Doug Kellogg

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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The Jersey Sheer: Lawmakers Float “Snooki Tax” to Fleece Vacationers As Part of Budget Negotiations

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, June 27th, 2018, 5:42 PM PERMALINK

At this rate, there won’t be a tax under the sun that New Jersey lawmakers fail to consider during budget negotiations. Now it’s a Snooki tax that is being thrown against the wall to see if it sticks.

A $250 million tax on shore rentals in New Jersey has been proposed by Senate President Sweeney as part of the latest legislative counter-offer to Governor Murphy. Another part of this latest pitch is a $110 million tax hike for realty transfer fees.

So, Democrats have turned to making vacation at the beach more expensive, and hiking taxes on property owners who already pay the highest average property tax bill. You can add these to the long list of tax increases the Governor and legislature have already come up with.

Rather than contain spending and make the state more affordable, Trenton is debating which combination of taxes to slam residents with. Some ideas are worse than others, but the bottom-line cost is in the billions of dollars for taxpayers.

The Governor and legislature are now negotiating over a huge number of tax hikes:

  • An $850 million-a-year corporate tax hike that would give New Jersey the highest corporate tax rate in the nation, and punish businesses who are already investing more in the state because of federal tax reform.
  • Murphy’s $581 million, massive sales tax increase, and $765 million millionaire’s tax hike that hits many people making less than $1 million.
  • New taxes on ride-sharing services like Uber, and home-sharing companies like Airbnb, which only drive up costs for middle-class New Jerseyans who rely on them.
  • Taxes on vaping that range from Murphy’s reckless scheme that could crush the industry in New Jersey, to an improved, but still burdensome 10-cent-per-milliliter tax proposed by the legislature.
  • A new money-grabbing fee on shopping bags, which hurts low-income residents who can least afford such a burden.
  • An internet sales tax.
  • Massive new fees and taxes on firearms.

The numbers may change from counter-proposal to counter-proposal.

Jersey residents deserve better. That’s why ATR is highlighting these massive tax hikes and urging lawmakers to stop the madness. To push back against Governor Murphy’s anti-Second Amendment firearm taxes, visit ATR’s petition at

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

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D.C. Is Site of Next Battle in Left’s Bizarre War on Workers Who Earn Tips

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, June 18th, 2018, 12:00 AM PERMALINK

On Tuesday, June 19, Washington D.C. residents will vote on Initiative 77 which would end the tipping system as we know it - costing wait staff and bartenders income, and killing jobs and businesses.

Known as the tipped wage, wage tip credit, or sub-minimum wage, this system allows service workers to be paid less than the minimum wage while they earn tips. These workers often earn far more than the minimum wage. But they are at least guaranteed to earn the regular minimum wage if their income falls short after tips.

So why push a drastic 200 percent increase in the wage? Why destroy a system that has worked for ages?

The campaign against the system is built on demagoguery, and ignorance. It’s driven by the absurdly-named Restaurant Opportunities Center, and it has spread not through merit, but political power and deceiving spin. It benefits unions, and destroys a restaurant industry they don’t like.

As the Employment Policies Institute’s Michael Saltsman writes in the Wall Street Journal: “The group views the elimination of the tipped wage in Washington and elsewhere as a first step “in getting to no tips.” As Diana Ramirez, director of ROC-DC, explained, “You can’t do payroll deductions”—that is, unions can’t dip into cash pay to collect dues.”

Attacking the tip credit is so radical that many Democrat politicians oppose it. In the District of Columbia, that includes Mayor Bowser and most of the City Council.

However, ending the tipped wage is part of the Democratic Party platform. Governor Cuomo in New York has pushed the state labor department to consider ending the tip credit, and Senator Bernie Sanders backs a popular bill in Congress that would drastically boost the wage.

The party, and these politicians, have chosen the unions’ political apparatus over protecting American workers.

Servers hate the prospect of the tip system being ruined.

In the District of Columbia, servers have participated in the Save Our Tips campaign. In Upstate New York, one restaurant worker started a Facebook campaign that organically grew to 20,000 people. At hearings across the state, servers showed up en masse to protest ending the credit.

In Maine, where the tip credit was done away with, uproar from restaurant servers caused the state legislature to reverse their decision in less than a year.

The Maine situation also proved concerns over wages going down were very true. Servers lost money in reality. Businesses will also close as they struggle to afford the additional labor costs heaped on them.

Tuesday, D.C. voters will decide the fate of the latest battle over tips, but the war will continue across the country.

Photo Credit: zoetnet

ATR Statement on Anti-Airbnb Bill Introduced in City Council

Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, June 8th, 2018, 10:34 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform State Projects Director Doug Kellogg offered the following statement on Intro 981 in New York City Council. The measure would force Airbnb to disclose potentially all user and listing information to city agencies:

“The hotel industry gives city politicians a lot of money, and pulls strings at City Hall, so the council is close to destroying a new industry that has created hundreds of millions of dollars in value for residents and neighborhoods.

That’s the shameful reality behind this invasive bill. The facts are simply not on their side. Despite big spending, the hotel industry’s anti-Airbnb campaign can’t come up with an honest argument, only cooked stats, and misinformation.

This is government by and for narrow special interests. City government has been co-opted to destroy a competitor and that should scare every New Yorker.”

Bill Introduced to Kill Airbnb in NYC, Allows City to Demand Any Information on Hosts

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, June 7th, 2018, 5:28 PM PERMALINK

Today, New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera, along with 35 co-sponsors, introduced legislation that would crush Airbnb and the over $500 million worth of economic activity the platform has helped bring to New York.

The bill, Intro 981, is not simply overregulation. It’s not just going to add costs and inconvenience, it is an attempt to kill Airbnb and home-sharing outright. This is governing in bad faith.

Despite news getting out about the measure weeks ago, the full reality of what is in this proposal is more horrific than expected.

The bill would force Airbnb to send the city’s Office of Special Enforcement information on users and listings. That means the address of the unit, the name and address of the host, every transaction (whether direct or indirect payment), individualized information for every listing for a unit, and whether the whole unit or part is being used.

Oh, and it also says the Mayor can order that this information be provided to any agency, and that the agency can also get any other information they want by rule.

So this bill opens the door to all city agencies getting any information on an Airbnb user that they want. There are 35 Council Members who endorse this invasive power grab.

The Office of Special Enforcement has already been over-aggressive in enforcing existing laws, forcing law-abiding hosts to pay big legal fees to fight off summonses.

Now city authorities will have more power to go after hosts.

The massive new fines in the bill range from $5,000 to $25,000 for any inability on the part of Airbnb to provide information owed to the city. Again, information that includes anything the agency decides it wants. These costs could ramp up very quickly.

The state’s ban on rentals under 30-days was already a shameless move to outlaw Airbnb’s business model, hosts are already at risk of massive fines. The state passed the sentence, now the city is carrying out the execution.

It’s all being pushed through based on weak arguments, cooked-up stats, and outright lies - done to serve hotels that pull strings at City Hall, and contributed $100,000 to in city elections.

This is government by flunkies for the special interests. City government has been coopted to destroy a competitor and that should scare every New Yorker.

Photo Credit: HBarrison, Flickr

Oops: Report That Attacked Airbnb Wildly Overstated Numbers

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, May 10th, 2018, 11:57 PM PERMALINK

If there is one public official that is supposed to be good with numbers, it would be the comptroller.

So there really is no excuse for New York City’s Comptroller, Scott Stringer, to issue a widely-covered report on homesharing sites (primarily Airbnb) that completely misrepresents data intended to show their impact on rent prices.

The report purports to show that Airbnb drove up rent prices by $616 million in 2016, among other findings. Which seems unlikely on its face given homesharing touches a small fraction of the housing supply.

The report claimed up to 13,500 units are removed from the rental market because of Airbnb. Even the high point of that estimate is just 0.6 percent of the rental housing supply in New York City.

The report also focuses on popular neighborhoods, specifically those that have gained popularity more recently. Clearly there are larger trends driving up rent in these neighborhoods.

Most shocking is the revelation that the Comptroller’s findings made a hash of the underlying data from AirDNA. The site countered the Comptroller report, indicating that instead of 10% of homes being taken off the rental market, it’s more like 0.2% (via CNET’s Dara Kerr):

““At no point did the comptroller contact AirDNA to ask for guidance or our professional expertise on how to read the data, leading to several crucial errors in his interpretation of the numbers,” Abigail Long, the spokeswoman, said in a statement.”

So, the Comptroller was off by a factor of 50. Just a bit outside… But instead of owning up to potential errors, his office attacked AirDNA’s motivations. Meanwhile, the hotel interests behind the ShareBetter campaign to destroy Airbnb contribute significantly to city politicians.

Yet, they still struggle to find real evidence of any problem with homesharing, while they completely ignore benefits like the economic activity being sparked in outer boroughs.

Airbnb is next-to-outlawed in New York City, with rentals under 30 days banned and violators subject to massive fines.

The city even has a crack squad of investigators who can hand summonses even to law-abiding hosts that then cost them thousands in legal fees to fight.

The Comptroller has released plenty of good reports in the past on a variety of topics, but in this case he's doubled down on an outrageous error that serves narrow special interests, not the public interest.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Cuomo Threatens to Sink Trump Oil Rigs

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, May 4th, 2018, 5:59 PM PERMALINK

Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed efforts, including legislation, to thwart any offshore oil extraction that might possibly occur as a result of the Trump administration reducing restrictions such exploration.

The Governor didn’t stop there, saying he would go as far as unleashing a citizen armada to “disrupt” federal efforts, adding, “If you think I’m kidding, I’m not.” The secretary to the Governor also said the Governor was being serious.

Welcome to the Empire State, where an attempt from Washington that opens just a small possibility that New Yorkers could gain access to more affordable energy is met with apparently serious threats of extra-legal action.

This follows on the heels of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signing a bill to ban offshore drilling in New Jersey. The states with the second-worst, and worst tax and business climates in the nation seem to be in an arms race to be the most unaffordable place to live or grow a business.

New York is busy forcing taxpayers and ratepayers to subsidize massive offshore wind farms. The state’s 50-by-30 renewables agenda is driven by political calculus to chase an impossible goal of having half the state’s energy come from sources like wind and solar by 2030.

It has led to bizarre policies like a massive bailout for nuclear power plants that were in low demand and slated to be closed - paid for again by New Yorkers. Adding insult to injury the state blocked people from seeing exactly how much they were paying on their energy bills for this bailout.

The state’s fetish for wind power - inefficient and expensive - has also seen Albany force wind mills on neighborhoods that don’t want them. If only those towns and villages could host grandstanding press conferences to block infrastructure they didn’t want.

It is policies like these that have New Yorkers paying some of the highest energy costs in the nation, and seeing their tax dollars go to support a political agenda masquerading as environmental and energy policy.

Photo Credit: Azi Paybarah

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NYC Ridesharing Attack Would Level Drivers, Riders, Companies But Not the Playing Field

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018, 1:40 PM PERMALINK

The New York City Council is considering major attacks on ride-hailing apps.

The most aggressive measure, pushed by Coucilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., “who has received donations from the taxi industry”, hits the trifecta of hurting drivers, companies, and riders. It’s bad for just about everybody outside of the taxi industry.

Its most prominent feature is an abusive $2,000 license fee that drivers would have to pay for the privilege of working in New York City. This would further burden workers who already have issues making ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

It’s also a blatant money grab, as it would require drivers to renew licenses every year as opposed to the current two or three year renewal period. That’s clearly to make them cough up the money more frequently.

The resolution would also impose “bases”, or limited regions that a driver would be tied to, and where the city would impose caps on the total number of Uber and Lyft cars in the area. Drivers would be forced to stay in one part of the city. That’s bad for them if business is weak in a given time and place. It’s also bad for customers as apps and their drivers cannot react as efficiently to demand.

It somehow gets even worse. Drivers would be limited to working for only one company, further limiting their ability to react to the reality on the ground and do what is best for them to make a living.

If this outrageous proposal became law, New Yorkers should get ready to wait longer, and pay even more for their next Uber or Lyft. It is not the only bad idea on the table, other council members have proposed measures that feature regulations similar to parts of the Diaz plan, while others would regulate driver pay.

These attacks on ride-hailing apps, drivers, and riders are very live threats. Council Speaker Corey Johnson has indicated support for going after ridesharing more aggressively, as has Mayor de Blasio.

However, the major proposal from Councilmember Diaz is so radical, Mayor de Blasio and the chair of the Taxi and Limousine Commission oppose it. So some moderation is likely, but this measure needs to be cut off cold-turkey.

What adds to the tragedy of the taxi and ridesharing fight in New York, is that government has bungled this at every turn. Decades of arbitrary caps the city imposed on taxis crippled the industry when it came time to face some actual competition, and left New Yorkers underserved and desperate for alternatives.

Instead of hitting ridesharing with an expensive and crushing regulatory regime, city politicians should have been protecting both taxis and ride-hailing apps from a recently-passed “congestion surcharge” Albany just imposed on them both.


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The Kids Aren’t OK: Oklahoma Vision Care Rules Make Families Pay to Pad Special Interest Pockets

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018, 1:33 PM PERMALINK

It’s hard to imagine any public official signing on to a state law that hurts low-income families and students, just to benefit a powerful special interest. Yet, that is the situation in Oklahoma.

The state has a long-standing, and long-stupid, regulatory scheme that bars retailers from selling glasses or contact lenses unless that piece of their business makes up more than 50 percent of sales. The state also demands optometrist offices be separate from retail.

This means stores like Costco, or Walmart, that offer a range of products and services, including providing eye exams and eyewear in one location, cannot do so in Oklahoma.

What possible reason could there be for denying Oklahomans the same access to affordable eye exams and eye wear that residents of 48 other states enjoy? It’s what a powerful special interest lobby wants.

The state’s rules are designed to keep families jumping through hoops and forking over more of their hard-earned paychecks to the optometrist lobby.

The people who pay the highest price for this are low-income families who cannot afford vision care for their children. They are effectively denied access to eye exams and eyewear.

Students who cannot see properly fall behind, which can have negative consequences that impact the rest of their lives. This is no small issue…

A piece by Gwendolyn Caldwell with Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom points out that 61 percent of Oklahoma students come from low-income families, showing just how many Oklahomans are at risk from the state’s terrible vision care regulations.

On top of that, the Nation’s Report Card found “Oklahoma students lost ground in reading proficiency in the past two years”. Certainly, the optometrist regulations aren't the only cause of this, but they definitely hurt at a time students need all the help they can get.

These laws aren’t just barriers for retailers, they are barriers to a brighter future for Oklahoma’s students.

It’s no wonder people are fed up. There is a push for a ballot initiative that would reform the state’s unaffordable, abusive rules on optometry and eyewear. Oklahomans should decide on this, not Oklahoma City special interests.

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Fast Facts: How the Obama/Pelosi/Reid Budget hurts taxpayers, job creators, and the American family

Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, April 1st, 2009, 10:46 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today released the following fast fact summary of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Budget:

The Budget is an Assault on Small Employers 

  • Rather than dying a merciful death in 2010, as is scheduled under current law, the death tax continues indefinitely with a top rate of 45 percent and an exemption of $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples).  Small businesses and family farms will have to worry about seeing the undertaker and the IRS auditor on the same day.

The Budget Will Hurt Retirement Security and Cost Jobs


  • The capital gains tax is hiked from 15 percent to 20 percent.  The dividends tax is raised from 15 percent to 20 percent.  Capital gains earned by investment partnership managers are taxed as high as 39.6 percent.  At a time when stock market wealth has nearly been cut in half, why is Obama proposing a $142 billion tax hike on the stock market?

  • U.S. companies will be forced to pay corporate taxes twice on international profits—once in the country they earn them in, and again here.  This $210 billion tax hike will push jobs and capital out of our borders.

The Budget Spends Too Much Money We Don’t Have


  • Obama’s budget claims that it cuts taxes for families by $770 billion.  Yet, the same document admits that fully $326 billion—nearly half—is in fact new spending, not tax cuts.

Click here for a printable PDF of this document