Emily Leayman

Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, February 26th, 2016, 5:10 PM PERMALINK

Alabama: What Birmingham bankers are watching in the Alabama legislative session. 

Arizona: House approves flat tax.

Arkansas: Transit tax on March 1 ballot. 

Colorado:  Federal court upholds Colorado Amazon tax.

Connecticut: CT finances take another big hit as projected revenues plunge.

Delaware: Medicaid budget shortfall drives $28.5 million increase in budget request. 

Florida: Florida House passes Jacksonville sales tax bill.

Idaho: Senate repeals $140 hybrid vehicle fee. 

Illinois: Illinois budget battle leads Moody’s to downgrade several state universities.

Indiana: Tax hikes removed from road funding bill.

Iowa: Iowa lawmakers spar over tax relief.

Kansas: Kansas Supreme Court strikes down property tax moratorium.

Louisiana: Lawmakers will begin voting on tax increases.

Maryland: Maryland manufacturers cry foul over proposed manufacturing tax credits.

Minnesota: MN Chamber working to repeal business property tax.

Missouri: Lawmaker proposes taxpayer funded community improvement districts.

Nebraska: Nebraska lawmakers to decide Medicaid expansion a fourth time.

New Jersey: Cumberland County establishes $3 surcharge to address homelessness. 

New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez signs budget, but declining revenues could call New Mexico lawmakers back to work.

Oklahoma: Legislature Considers cutting another wind industry tax credit.

Ohio:   Senate approves back-to-school sales tax holiday bill.

Pennsylvania: Pa. lawmakers want audit of Wolf's spending as $37.5B spent in impasse.

Rhode Island: State looks for additional revenue with bill to giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses. 

South Dakota: Senate committee advances sales tax increase for teacher pay raises. 

Utah: Bills advance to collect online sales tax.

West Virginia: Tobacco tax hike cleared by West Virginia Senate.


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Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, February 19th, 2016, 4:49 PM PERMALINK

Alabama: Alabama strikes deal with Airbnb on tax collections.

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) restores nearly $30 million to career and technical education programs.

California: Legislature near passing Gov. Jerry Brown’s health care plan tax.

Colorado: Legislature strikes down minimum wage measure.

Connecticut: Two teachers unions call for a tax increase on the wealthy. Legislative committee renews effort to eliminate diaper tax. Senate bill aims to make tampons tax exempt.

Delaware: State revives attempt for 10-cent gas tax hike.

Florida: Senate considers Small Business Saturday tax holiday.

Idaho: House passes tax exemption for Girl and Boy Scout sales. Gov. Butch Otter (R) opposes House tax cuts, prioritizes education funding.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) asks legislature for power to balance budget.

Indiana: Senate ditches Gov. Pence’s bond plan for road funding.

Iowa: House advances bill for gun safe tax credit.

Kansas: Lawmakers pass compromise plan on balancing budget.

Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and legislature agree to $60 million in spending cuts

Maryland: Democrats override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on hotel tax.

Minnesota: Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and lawmakers outline ideas to spend $1.2 billion surplus.

Missouri: State and local governments foot bill for wasted $16 million Rams stadium.

Nebraska: Legislators seek compromise on property taxes.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie’s budget has no tax hikes.

New Mexico: Trimmed $6.2 billion budget heads to Gov. Susana Martinez (R).

Ohio:  Bill seeks permanent back-to-school tax holiday.

Oklahoma: Boeing cancels two Oklahoma projects after Senate passes moratorium for multiple tax credits.

Pennsylvania: Bill make active military pay tax exempt heads to Gov. Tom Wolf (D). Gov. Wolf’s budget includes tax hikes to fix deficit.

South Dakota: Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R), legislators, look to enforce sales tax collection from out-of-state retailers.

Utah: Senators reject bill to raise income tax on richest 1.5 percent.

West Virginia: Senate Finance Committee votes for $1 cigarette tax increase.


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Pentagon Employees Literally Gamble with Taxpayer Money

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016, 5:22 PM PERMALINK

When government employees use their travel cards to make personal purchases, it’s personal to the taxpayers.

The 1998 Travel and Transportation Reform Act, which mandated the use of travel cards, ironically intended to simplify government employees’ purchases. But since each government agency manages its own employees’ cards, there is no uniform oversight of misuses. Over the years, whistleblowers shed light on the corruption of the travel card, agency by agency.  

The most recent culprit is the Pentagon. From July 2013 to June 2014, Pentagon employees spent nearly $ 1 million at casinos using their travel cards. Also, employees spent more than $96,000 at “adult entertainment establishments.” Out of the 4,000 individual transactions, only 41 received punishment and a “letter of reprimand.”

Knowing that the Pentagon receives a large piece of the federal pie, employees using funds for personal uses is unacceptable. The Pentagon already wastes money on actual defense, notably a recently revealed $17 million in Afghanistan.

One of the earliest misuses of the travel cards was from none other than the State Department. The worst offenses were unauthorized first class tickets to Hawaii and tens of thousands of dollars meant for Hurricane Katrina victims diverted to “training” at golf and tennis resorts. Overall, travel cards took away $600,000 in Hurricane Katrina relief money.

And it wouldn’t be fraud without the Internal Revenue Service involved. In 2013, the same year of the Tea Party targeting scandal and multi-million dollar conferences, employees used their work cards to buy items such as pornography, diet pills, smart phones and wine.

Luckily, the Senate voted to crack down on card misuse in December. The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), would create an office that oversees and improves use of agencies’ purchases.

Last week, President Obama introduced a record $4.1 trillion budget plan, which would result in a $3.4 trillion take hike over 10 years. Before even considering this hike, the federal government needs to rein in employees using taxpayer money for personal use. 

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ATR Urges Tennessee Senators to Support Bill to Phase Out Hall Tax

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016, 4:10 PM PERMALINK

Last week the Tennessee Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee approved SB 47, legislation that would phase out the state’s six percent tax on dividend and interest income. Tennessee has no tax on wage income, so eliminating the Hall tax would make the Volunteer State completely income tax free.

With the bill heading to floor vote, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist recently sent the following letter urging Volunteer State senators to support this pro-growth tax relief measure:

“On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Tennessee, I write to urge you to keep taxpayers in mind as you take up important issues this legislative session. While there are a number of pro-growth reforms that can make Tennessee more attractive to job creators and investors, the best thing lawmakers could do this year to improve the state’s business tax climate is to approve SB 47, legislation that will begin phasing out the Hall Tax.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation has released analysis showing how elimination of the Hall Tax would boost Tennessee’s economic competitiveness. Tennessee currently has the 16th best business tax climate in the nation. However, if lawmakers get rid of the state’s six percent tax on investment income, Tennessee would have the 11th best business tax climate in the nation.

The Hall Tax does far more damage than it’s worth, raising what amounts to less than one percent of state and local revenue. With average economic growth and modest spending restraint, lawmakers can easily cope with the Hall Tax’s elimination. It’s even more manageable when considering that SB 47 phases the tax out over a number of years.

Tax relief isn’t just good election year politics, it’s good policy. Tax Foundation economist William McBride reviewed academic literature going back three decades and found that "all but three of those studies, and every study in the last 15 years, find a negative effect of taxes on growth." John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, found that keeping state and local tax burdens as low as possible promotes economic growth when he analyzed 681 peer-reviewed academic journal articles going back to 1990. "Most studies find," Hood discovered, "that lower levels of taxes and spending, and less-intrusive regulation correlate with stronger economic performance." For further proof of how much taxes matter, in the ten states with the lowest tax burden, GDP grew 24% faster over the last decade on average than it did with the ten states with the highest tax burden.

Tennessee has lower taxes than most states, but that doesn’t mean lawmakers should sit back while other states in the region and across the country continue to propose and enact reforms that make their tax codes more competitive. Texas, for example, already has a better business tax climate than Tennessee, and lawmakers there recently approved another $4 billion in tax relief. To Tennessee’s east, North Carolina lawmakers are working to get rid of their income tax. Florida is another state, like Texas, that already has a better business tax climate than Tennessee. Unlike Tennessee, Florida has the advantage of being a true no income tax state. This year Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are looking to increase their advantage by passing another round of tax cuts. Simply put, now is not the time for Tennessee lawmakers to rest on their laurels.

Tennessee taxpayers have been hit with over 20 federal tax increases over the last six years, and could use some much-needed tax relief at the state level. The best thing lawmakers can do right now to make Tennessee a more attractive place to live and do business is to use the 2016 session to make Tennessee a true no-income-tax state once and for all. As such, I urge you to vote YES on SB 47.”

Click here for a PDF of the letter.

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ATR Opposes Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s Tax Increases

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Tuesday, February 16th, 2016, 1:32 PM PERMALINK

With an overspending problem approaching $1 billion and amid falling gas prices and lower tax collections, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed $910 million budget that's laden with tax increases.   

In her Feb. 1 State of the State address, Fallin, a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, proposed a $181.6 million tax hike from a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax hike and $200 million in higher taxes from resulting from the elimination of sales tax exemptions and the expansion of products and services subjected to sales taxes.

In response to Fallin’s proposals to raise taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars annually, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist sent a letter to Oklahoma legislators outlining ATR’s opposition to any tax increases in Oklahoma.

The letter can be read here:

“On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across the state, I urge you to keep taxpayers in mind as you review important policies this legislative session. Over the last six years, your constituents have endured historically a sluggish economic recovery in which the median wage has declined, and have been laden with over 20 federal tax increases. Now taxpayers are in danger of suffering another blow to their paychecks. However, this time, Gov. Mary Fallin is spearheading much of the campaign. As such, it is as important as ever that lawmakers in the Sooner State safeguard its citizens from further job-killing, income-reducing tax increases.

In proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases, Gov. Fallin violated the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a personal written commitment she made to taxpayers of Oklahoma to oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.

One proposal before the legislature is an expansion of the state sales tax. Oklahoma already dons the 6th highest sales tax in the nation at the combined state and average local rate of 8.77 percent. The average local sales tax rate is the fifth highest in the nation. The governor’s proposal would raise taxes by roughly $200 million annually, a tax increase that low-income consumers and retirees will feel the most. Any expansion of the list of services or products subjected to sales taxes should be offset dollar-for-dollar by state sales tax rate reductions.

In addition to stripping more taxpayers of their hard-earned income, the legislature is being asked to expand Oklahoma’s e-commerce taxing authority. This effort is not new; in fact, for more than 15 years, efforts to tax the Internet have been appealing to those who seek to raise taxes on those who cannot vote them out of office. The costs of imposing these tax hikes would be a huge hit to small businesses, even if larger companies may be able to afford compliance.

The next target of tax-hungry politicians in Oklahoma is smokers, in the form of House Joint Resolution 1058. Contrary to the claims made by organizations like American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, extensive studies suggest that inflicting higher cigarette taxes on consumers will superfluously punish the poor without necessarily reducing smoking. As a result of regressive cigarette taxes, many smokers minimize the impact of cigarette tax increases by seeking out lower-priced or untaxed cigarettes, or by smoking fewer cigarettes more intensively.

Increasing the state’s dependence on tobacco taxes by increasing them by as much as $1.50-per-pack will not necessarily guarantee more revenue in the long run. As demonstrated by many states and cities across the nation, targeted excise taxes have proven to be unstable sources of revenue and ultimately can result in a decrease in tax receipts. For example, Illinois nearly doubled its cigarette tax in 2012 by raising the tax $1-per-pack; it generated $138 million less than projected. In fact, only three out of the 32 state tobacco tax increases, enacted between 2009 and 2013, have met or exceeded tax revenue projects.

If enacted, this tax increase would likely incentivize cigarette smuggling and cross-border sales into states like Missouri and Kansas. According to the Tax Foundation, when Illinois almost doubled the cigarette tax rate, cigarette smuggling rate dramatically increased from 1.1 percent to 20.9 percent in the first year.

Consequently and as a direct result of cigarette tax increases, small businesses like convenience stores in this state lost tens of thousands of dollars as patrons pursued cigarettes in less expensive markets across state lines.

Currently, Oklahoma has a regionally- competitive cigarette tax rate of $1.03-per pack. It is higher than Missouri’s $.17-per pack tax and Kansas’ $0.79-per pack. HJR 10580’s $1.50-perpack cigarette tax hike would make cigarettes sold in Oklahoma more heavily taxed than anywhere else in the region, and the tenth highest taxed in the nation. This cigarette tax hike would not only be a boon for states like Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, it would likely make Oklahoma among the most active black markets in America for cigarette sales. The legislature should keep this in mind as it considers a cigarette tax hike in Oklahoma.

Furthermore, there is a large body of evidence demonstrating that keeping taxes as low as possible promotes economic growth. As Tax Foundation economist William McBride pointed out in his review of academic literature dating back three decades, "the results consistently point to significant negative effects of taxes on economic growth even after controlling for various other factors such as government spending, business cycle conditions and monetary policy."

John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, has also discovered that keeping state and local tax and regulatory burdens as low as possible fosters economic growth.

Through his analysis of 681 peer-reviewed academic journal articles going back to 1990, Hood found that, "lower levels of taxes and spending, and less-intrusive regulation correlate with stronger economic performance."

I urge you to resist efforts to raise taxes, especially on those consumers who can least afford it.

It’s not just bad policy; it’s fiscally irresponsible to harm state small businesses and individuals in an attempt to reap funds from volatile revenue sources like cigarette sales.”

Click here for a PDF of the letter.

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Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, February 12th, 2016, 3:50 PM PERMALINK

Arkansas: Legislature considers canceling grocery tax cuts.

Arizona: House committee passes tax credit for a concealed carry permit

California: With Panthers Super Bowl loss, Cam Newton owes $159,200 in California taxes.  Lawmakers propose 15 percent tax on marijuana.

Colorado: Super Bowl-winning Broncos owe California thousands in taxes too. State earns record revenues from marijuana tax.

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) calls for end to car tax.

Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Senate clash over property tax rates.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) and some legislators push for downsizing, tax relief.

Indiana: Gas and cigarette tax increases head to the Senate.

Kansas: House bills look to increase property tax for education funding.

Louisiana: Budget cuts, tax hikes are center of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ special address.

Maryland: Annapolis City Council proposes 25-cent-per-ride fee on Uber and Lyft.

Minnesota: Gov. Mark Dayton (D) asks for $6 million in parental leave for all state employees.

Missouri: Budget subcommittee votes to eliminate budget increase for University of Missouri in light of protests.

New Jersey: Lawsuit claims NJ Dunkin Donuts collected an extra $4 million on non-taxable items. Gov. Chris Christie (R) says he will not raise the gas tax.

New Mexico: Budget concerns raise the question of adding a food tax. Legislature kills a bill that would have increased low-income family tax credits and eliminated capital gains tax deductions.

Ohio: A budget request for a $5 million new Cleveland Browns facility is withdrawn.

Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) asks for more taxes in next year’s budget proposal.

Tennessee: Hall Tax repeal advances to the Senate.

Utah: Legislators strike down tampon tax repeal.

West Virginia: Legislature overrides Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto to make West Virginia the 26th right-to-work state and repeal the prevailing wage. Report finds $55 million in food stamp benefits are spent out of state.


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Governor Mary Fallin Violates Taxpayer Protection Pledge in Budget Requests

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Wednesday, February 10th, 2016, 9:18 AM PERMALINK

Oklahoma faces a $900 million overspending problem, and that number could reach as high as $1 billion with falling gas prices and lower tax collections in December. Gov. Mary Fallin’s solution is $910 million in “recurring revenue,” an evasive term for tax hikes.

In her state of the state address Monday, Feb. 1, Fallin, a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, proposed:

-$181.6 million from a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax hike

-$200 million from reducing sales tax exemptions and expanding sales taxes.

Oklahoma’s cigarette tax is currently $1.03. Fallin argued that cigarettes lead to an annual $1.6 billion in health costs. Nearly every dollar Fallin anticipates receiving, as a result of the cigarette tax increase, will be plowed into teacher raises, constituting $178.4 million in higher annual spending. This isn’t about the impact of smoking on public health costs; it’s about extracting resources from those who can least afford it to fund an addiction to overspending.

Fallin emphasized that her plan does not raise the 8.77 percent sales tax, the sixth highest combined state and local rate in the U.S. But she does want to apply sales taxes to more items, insisting the state has too many outdated exemptions. She points to neighboring states as a model for implementing more sales taxes:

“This budget proposes eliminating outdated exemptions and looking at areas other states apply sales tax to that aren’t subject to sales tax in Oklahoma. The Texas sales tax covers roughly 60 more categories than Oklahoma’s. New Mexico’s sales tax covers 130 more categories than Oklahoma’s.”

Conservative tax reform includes both a broadening of the base for taxable goods and services AND a reduction in the rate, not simply an expansion of things taxed.

Fallin isn’t only consumed by the concept of extracting more money from Okalahoma taxpayers; she has called on Congress to implement a national online sales tax as well:

“We all know that cities and states are losing out on sales tax revenue each year as more business is conducted online, and states like Oklahoma can’t collect sales tax because of federal inaction. We all need to call on Congress to level the field for small businesses and Oklahoma retailers by implementing a fair system for online sales tax.”

Proposed legislation could do just that in the Sooner State. House Bill 2925 would allow the state to collect sales taxes from online retailers like Amazon.

Gov. Fallin’s proposal stands in stark contrast to recent accomplishments made in Okalahoma. Most notably, she pushed for income tax cuts, which into effect last month.

Defending the tax cuts in December, Fallin said:

“Tax policy is long-term policy and, over the long term, a lower tax burden is good policy and the policy the voters have asked for in Oklahoma. If Oklahoma wants to attract and retain good jobs — rather than losing them to neighboring states — we must improve our tax climate.”

Today Fallin’s outlook is a complete turnaround. Her new proposals — creating more sales taxes and raising the cigarette tax —would not improve the tax climate. The cigarette tax, currently the 30th-highest, would reach the top 10 if Fallin’s proposal went through.

Oklahoma does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Instead of straddling low-income consumers and families with higher taxes, the legislature should rein in spending instead.  

Not only does her budget constitute a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a vote in support of it by legislators would be a violation as well. ATR urges the legislature to reject this senseless cash-grab.

Read Fallin’s entire state of the state address here


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Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, February 5th, 2016, 1:12 PM PERMALINK

Arkansas: Committee lobbies Little Rock voters on hotel tax for art center improvements. 

Arizona: Lawmakers advance tax vouchers for attending private schools. 

California: Davis City Council decides not to pursue soda tax.

Colorado:  Amazon sales tax collection begins in state.

Connecticut: Gov. Malloy (D) calls for 1,000 state job cuts, no tax increases. 

Florida: House committee passes tax cuts without Gov. Scott’s budget centerpiece. 

Illinois: Illinois comptroller says state would need to double the income tax rate to combat debt.

Indiana: Indiana House OKs cigarette, gas tax hikes to pay for roads. 

Kansas: Legislators offer proposals to close budget gap. 

Louisiana: State expects more money for road fund from low gas prices. 

Maryland: Gov. Hogan (R) touts good tax record in state of the state address. 

Missouri: Republicans push no-tax plan to fund road repairs.

New Jersey: Democrats push for $15 minimum wage. 

New Mexico: Bill seeks to unlock $ 1 billion in unspent money for infrastructure.  

Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf (D) asks for $200 million increase for next budget. 

Utah: Lawmakers pressured to increase taxes for school funding.


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This Is How the Pentagon Wasted $17 Billion in Afghanistan

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016, 4:55 PM PERMALINK

We all know the Department of Defense receives one of the larger allocations from the federal budget, but is that money always spent wisely?

Looking at the Afghanistan War alone, that answer is no.

ProPublica compiled a seemingly endless list of $17 billion in wasteful spending, but here are a few of the big zingers:

-$8 billion for a failed drug war: Despite a 14-year effort, Afghanistan now leads the world in heroin production.

-$2 billion for roads Afghanistan cannot afford to maintain.

-$936 million for underused aircraft: Afghanistan does not have enough trained people to use them for counterterrorism missions.

-$486 million for useless aircraft: Speaking of planes, 20 planes could not be flown, and most were sold for scraps.

-$43 million for one gas station: Wait, aren’t gas stations private businesses? A DoD task force developed one anyway. Even further, it was an alternative natural gas station, and most cars were equipped for, well, regular gas.

To paint a picture of how much money the DoD wasted, ProPublica created an info graphic where you can choose one instance of waste and see what it could have funded.

For instance, just the $1.4 billion from underused and useless aircraft could have translated into clinics and community centers for veterans, and job training for 1.4 million veterans, youth and other workers. Moreover, wasteful defense spending translates into a weaker national defense in a time of rising global uncertainty.

Legislators like Sens. John McCain and James Lankford are fed up with the lack of accountability in spending. McCain’s “America’s Most Wasted” report and Lankford’s “Federal Fumbles” report continue the legacy of Sen. Tom Coburn’s celebrated “Wastebook,” which revealed billions of wasteful spending.

In 2015, Lankford also introduced the Taxpayer’s Right to Know Act, which would create a database of federal agencies’ spending.

Lucky for taxpayers that want to know where their money is going, the twin House bill passed, and the Senate added it to the floor schedule.

$17 billion may not even be the full extent of the Pentagon’s wasteful spending in Afghanistan. Last week, ATR reported on a failed $800 million Pentagon budget meant to produce growth and stabilization in the Middle Eastern country. This is why an audit of their books is more important than ever. Until the Pentagon and other agencies become transparent with their spending, the taxpayers will never know. 


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Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, January 29th, 2016, 10:56 AM PERMALINK

Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) decides against raising the gas tax.

Arizona: House looks to further cut insurance company taxes.

California: Caltrans considers replacing the gas tax with a mileage fee. 

Colorado: State could raise gas tax to fund road repairs. Legislators mull tax break for veterans.

Connecticut: Lawmakers prepare tax reform bills for new session next week.

Florida: House may add a jet fuel tax to its budget package. Another bill seeks to increase the cigarette tax by $1.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) calls for lower property taxes, end to budget impasse. 

Indiana: Future income tax cut added to road funding bill.

Louisiana: State Treasurer John Kennedy says budget is fixable without tax hikes.

Maryland: Maryland lawmakers push for free community college. Democrats expect a battle over Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed tax cuts.

Missouri: Senate rejects a 5 percent tax increase on farmers and ranchers.

New Jersey: Atlantic City takeover proposal aims to replace casino property taxes with fixed payments.

New Mexico: House passes an extension of the solar tax credit.

Ohio: State Senator seeks permanent back-to-school tax holiday.  

Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D), lawmakers meet to finish last year’s budget, potentially tabling side issues. 

Tennessee: Legislative considers county’s proposed tourism tax – the first of its kind in the state.

Utah: Senate bill aims to enforce online tax collection.   

West Virginia: House passes repeal of prevailing wage.


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