Joshua Culling

Team Obama Directly Working to Recall Wisconsin Republicans

Posted by Joshua Culling on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, 9:39 AM PERMALINK

How's this for states' rights?

This morning, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a radio interview that President Obama's political team is directly involved in burgeoning efforts to recall Republican elected officials (emphasis on the word "elected," as in chosen by the people of Wisconsin in a democratic vote four months ago):

"There's many people that are beginning to believe this is a delay tactic by the Democrats in the Senate so that these recall elections can be organized by the Obama team out of Chicago, which they are, as we start to do the research on the people that have filed the petition," Fitzgerald told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."

When asked whether Fitzgerald knew that for a fact, he responded, "The organizer against (River Hills Republican Senator) Alberta Darling definitely has direct links to the Obama camp.  There's no doubt about it.  These guys might be out until June.  Unfortunately, what they're trying to do is flip the majority, and I think that's becoming very evident."

This is yet another coup for the state of Illinois. The Senate Democrat caucus has been vacationing in the state for 18 days, providing some much-needed stimulus to the Quinn Economy. Now it has surfaced that they will pay Obama's Chicago team to organize a recall effort.

The President's message to the American people is simple: I don't care about balancing the federal budget. I don't care what the voters had to say in November. I will spend money to depose of elected officials I don't like. Because Big Labor told me to.

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WI: Scott Fitzgerald Drops the Hammer

Posted by Joshua Culling on Monday, March 7th, 2011, 3:21 PM PERMALINK

It's been 18 days since Wisconsin Democrats put their entire Senate caucus on a bus and drove them to an out-of-state bunker at the Best Western in Rockford, Illinois. They claim to have fled in the interests of the people of Wisconsin, but rather than representing them on the floor of the Senate and debating Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill on its merits, they choose to flout democracy (again) and avoid a vote by virtue of absenteeism. At a time when Wisconsin needs them most, Democrats are passing the time in Illinois.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Democrats had finally decided to return to Madison to debate the budget bill. The logic was that though this would allow the bill to pass, it       would be so unpopular with the public that its passage would deal a devastating blow to Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) rightly denounced the idea as ludicrous:

"If you think this is a bad bill for Republicans, why didn't you stand up in the chamber and debate us about it three weeks ago?" said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. "People think it's absolutely ridiculous that these 14 senators have not been in Wisconsin for three weeks."

Apparently that resounded with Democrats, as Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D) has changed his mind, instead requesting a meeting at the state line between Republicans and their absentee colleagues. This is all very surreal.

Sen. Fitzgerald fired back in an epic letter to Sen. Miller today. Note the address line:

March 7, 2011

Sen. Mark Miller
Parts Unknown, IL

Dear Senator Miller,

Thank you for your hand-delivered letter with an offer to meet, in Illinois, about the business and future direction of Wisconsin.

Let’s set aside how bizarre that is for a moment.

As you know, this legislation is designed to finally balance the state budget, prevent layoffs and create jobs in the real world. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed or underemployed Wisconsinites, and at least 1,500 more whose jobs are in the balance because of your media stunt. We all deserve better than this.

In the meantime, members of your caucus have been meeting with the governor’s staff, talking to the media, trying to find a way back to Madison, and contradicting your message in public. In case you don’t remember, you were present yourself at one of those meetings with the governor’s staff. Your grasp of reality, and control of your caucus as minority leader, continues to amaze me.

As you know, your opportunity to compromise and amend the bill was on the floor of the state Senate. As you know, you forfeited that right and opportunity when you decided to flee the state instead of doing your job.

Your stubbornness in trying to ignore the last election and protect the broken status quo is truly shameful. While we wait for you and your colleagues to finally show up, Senate Republicans continue to stand ready to do the job we were elected to do, here in Wisconsin. I hope you are enjoying your vacation, and your vacation from reality.


Scott Fitzgerald
Senate Majority Leader

The PDF of the letter is here. Sen. Fitzgerald has joined Gov. Walker in achieving hero status in the national conservative movement. These guys have steel in their spines.

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ATR Supports New Hampshire Tobacco Tax Cut

Posted by Joshua Culling on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 1:13 PM PERMALINK

The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee recently passed to the floor HB 156, which would reduce the cigarette tax by 10 cents per pack in addition to reducing the excise tax on other tobacco products. This would bring the regressive cigarette tax to $1.68 per pack, enhancing New Hampshire's competitive advantage in the region at a time when many nearby states, most notably New York, have opted to increase their levy.

This is good news for convenience stores, who attribute roughly one-third of their sales to cigarettes. During tough economic times, these job providers need all the help they can get to meet payroll and add jobs.

It makes sense for state government, too. Tobacco taxes are inherently unstable sources of revenue, and it is a rare occurence for a state to realize the projected revenue after raising the tax. In fact, economists at the University of Southern New Hampshire recently published a study that showed that HB 156 would actually increase revenues by $13 million. With an overspending problem approaching $1 billion, this will help New Hampshire balance the books.

In a letter to the New Hampshire Legislature, ATR President Grover Norquist wrote:

The dynamic impact of targeted excise taxes is well-documented. Between 2003 and 2007, only 16 of 59 cigarette tax increases at the state level met their revenue projections, as higher levies discouraged tax-paid consumption. But New Hampshire has an opportunity to go in the opposite direction. A recent study shows that HB 156´s 10 cent-per-pack cigarette tax cut could generate an additional $13 million in revenue for state government.

To be sure, ATR generally does not cheer revenue increases. New Hampshire’s $900 million budget hole is the product of Gov. Lynch’s overspending problem. But it is encouraging to see New Hampshire elected officials coming to terms with the dynamic impact of tax reform. By lowering the tobacco tax burden relative to other New England states, New Hampshire is luring consumers to purchase not only tobacco, but the food and gasoline they will purchase during their trip.

The bill now heads to the House floor. To see Grover's entire letter to the legislature, see below.

March 1, 2011

New Hampshire House of Representatives
New Hampshire Senate

Dear Legislator,

I write to urge your support of House Bill 156, which would reduce excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is an opportunity to widen the tax gap between New Hampshire and the rest of the Northeast, further encouraging consumers to cross state lines to support the Granite State’s small business community.

The dynamic impact of targeted excise taxes is well-documented. Between 2003 and 2007, only 16 of 59 cigarette tax increases at the state level met their revenue projections, as higher levies discouraged tax-paid consumption. But New Hampshire has an opportunity to go in the opposite direction. A recent study shows that HB 156´s 10 cent-per-pack cigarette tax cut could generate an additional $13 million in revenue for state government.

To be sure, ATR generally does not cheer revenue increases. New Hampshire’s $900 million budget hole is the product of Gov. Lynch’s overspending problem. But it is encouraging to see New Hampshire elected officials coming to terms with the dynamic impact of tax reform. By lowering the tobacco tax burden relative to other New England states, New Hampshire is luring consumers to purchase not only tobacco, but the food and gasoline they will purchase during their trip.

And New Hampshire is not alone in this pursuit. Whereas the Northeast has been known for years as a region in perpetual competition for higher tax increases (see David Patterson’s New York vs. Jon Corzine’s New Jersey), the tide is shifting. Maine’s Paul LePage is acutely aware of the competitive disadvantage his state has relative to New Hampshire and is working to cut taxes on tobacco, income and other areas. You have the opportunity with HB 156 to move first.

It is time to give New Hampshire’s small business community a break. Convenience stores are struggling to make payroll as a consequence of the economic downturn. Nationally, tobacco sales represent roughly one-third of their sales; a significant tax cut would provide a boost to their bottom line.

It is encouraging to see the conventional wisdom shifting in the New Hampshire Legislature. I urge you to see this proposal through to the governor’s desk. HB 156 is sound public policy that will spur the economy while weaning state government off an unstable revenue source. I urge you to support this tobacco tax cut in order to maintain an economically competitive New Hampshire.

If you have any questions about ATR’s support of HB 156, please contact state affairs manager Joshua Culling at


Grover Norquist

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Day Seven

Posted by Joshua Culling on Monday, February 21st, 2011, 9:53 AM PERMALINK

We have reached the seventh consecutive day of union protest in Madison in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit government employees’ ability to collectively bargain. Here is where things stand:

  • Every Senate Democrat remains a member of the Absentee Caucus. The entire caucus remains in exile in Rockford, Illinois. With 19 Republicans in the Senate, at least one Democrat is needed to reach a quorum to allow a vote on any budget bill. One Democrat even argued that by fleeing the state, they are “standing up for democracy.” Gov. Walker pointed out that attendance is a necessary precursor to participation in the democratic process.
  • There is an unacceptable “compromise” on the table. Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, always considered a squishy vote on this issue, has offered a compromise proposal that would temporarily restrict collective bargaining for public employees only to reinstate it in 2013. This will not solve the long-term problem that government unions pose. Governor Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald remain committed to the original plan; Fitzgerald met with every member of his caucus over the weekend and claims they are “rock solid” in support of the governor’s plan.
  • Republicans are standing strong, and need our support. Their mettle is being tested, and they have not wavered to this point. But the hysteria on the left is not subsiding. News outlets reported 70,000 protestors in Madison yesterday, and demonstrations will continue this week. President Obama has opted to ignore his budgetary obligations in Washington and get involved in Wisconsin’s business, calling Gov. Walker’s plan an “assault on unions.” And the president’s political arm, Organizing for America, is spending serious money in an attempt to kill the bill. But the GOP has indicated it will not blink. Gov. Walker has become a hero to the national conservative movement, but leaders in the legislature like Leader Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald need to know they have our support as well. Compromise plans like that offered by Sen. Schultz would throw away the hard work and leadership of these principled lawmakers at a time when Wisconsin needs it most.

A few assorted links:

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Fun Things for Wisconsin Democrats to Do on Vacation in Rockford, IL

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 6:28 PM PERMALINK

It's been widely reported that Wisconsin Democrats have been discovered at their secret hideout at a Best Western in Rockford, IL, outside the jurisdiction of Wisconsin state troopers who would like them to return to Madison to do their job. While Republicans are at work, their colleagues across the aisle decided a contentious budget fight would be the perfect time to skip town for a little R&R in Rockford.

I'm a big fan of traveling, and I always like to pack my vacation agenda to the gills so I can really experience new places to the fullest. I'd like to help Wisconsin's Absentee Caucus do the same, so I did a little research on Rockford. While I'm not sure if they'll be keen on venturing out of their bunker at the 3-star Best Western Clock Tower Resort (map), here's a list just in case.

  • Play 18 holes at Earl F Elliot Public Golf Course. It's a lovely tour-length course literally across the street from the secret hideout where you are avoiding the democratic process in which you chose to participate when you ran for public office. The weather is starting to turn in northern Illinois, and let's be honest, who hasn't skipped out of work a bit early to play 18 and then grab a couple beers afterward?
  • Shop around at Kegel Harley Davidson. Let's face it, you're all union hacks. What better way to gain a bit of credibility with the blue collar set then rolling back into town (whenever that might be...take your time) on a Hog. Fun fact: Kegel is the world's oldest family-owned Harley dealership.
  • Take your kids to the Discovery Center Museum. This is right in the heart of Rockford, and can be both fun and educational. And your kids definitely need some educating, as their teachers are refusing to show up at school! You can fill the void with some of the classes offered.
  • Check out the renowned Rockford Symphony Orchestra. Serious credibility boost with the wine-and-cheese crowd, who funded your election!
  • Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to start a small business. You'll be strangled by oppressive taxes and regulations (oh, and forced unionization laws). Gov. Pat Quinn, a role model to most of you, just passed billions of dollars of tax increases, spent a boatload more money the state doesn't have and has steadfastly refused to take any proactive steps to reform the state's structural budget issues. Think of him as the exact opposite of Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, which is open for business.

I hope you find this helpful. If you could please send back one Democrat so the legislature can vote to reform and revitalize Wisconsin, that would be appreciated. But hopefully the rest of you will stay in Illinois, which suits you much better.

If you or any other liberal state legislators across the country are interested in ATR's advice about how to quarantine you in Illinois while leaving the rest of us alone, please contact me at

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Walker to Democrats: "Show up to Work"

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 4:40 PM PERMALINK

It's pretty clear that Wisconsin Democrats made a serious political miscalculation when they snuck out the door of the Capitol today. Governor Walker just issued a pitch-perfect statement:

Walker Calls Democrat Legislators Back Into State

Madison–Today Governor Walker released the following statement:

Out of respect for the institution of the Legislature and the democratic process, I am calling on Senate Democrats to show up to work today, debate legislation and cast their vote.  Their actions by leaving the state and hiding from voting are disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent.

Follow the Governor on Twitter for more updates at @GovWalker.

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Dude, COPS! RUN!

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 3:44 PM PERMALINK

We have more information on Wisconsin Democrats standing up for union bosses in lieu of representing their constituents. From Greg Sargent:

Adding to the bizarre sense of urgency, a Dem State Senate aide I just spoke to who is actually in the capitol told me that Dems who are on the scene don't know where the other Dem Senators are, because they appear to be in hiding from law enforcement.

"They are somewhere where they are not available to be forcibly taken to the floor," the aide said, the chant of protestors audible in the background. "They could be in the building. They could be in the basement for all I know.".

Seriously. There is an all points bulletin out for elected Democrats. There is a police search in progress around and about Madison. Senate Democrats are joining Wisconsin teachers in refusing to show up to work today, and now are hiding from the cops like a bunch of high school students caught drinking underage.

I'd tell you to call the caucus, but no one is around to answer the phone.

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A Liberal Meltdown in Wisconsin

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 2:08 PM PERMALINK

The Wisconsin State Capitol is currently locked down. Pro-union protesters are intimidating legislators by pounding on windows, screaming insults and vandalising public property. Above is a picture of union protestors, many of whom are teachers who called off sick to storm the Capitol. Teacher strikes are illegal in Wisconsin.

The Senate needs 20 members present for a quorum; there are 19 Republicans. Sen. Roberta Darling (R) told the media today that all Democrat Senators are on a bus heading out of the state so as to avoid quorum. The police have been dispatched to find them and drag them back to the Capitol to represent their constituents.

The events unfolding in Madison today completely validate SB 11 itself.

We are on the precipice of breaking government employee unions as we know them in this country. It starts in Wisconsin.

EDIT: Just received a picture of WI Senate Democrats at the roll call this afternoon. Impressive principled stand on behalf of the constituents who elected them:

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Wisconsin Teachers Prove Our Point

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 11:36 AM PERMALINK

The Wisconsin Legislature is debating Special Session Senate Bill 11, which would strip government employees of their right to collectively bargain and require them to increase their share of the cost of pension and health benefits.

Teachers unions fall under the purview of this legislation, proposed by Gov. Scott Walker. They're staunchly opposed, arguing it will harm their ability to educate Wisconsin's children.

But they're blowing a huge hole in that line of reasoning today. Teachers unions are organizing members statewide to call in sick in protest of SB 11. Leaving students in the classroom, they're instead marching on Madison to protest a law that would make them pay less than 6 percent toward their pensions and 12.5 percent (half the national average!) of their health care premiums.

Refusing to do your job is generally grounds for dismissal, or at least some discplinary action. But under the protection of a strong statewide union, teachers are able to parade around the Capitol yelling about fictional social injustices. Wisconsin teachers unions have proven our point in support of ending collective bargaining for state employees. Hopefully the status quo won't continue much longer.

As Stephen Hayes tweeted this morning, teachers in Wisconsin pay roughly $1100 annually in union dues, but they are somehow opposed to paying a slightly more sane share of the cost of their benefits package. And it's not only the end of union dues that effective and skilled teachers in Wisconsin should be cheering. For years the union has shielded ineffective teachers from termination; on the contrary, it has pushed for pay raises for bad teachers. That drives down the ability to afford higher compensation for the truly transformative and effective educators.

MSNBC and others are attempting to paint the debate in Madison as an assault from the right wing. But the fight to end government employee unionization is not about right versus left. It is about a small sliver of the left fighting everybody else. Unionized public employees are generally overpaid, underworked and unaccountable. Their compensation is the driving force behind Wisconsin's budget woes. And it's time to end business as usual in Wisconsin and across the country. Where President Obama has talked breathlessly about the necessity of changing the status quo, governors like Scott Walker and John Kasich are acting while the president punts.

I end with a quote that I think sums up the perils of public sector unionization quite nicely:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations ... The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for ... officials ... to bind the employer ... The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives.

The speaker? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937.

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Oklahoma: Enabling Local Tax Increases Violates the Pledge

Posted by Joshua Culling on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 11:03 AM PERMALINK

Today the Oklahoma Legislature will begin debating a bill that will free up localities to impose higher tobacco taxes. As we have seen in other states, giving an "assist" of this nature to tax hikers is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

A tax increase in any form should be a non-starter in this economic climate, but tobacco taxes are especially harmful. They rarely raise the amount of revenue promised, creating future budget holes. They have a regressive impact on low-income residents. And they chase commerce across state lines, further harming job creators who are already struggling to make payroll.

It should be known that Gov. Mary Fallin essentially declared bills of this nature dead on arrival when she signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. It would thus be useful for the legislature to table this legislation and continue their hard work to get government out of the way of private sector-led job creation and economic growth.

To see Grover's letter to the legislature, see below.

February 15, 2011

Oklahoma House
Oklahoma Senate

Dear Legislator,

Today I write in opposition to HB 2135, which would expand local taxing authority. Because it facilitates tax increases on the local level, HB 2135 is in violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Tough economic times endure in Oklahoma and elsewhere. To vote for HB 2135 is to give an “assist” to those who seek to impose higher taxes on Oklahomans. Government at all levels must continue to live within its means as families dig themselves out of this damaging economic downturn. Fiscal responsibility is the key – not enabling revenue increases at the expense of taxpayers.

This particular bill involves tobacco taxation. It should be known that higher taxes on tobacco and other products sold at convenience stores around the state are implicit tax increases on small business and the poor. Because low-income individuals are more likely to smoke, and targeted excise taxes consume more of their disposable income, this piece of legislation enables the imposition of highly regressive tax hikes at the local level.

Perhaps more important is the impact on job creation via Oklahoma’s small business community. When government drives up the price of a good, consumers purchase less of it within the affected jurisdiction. With specific respect to tobacco, they either smoke less or purchase the product elsewhere in an effort to avoid higher taxes. This hampers Oklahoma’s small businesses’ ability to create jobs or even make existing payroll.

I would also note that as a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, Gov. Mary Fallin has already signaled this bill dead on arrival, as it is not in keeping with her written promise to oppose any and all tax increases.

I urge you to vote down this bill and assume the task of right-sizing state government, rather than considering legislation that would increase your constituents’ annual tax bill.

If you have any questions regarding ATR’s opposition to HB 2135, please contact state affairs manager Joshua Culling at


Grover Norquist

CC: The Honorable Mary Fallin

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