Hans Schundler

Now With More Ban, Still No Facts, Straw Panic Hits D.C.

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, 5:32 PM PERMALINK

The movement to ban plastic straws continues to be a moral panic driven by social media virtue signaling rather than facts.  

The latest casualties are Washington, D.C. residents as the City Council recently passed legislation to ban plastic straws. Council Member Jack Evans introduced the banning legislation in July, and the new restriction is set to take effect on January 1st.  

The attack on plastic straws is part of a misguided global campaign driven by false data and a disregard for unintended consequences.  

The statistic that provoked the environmental panic in the U.S., that Americans use 500-million plastic straws per day, was first provided by a nine year-old’s research survey. Major media outlets, activist groups and governments alike have used the number, creating a spiral of false information. Perhaps, these groups and the D.C. City Council would benefit from some more dependable data, like that plastic straws comprise just .02 percent of plastic waste dumped into oceans each year. Moreover, of all ocean straw pollution, Americans constitute a tiny fraction of one percent. Banning plastic straws in Washington D.C. would hardly have an impact on the environment.  

When Starbucks decided to phase out plastic straws, it actually increased plastic use. Its new nitro lids use more plastic than the old light lid-and-straw combination. The rather ironic Starbucks situation demonstrates that campaigns to remove plastic straws are mostly virtue-signaling press decisions, and that these laws are flawed in execution as well as their goals.  

But while the benefits are hard to find, the costs are clear and abundant.  

The biggest users of plastic straws are either small take-out restaurants with slim margins or larger chains that disproportionately serve low income people. Banning the affordable option of plastic straws will mark up the cost of business for restaurants, leading to higher costs for consumers. At those restaurants which either cannot afford or choose not to offer a substitute for the straws -- making paper straws is reportedly eight-times more expensive.  

Disability advocates have also opposed plastic straw bans because other options are inferior and have the potential to make it difficult for some to drink at all. Also, rules that require disabled patrons to request plastic straws just place more hurdles between them and an item they need.  

Adding to the outrage, the D.C. ban extends its reach far beyond most bans. Among the long list of entities subject to the ban are churches and daycare centers. After January 1st, the family that makes freshly squeezed orange juice or hot chocolate for parish coffee hour will be prohibited by the force of city police from using plastic straws.  

Bottom line: The City Council is grabbing straws from disabled people, churches, daycare centers, and imposing added costs on everyone to appease a movement built on sand. 


CT: Lamont Promises to Raise Taxes, Stefanowski, Over Two Dozen GOP Candidates Pledge to Oppose Tax Hikes

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Posted by Mark Detlor, Hans Schundler on Sunday, November 4th, 2018, 4:44 PM PERMALINK

Democrat candidate for Governor of Connecticut Ned Lamont has tried to downplay all his talk of increasing taxes, but the record is clear, he has said multiple times that he would raise or expand a variety of taxes.

Lamont has generally endorsed tax hikes, when asked in a radio interview, “will you increase taxes?” Lamont responded “yes.”

He’s also said he will approve more tolls hitting Connecticut commuters, he’ll implement an internet sales tax on out-of-state retailers, and increase taxes on the so-called wealthy.

This, despite the fact current Governor Dan Malloy’s massive tax hikes on personal and corporate tax rates, beverages, cigarettes, hotels, rental cars, and more have driven people and businesses out of state. Major employers like General Electric have fled. Connecticut currently has the 3rd worst credit rating in the nation along with the 4th worst unfunded pension liability.

The Republican nominee, Bob Stefanowski has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise to the voters of Connecticut that the days of tax hikes will be over if he takes office. His platform calls for tax cuts, and elimination of the state's income tax over time.

Stefanowski is joined by over two dozen other candidates who have pledged to oppose tax hikes in Connecticut this election cycle, including Lt. Governor candidate Joe Markley, and State Senate candidates and incumbents John A. Kissel, Tyler Flanigan, Sen. Len Suzio, Rob Sampson, Sen. Michael McLachlan.

See Ned Lamont's various tax hike commitments below:

Lamont Tax Hike Promises

Date

Proposed Increase

Statement

Source

05/30/18

Expansion of online sales tax

“When asked for examples of possible tax increases, he discussed expanding sales tax to cover more online transactions.”

 

Press conference

 

02/13/18

Electronic tolling

“[R] ight now I don’t see any alternative to some form of electronic tolling. We’ll walk before we run there, but I can’t think of a better alternative.”

 

Interview with The Daily Campus

02/13/18

Electronic tolling and

expansion of online sales tax

“I think A. you can talk about electronic tolling when it comes to transportation, and B. perhaps expanding the sales tax base to include more e-commerce and even services so that we can really have a reliable and predictable revenue stream.”

 

Interview with The Daily Campus

06/22/18

CT sales tax collection by small business online retailers

“’It’s the fair thing to do. They have the big, online retailers from out of state that are taking a lot of our money in sales, competing with companies just like this. They should be collecting that sales tax,’ Lamont said.”

 

Interview with the Middleton Press

05/24/18

General tax increases

“Will you increase taxes?” one of the show’s hosts asked Lamont. When Lamont started to caveat his answer, the host pressed him: “Yes or no.”

 

Lamont’s response? “Yes.”

 

“Will you a sign a bill that would include tolls?” the host then asked.

 

Lamont’s response? “Yes.”

 

Radio interview with Chaz and AJ Show.

 

Audio captured and archived by the Republican Governor’s Association here.

08/23/18

Raise taxes on wealthy

“Even though Lamont wants not to be seen as a second coming of Malloy, he doesn’t promise to govern too differently. He pledges to raise taxes on the wealthy—a message that the state may not welcome, said Yankee Institute fellow Suzanne Bates. ‘Will a tax increase message at all resonate with a population that doesn’t trust you’ll raise taxes on just the wealthy?’ she doubts, adding that anything less than a doubling of wealthy people’s taxes would fall short of filling the budget deficit.”

 

Article in The Weekly Standard

Photo Credit: Wikipedia, CTMirror.org


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. 


After NJ Governor Spearheads $1B-plus Tax Hike, Unions Get Big Payday

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Friday, August 17th, 2018, 4:56 PM PERMALINK

New Jersey recently approved the largest budget in state history on the back of major tax hikes, and still some New Jersey legislators are devising new and innovative ways to tax their constituents.

The prime pitch for taking more money from hardworking New Jerseyans is that budget gaps must be closed and fiscal crises averted.

Governor Murphy, who initially proposed an even heftier $1.5 billion tax hike, assures citizens that these funds are paramount for meeting New Jersey’s urgent financial needs.

Well, if this is about closing gaps, what’s with the union contract victory tour Governor?

Murphy recently visited with New Jersey’s AFSCME chapter to celebrate their massive new $34 million dollar agreement, which came after a $150 million deal with Jersey’s CWA chapter.

These public sector unions, who had a rocky relationship with former Governor Chris Christie to put it mildly, played a huge hand in getting Murphy into the governor’s mansion. In his speech to the AFSCME, Murphy himself remarked that no part of his administration would even be “possible without [their] support.”

And now, after looting New Jersey taxpayers, Murphy has delivered their reward through pay and benefits. The nine-figure deals provide step bonuses for the future and retroactive cash that wasn’t delivered in the past due to a 2015 stalemate with Governor Christie. To keep his pals happy, Governor Murphy is sparing no expense in paying them homage.

During a town hall back in April, a middle class resident from Freehold, NJ challenged Murphy about his grandiose spending proposals. He asked where the money was coming from and suggested that the Governor reform pension funding and reduce spending, or else he’d need to leave the state due to increasing expenses. Murphy responded, “It may not be the cheapest place in the country to live, but you get a lot back for that.”

What voters are getting back right now is the 50th-ranked, dead last, business tax climate in the nation. The highest average property tax bill, and one of the worst overall tax burdens in the country.

The Governor’s tax-and-pay-off unions move only makes New Jersey’s biggest fiscal problem worse, exacerbating unfunded public pension liabilities.

Indeed, Murphy will need to raise taxes every year he’s in office to satisfy his promises to those friends, and you can bet they’ll hold him to it.

On the heels of Murphy’s moves, Senate President Steve Sweeney’s working group has finally delivered some recommendations on how to address the state’s financial problems. This may lead to a showdown with Murphy, and represents the key fight to determine the state’s future.

Photo Credit: Phil Murphy

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NJ Legislator Pushes Water Tax. What’s Next? Taxing Air?

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018, 6:14 PM PERMALINK

Just when you thought New Jersey’s deluge of tax hikes couldn’t get worse, there’s an almost comical proposal that would further drown Garden State families.

In the wake of passing a $37.4 billion budget, the largest in state history, which includes over $1 billion in tax hikes, State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex)has introduced a legislative proposal to tax tap water.

The deterioration of water infrastructure has been a growing concern for policy-makers across the country in recent years. There is little doubt that a discussion of improvements ought to be had in Trenton moving forward.

The issue, is that is seems whenever a public utility requires improvement, NJ lawmakers can think of no other option but to introduce additional taxes to address it.

If New Jersey lawmakers decide to tax drinking water, it is another drip in the long line of taxes that impact nearly every facet - and in this case faucet - of peoples’ lives.

Not only is a water tax a symbol of the state tax authority slowly closing in on finally taxing the air we breath, it is a flawed proposal.

New Jersey is already ranked as having the worst business tax climate in America, largely because of its overbearing tax burden on companies and individuals alike. New taxes should be avoided at all costs, not leapt toward as option number one. A water tax will make this worse by making it more expensive to operate in the state - right after taxes on corporations and high earners were raised.

Moreover, a water tax is highly regressive. Everyone bathes, drinks, brushes, and does the dishes. These things are life’s basic necessities. Making them more expensive for everyone will hurt those already struggling to get by the most.

Instead of reflecting on what a financial disaster they’ve created, the water tax is a sign Trenton lawmakers will keep coming up with new taxes and increases for existing taxes, rather than reforming spending to free up money to address crucial infrastructure breakdowns.


In the Wake of Wayfair, Massachusetts Wants Every Penny It Can Get

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Thursday, July 19th, 2018, 3:46 PM PERMALINK

The Supreme Court dealt a massive blow to online retailers of all sizes when it ruled in favor of allowing states to tax outside their borders. But instead of fighting back, some state lawmakers are only compounding the problem.

In anticipation that the Supreme Court would kill Quill – a 1992 ruling that prevented states from taxing online retailers outside their borders – numerous states previously, and are planning to, enact “click through” or economic nexus laws in order to pad their coffers. These laws compel out-of-state businesses to collect and pay them tax revenue, a clear example of taxation without representation.

Such taxation should be rejected on principle, but on policy these laws are no better. Saddling online retailers with a heap of state and local tax obligations will create massive new compliance costs, breeding numerous negative consequences. Yet somehow, certain states have found ways to make the misguided policy even worse.

Take Massachusetts, for example. Massachusetts, like several money-hungry states, established economic nexus provisions prior to the SCOTUS decision. But going a step further, the Bay State chose to interpret the ruling as a green light to send letters to out of state retailers demanding they pay up for sales done in the past.

Efforts like those in Massachusetts to seek retroactive back taxes were explicitly opposed by Justice Kennedy, who defended South Dakota’s law. In his decision notes, Justice Kennedy lucidly expressed, “no obligation to remit the sales tax may be applied retroactively.”

Massachusetts lawmakers are putting their greed on display. They have convinced themselves that they are somehow entitled to money they couldn’t legitimately extort from businesses in the past, all because they established an economic nexus before it was legal. Interpreting the law this way establishes a very harmful precedent.

Retroactive taxes are a violation of due process, a Randian government overreach that leaves businesses at the mercy of whimsical administrators. As such, those grasping governments that do engage in the bad policy of imposing internet sales taxes should NOT be like Massachusetts, who has made a terrible policy even worse. Imposing retroactive taxes is a dangerous and devastating measure that should be rejected without hesitation.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

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Pennsylvania Budget Signed, Sealed, Delivered Without Tax Hikes Thanks to Helping Hand from Federal Reform

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018, 5:38 PM PERMALINK

Standing firm against the tax increases perpetually pushed by Governor Tom Wolf (D-Pa.), the Republican-led state legislature passed a 2018-19 budget that bolsters the funding of public schools, expands school choice through educational tax credits, invests in workforce training and imposes no new tax hikes.

The budget process under Governor Wolf has never been a smooth one. In fact, this year’s bill is the first one he’s ever signed. In prior go-arounds, the Governor has proposed massive tax hikes on the grounds that fiscal catastrophe was otherwise imminent. In his first year for example, he requested a $12.5 billion tax increase, which was staved off by the legislature.

What changed in this year’s discussions was the new revenue stream coming from federal tax cuts last December. As Charlie Gerow writes at PennLive.com:

“While every budget travels a bumpy road, this year's was made a lot smoother because the revenue flowing into the commonwealth is significantly ahead of previous years.

“What's causing the strong revenue this year and the equally robust projections for the next?

“There's no denying that a large part of it comes from the tax cuts enacted with the recent tax reforms and tax cuts at the federal level.”

There was a notable spending increase. From the 560 million dollars added to the budget this year, $450 million are being directed to Pre-K education, $25 million toward Educational Improvement Tax Credits, $15 million to state universities and community colleges, and $30 million to workforce training.

Despite some imperfections, this budget is a win for taxpayers as tax increases like a severance tax on natural gas were avoided, and talk of a job-killing $15 minimum wage did not lead anywhere.

It also provides a valuable lesson on the benefits of the federal tax reform package, which has broadened the tax base in the states and offered them new revenues as businesses invest more and increase wages.

Photo Credit: Bestbudbrian

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Delaware State Employees Get a Trump Tax Reform Bonus as Gov. Carney Signs 2019 Budget

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Friday, June 29th, 2018, 5:34 PM PERMALINK

Yesterday in the Blue Hen State, Governor John Carney (D-Del.) signed off on a new budget, avoiding any tax hikes and retaining a surplus. The plan increases spending by 5.2 percent compared to last year’s budget. In contrast to last year’s budget, which was debated well into July, this year’s plan was completed days before the June 30th deadline.

Incredibly, state employees and teachers will be enjoying a government version of the Trump tax reform bonus.

On top of the $4.2 billion budget, the legislature passed a $49 million supplemental appropriation that includes bonuses for state workers, a $500 bonus for current workers and $400 pension check bonus for retired state employees.

Teachers and state workers also received salary increases in the operating budget.

The Delaware News Journal reports, “…lawmakers are relying on an anticipated $340 million spike in revenue from existing tax sources, such as a jump in personal income tax tied to the federal tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump.”

What a difference a year and some federal tax reform makes. After facing deficits in 2018’s budget process, the state is dishing out bonuses and was left with a $47 million surplus a year later.

Looking to help taxpayers before paying out new obligations to state workers would have been an improvement. However, the legislature dodged significant tax increases, such as proposed taxes on opioid pain medication.

Two varieties of the tax were pushed, one in the Senate and one in the Assembly. Neither would have been good for Delaware residents. These policies would only raise costs for families and businesses, driving up insurance premiums, while doing little to correctly address the problem of addiction.

Given the legislature’s propensity to use added funds to pad their priorities, Delaware taxpayers have a new reason to thank Trump tax reform. Without it, threatened tax hikes and another deficit-fueled late budget battle would have been far more likely.

Photo Credit: TC Davis

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NJ Legislative Majority Pushes Bag Tax to Help Their Bottom-Line, Not the Environment

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Thursday, June 28th, 2018, 2:07 PM PERMALINK

New Jersey Senate and Assembly Democrats must be short on oxygen if they think anyone is going to buy that their new bag tax is meant to help the environment.

The plan is a blatant money-grab that sends every penny of its revenues to the general fund - not toward protecting the environment. The 5-cent tax on traditional plastic and paper bags (A-3267/S-2600) is a regressive tax that will hurt New Jerseyans who can least afford the extra cost, all because Trenton can’t stop increasing spending.

It’s part of the legislature’s budget, now passed and awaiting veto, that included other hikes like a massive corporate tax increase. They were countering Governor Murphy’s $1.7 billion in tax hikes included in his $37 billion-plus spending plan.

Of course, the tax has been pitched as a much needed action to help the environment, but a little scrutiny reveals it to be a money grabbing tactic to compensate for government inefficiency.

The way consumption taxes such as this one are always sold to the public is with promises of environmental progress and much needed financing of specific public projects supported by voters. The reality never equals the pitch.

With regard to the environment, disincentivizing plastic bag use could do more harm than good. Today, New Jersey residents use plastic bags for everything from lining wastebaskets and packing lunches, to picking up after pets.

To avoid taxes on these bags, Garden State citizens will switch to other plastic options instead. When a similar tax, for example, was imposed in Ireland, the use of plastic trash-can liners doubled.

Many residents will also purchase more expensive reusable bags, and contrary to the sales pitch from lawmakers, the switch to reusable options comes with serious downsides for the environment. Most of these bags are made from woven or flat sheet fabric polypropylene. This material, while more durable than traditional plastic bags, is not recyclable. A British environmental agency found that reusable bags needed to be used more than 14 times to be better for the environment than traditional bags, but were only used between 10 and 12 times on average.

As previously noted, New Jersey’s 2019 budget predictably allocates all $23 million of the bag tax revenue to the general fund, where it will fuel New Jersey’s expensive special-interest machine.

Fortunately, this tax is part of a budget package Governor Murphy has promised to veto. Unfortunately, it is now part of all the tax increases that are on the table as lawmakers figure out what the final budget will look like.

The fact such a blatantly regressive tax is on the table shows how badly Trenton has failed to control its budget.

 

Photo Credit: Fancycrave.com

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ATR Urges Governor Baker to Take a Stand Against Damaging New Labor Laws

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Posted by Hans Schundler on Tuesday, June 26th, 2018, 12:53 PM PERMALINK

A judge recently threw the Millionaire’s Tax measure off the November ballot, but Bay State politicians are still busy looking for other ways to hike state taxes.

For example, the Democrat-run Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that raises the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour, more than doubles the minimum tipped wage, and mandates paid sick and family leave of up to 26 weeks in a given year. These mandates are funded, in part, with higher taxes on employers.

To get this economically harmful legislation passed, lawmakers included a bargain that creates a yearly sales tax holiday lasting two days. Make no mistake, however, this bargain comes at the expense of Massachusetts taxpayers who will see increased costs, higher taxes, and fewer available jobs.

Let’s first examine how the minimum wage hike will do harm. It is well-documented that the campaign for a 15 dollar minimum wage actually harms low income households and low skill workers.

 In Seattle, the University of Washington reports that recent minimum wage hikes have already forced companies to cut payrolls and slow the hiring of new workers. Moreover, for low-income workers, the costs of the wage law have outweighed the benefits by a ratio of 3-1, curbing earnings by an average of $125 every month.

As is the case in the Evergreen State, the tech industry is booming in Massachusetts, already placing a premium on high-skill labor over low-skill labor. A hike in the minimum wage will limit the remaining low wage work and serve to speed up the automation process. In suburban and rural areas, manufacturing – which faces stiff competition from foreign markets – will be negatively impacted by the law.

Regarding the 80% increase in the tipped minimum wage, consumers in the Bay State can expect higher prices at restaurants and workers can expect fewer job openings. By almost doubling the cost of hiring tipped workers, the state will saddle restaurants with a list of bad options to make ends meet. What they come up with will be a combination of increased prices, less hiring, and added service charges, which waiters never get a piece of. To top it off, the better service that tip-based income incentivizes will likely deteriorate.

The costly paid leave mandate will also hurt employers and employees alike. To pay for mandatory leave, businesses will be hit with an additional 0.63% payroll tax, making it cost an extra $472.50 annually to hire a worker making $75,000 a year. Employees will see real wages cut to compensate for the mandated benefits, while many companies will think twice before considering expansion, as $472.50 quickly adds up when it’s multiplied by hundreds, or even thousands of workers.

Americans for Tax Reform will be urging Governor Charlie Baker to veto this misguided bill. 

  

Photo Credit: Daderot

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