3rd-highest state and local tax burden, along with the highest average property tax bill.

The final agreement hinged on a new increase in the millionaire's tax that affects people making over $5 million, and an increase in the corporate business tax that is supposed to last four years and expire. Don't head over to Atlantic City to bet on the state letting that revenue go.

The hiked millionaire's tax is supposed to raise $280 million annually, and the business tax changes $800 million.

New Jerseyans will also pay more for sharing economy services. The tax on ridesharing (Uber & Lyft) ended up being higher than the initial proposal, coming it at 50-cents per-ride. These are taxes that will absolutely hit middle-class residents, and risk hurting drivers by limiting demand for rides. Vaping stores and customers will be pinched as well with a new $17 million tax on e-cigarettes.

New internet sales tax provisions were included as well to collect from out-of-state businesses in the wake of the Supreme Court's Wayfair decision.

In the rush to pass budget bills over the weekend, and beat the June 30 end of the fiscal year deadline, lawmakers took some risks and may have made some sloppy mistakes.

Incredibly, this includes hitting health insurance companies with the new, higher business tax, which would drive up premiums for New Jersey residents.

Combined reporting for businesses was also included, which significantly changes how they report revenues for tax purposes. This could have unexpected repercussions, and was pushed through with an understanding that any issues would be fixed later, as Senate President Sweeney has promised a clean-up bill later in the year.

Governor Murphy and legislative leaders can brag about beating the budget deadline, but they did so with a big asterisk.

There is some good news. The Governor's huge taxes and fees on firearms seem to have bit the dust, the bag tax did not make it, and there was no sales tax hike.

Still, negotiations between Governor Murphy and Democratic leadership in the legislature simply amounted to two wolves arguing about which sheep to eat for dinner. In the end it means families and businesses who already face some of the worst taxes in the nation will be squeezed for more, and the state will go further down the path of being totally unaffordable.

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