Margaret Mire

So-called Internet Privacy Law Would Harm Mainers

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Tuesday, April 10th, 2018, 1:52 PM PERMALINK

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill some claim would improve internet privacy for their constituents.

Lawmakers should reject this misguided piece of legislation – LD 1610 – as it would not accomplish its ostensible goal. Instead, it would inflict a great deal of harm on Maine taxpayers and consumers.

Under the status quo, there is plenty of incentive for internet service providers (ISPs) to actively protect consumers’ private information. There is a natural market incentive, as violating one’s privacy would deter customers, and a legal incentive, as existing laws requiring all actors in the communications space to guard personal information are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state Attorneys General.

The current method to privacy enforcement allows bad actors to be punished without discouraging innovation and competition in the industry. Piling on state laws such as LD 1610 would not promote any of those outcomes.

LD 1610’s misguided approach to privacy would zero in on who holds consumer data rather than the data type. It would apply onerous and costly regulations to ISPs only, which is pretty bizarre if protecting one’s privacy is the goal. For example, compared to individual websites, ISPs see far less of what you do online because over 70% of websites use https encryption. An ISP can only see which website you visit, not what you do on the websites.

In addition to being unnecessary and ineffective, LD 1610 would be a huge mistake. The costs and consequences of complying with a patchwork of many state privacy laws throughout the country would make it much more difficult for ISPs to maintain and expand their services, and invest in the next generation of broadband. As such, LD 1610 would leave Mainers with fewer choices, outmoded technology, and an overall lower quality of internet.

Making matters worse, if implemented, LD 1610 would also likely result Maine taxpayers footing costly legal challenges. That is because state legislation or executive orders that attempt to regulate privacy through procurement or contracts violate federal law preempting state interference with interstate commerce.

Americans for Tax Reform and The Maine Heritage Policy Center sent a letter to lawmakers in Maine, warning them of the consequences of LD 1610 and urging them to reject it. To view the full letter, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Miguelgamer YT


ATR Urges Kentucky Lawmakers to Remove Funding for KentuckyWired

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Wednesday, March 28th, 2018, 11:56 AM PERMALINK

The Kentucky House-Senate conference committee is in the process of working out the two-year state budget. Americans for Tax Reform urges the committee to follow the Senate's lead and remove all funding for KentuckyWired from the final bill.

KentuckyWired -- a statewide government-owned broadband network -- is a taxpayer's nightmare. Two years past its intended date of completion, less than 1/3 of the fiber optic cable has been laid in ground, yet the state has blown through more than half of its $350 million budget.

Making matters worse, on top of the basic labor costs that rack up when such an undertaking runs behind schedule, taxpayers are also footing the bill for millions of dollars in contract penalties for "supervening events." Indeed, these penalties will continue to escalate out of control.

Study after study has concluded that government entities are not well suited to play in the broadband industry, as they lack the necessary expertise to build out, maintain, and upgrade a network. Time and time again, GONs have left taxpayers on the hook for millions with only a poorly functioning and unnecessary service to show for it. 

As such, it is highly unlikely KentuckyWired will turn around. The best solution for taxpayers would be for lawmakers to bring KentuckyWired to a permanent stop. 

ATR sent a letter to Kentucky lawmakers voicing our concerns with KentuckyWired and urging them to not to include its funding in the state budget. You can read the letter in its entirety here.  

 

 

Photo Credit: Purple Slog


Ohio Issue 2 Is A Bad Deal for Taxpayers

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017, 9:37 AM PERMALINK

As November 7th – Election Day – gets closer, more and more “Yes on Issue 2” mailers and commercials are circulating Ohio.

Of the many false claims Issue 2 supporters continue to make, one of the most egregious is that Issue 2 – which would tie the rate the state and state agencies pay for prescription medications to the rate paid by the Veterans Administration – would save Ohio taxpayers $400 million a year.

While forcefully lowering the price the state can pay for prescription medication may sound like it would save tax dollars, Ohioans should note that such claims ignore key facts, and that Issue 2 is more likely to have the opposite effect.

Indeed, those who claim Issue 2 would save the state money ridiculously assume Ohio does not currently receive any considerable prescription drug discounts when, in fact, it does. Competition in the industry incentivizes biopharmaceutical manufacturers to voluntarily offer the state lower prices for medication. However, should Issue 2 be implemented, experts predict that many of the low-rate agreements Ohio has in place would be destroyed, potentially running up Ohio’s prescription costs by tens of millions each year.

In addition, Ohio taxpayers should keep in mind that the administrative costs of Issue 2 are also likely to be much, much higher than Issue 2 proponents are anticipating. At this time, there are no plans as to how Issue 2 would be put in place, meaning the taxpayers of Ohio will have to foot the bill for consultants, lawyers, and rulemakers that will be hired for a very long time to help navigate the implementation process (on top of basic overhead costs).

Adding to this tax dollar snowball is Issue’s 2 Section G. Section G guarantees the hardworking taxpayers of Ohio will cover any and all costs to defend Issue 2, should (when) it face legal challenges and applies whether or not Issue 2 stands up in court. This dangerous clause, which sets a precedent for taxpayer funded trial lawyers, should be terrifying to all Ohioans, including those who misguidedly favor the rest of this destructive measure.

All facts considered, rather than saving money, Issue 2 is more likely to result in lawmakers taking funding from other programs in the state budget and possibly asking taxpayers to fork over even more of their paychecks. Issue 2 is a terrible deal for taxpayers and Ohioans would benefit greatly from rejecting it.  

Photo Credit: Graem Dawes

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Louisville-Owned Broadband Network: A Bad Deal for Taxpayers

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017, 2:34 PM PERMALINK

The Louisville Metro Council is mulling the idea of a government-owned broadband network (GON). This would be an inappropriate and irresponsible use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

The roughly $5.4 million GON plan before the Council would span 90 miles in Jefferson County, with the majority of its footprint overbuilding KentuckyWired – a more than $330 million statewide GON currently being constructed.

While proponents of government Internet have painted a very rosy picture of the Louisville GON plan, residents of the city should not take the bait. Dozens of examples nationwide have proven GONs are a terrible deal for taxpayers. GONs in Bristol, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; Marietta, Georgia and many other cities failed, and then were all sold for pennies on the dollar, leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions.

Why did all of these undertakings end in similar tragedy?

Government entities are not capable of building out and maintaining broadband networks, as they lack the expertise and resources necessary to remain up-to-date in such a rapidly changing industry. This truth is already being echoed in Louisville, as the plan pending before the Metro Council notes that half of total project dollars will be spent in the last 6.6 miles alone, a claim that private industry experts cannot piece together.

These experts have thoroughly reviewed this small stretch of land, and concluded that at least three quarters of construction in the area would be above ground. To put this point in context, the experts explained that even if the 6.6 miles required the extreme of digging up the streets, laying the fiber, and then rebuilding the streets – a method that would only be required to run fiber to the home, which is not nearly as far as the Louisville plan is intended to go – private providers estimate it should still cost about $1 million less than the city’s projected expense.

The Louisville Council, like many others that have attempted to play in the broadband industry, is way out of its element.

In addition to the Louisville GON plan being a very risky way to spend taxpayer dollars, it is also wildly inappropriate. Currently, more than 35 providers offer service in Louisville. And thanks to their commitment and investments to the area over the years, 99.9 percent of Jefferson County’s population has access to speeds of 50 Mbps. While some purport adding a GON to the mix would simply result in more competition and choices for consumers, that is a very shallow perspective.

GONs unfairly compete with private providers because government entities can subsidize costs with tax dollars, and thus charge consumers below the cost of service. Private sector providers, on the other hand, cannot do this because it would drive them out of business. As such, private providers are discouraged from expanding, investing, and remaining in areas where GONs are present, as their odds of success are hindered by unfair competition from an entity that doesn’t need to turn a profit.

Since it is vigorous competition between providers that spurs innovation, improves quality of service and drives prices down, GONs leave consumers at risk for fewer choices, outmoded technology and deteriorating service.

There is no justification for pouring millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars into “competition” with the private sector. Doing so would inflict a great deal of harm on taxpayers and consumers in Louisville, and chill innovation.

If the Metro Council truly wants to improve broadband service in Louisville, they should put the GON plan to halt, get out of the way, and allow the private sector to thrive.

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Government-Owned Networks Drain Taxpayers

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Friday, January 27th, 2017, 10:44 AM PERMALINK

As soon as Wednesday, February 1, the Grand Junction City Council will be voting on a city-provided Internet plan. Americans for Tax Reform opposes this measure, and sent a letter to the council members urging them to vote against it. To view the letter, please click here.

January 27, 2017

To: Members of the Grand Junction City Council

From: Americans for Tax Reform

Re: City-Owned and Provided Internet Plan

Dear Members of the Grand Junction City Council,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and supporters in Grand Junction, I urge you to oppose the city-provided Internet plan. This undertaking – estimated to cost $70 million tax dollars – would be an inappropriate and irresponsible use of scarce public resources.

More than 20 private Internet service providers currently serve the Grand Junction area, and have poured millions of dollars into their broadband infrastructure over the years. Thanks to their investments, 99% of residents living within the city limits can choose from 2 or more wired providers, and nearly all of them have access to Internet speeds significantly faster than the Federal Communication Commission’s recently reported national average. As such, a city-provided Internet service would be pointless.

In addition to being a waste of hard-earned tax dollars, city-provided Internet would also put taxpayers at risk for massive rate hikes. Indeed, dozens of examples nationwide have shown a clear pattern: government-owned broadband networks (GONs) quickly turn into money pits.

The construction and maintenance of broadband networks are not functions that government entities are well suited to take on, as they require regular and expensive upgrades in order to function properly. Too late in the game, government officials realize the cost for such a project was grossly underestimated, and that they lack the necessary resources and expertise to remain up-to-date in such a rapidly changing industry.

Along with underestimated costs, demand for GONs is often grossly overestimated. Despite access to a GON, consumers often do not see a need to change providers and choose to remain with their trusted private sector providers. Underestimated costs and overestimated demand is a recipe for deficits that taxpayers will be forced to fill. This scenario has played out in a number of cities and towns across the U.S.

Take Bristol, Virginia, for example, where a $130 million GON was built despite private providers already serving the area. At an $80 million loss to the taxpayers, the city is now selling this GON for just $50 million. A similar episode aired in Tennessee in 2007, when a $32 million GON in Memphis was sold for just $11.5 million – a $20.5 million loss to taxpayers and public utility customers. GONs in dozens of other cities, including Tacoma, Washington; Groton, Connecticut; and Burlington, Vermont, have all ended in a similar tragedy.

If you need more than a track record of debt and failure to oppose a city-provided Internet service, concerns with GONs stem beyond unsustainable short and long term costs to taxpayers. There are a slew of risks associated with governments tampering with the market.

GONs unfairly compete with private providers because government entities can subsidize costs with tax dollars, and thus charge consumers below the cost of service. Private sector providers cannot do this, because it would drive them out of business. This discourages private providers from expanding and investing in areas where GONs are present, as their odds of success are hindered by unfair competition from an entity that doesn’t need to turn a profit. Since it is vigorous competition between providers that spurs innovation, improves quality of service and drives prices down, GONs leave consumers at risk for fewer choices, outmoded technology and deteriorating service.

Americans for Tax Reform opposes GONs, and urges city council members to vote against the city-owned Internet plan. If you have any questions, or if ATR can be of assistance, please contact me or Margaret Mire, ATR’s state affairs coordinator, at mmire@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform

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CA Vote Clears Path for Netflix Tax

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, 11:20 PM PERMALINK

Alameda, CA Voters Approve the “Utility Modernization Act”

Californians in Alameda could soon be forced to pay “Netflix taxes,” levied on online TV show and movie streamers.

That is because city voters approved local Measure K1, the Utility Modernization Act. The “Definitions” section of the measure clearly explains “video service provider” now includes those which provide “video services using internet protocol.”

Unfortunately for the taxpayers, proponents of Measure K1 downplayed this important aspect. Indeed, city officials claimed  “Netflix taxes” are not their intention, but why should anyone trust them?

Money-hungry lawmakers simply cannot resist the opportunity to target technological advances, which continue to make lives more convenient, as new sources of revenue.

This is already the case in Pasadena – one of roughly 40 municipalities in the Golden State with utility tax language similar to that of Measure K1 – where politicians are currently considering the “Netflix Tax.” And when Pasadena or any other California city begins taxing online streaming, what is to stop the city of Alameda from following suit?

More alarming is that “Netflix taxes” are only the beginning. These days, the lives of Americans are made more convenient thanks to technological advances, such as downloadable books, downloadable music, online video and virtual greeting cards.

Soon, lawmakers will be targeting these innovations as a way to rake in more hard-earned tax dollars. 


Tax-Hungry California Cities Threaten to Impose Netflix Tax

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Friday, October 14th, 2016, 2:18 PM PERMALINK

Local governments in CA should avoid the “Netflix tax”

Californians’ monthly Netflix bill may soon go up thanks to money-hungry government officials. 

Nearly 50 cities in The Golden State are interested in targeting online movie and TV streamers as a source of revenue through what is commonly known as the “Netflix tax.”

The “Netflix tax,” levied on online streaming subscriptions, is currently in place in just Chicago and Pennsylvania. Chicago’s 9% “amusement tax” was extended to include "cloud services" in July 2015, and Pennsylvania extended its 6 percent sales tax to digital downloads in August 2016.

Nationwide, lawmakers should take note: following the “Netflix tax” trend would be a horrible mistake. “Netflix taxes” are wrong on many levels, including in that they raise constitutional questions.

Indeed, in July of this year, Cook County Circuit Court judge, Anthony Walker, allowed a lawsuit against Chicago’s “cloud tax” to move forward. The lawsuit – filed by the Liberty Justice Center – asserts taxing Internet streaming services violates the commerce clause of the US Constitution, and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Unfortunately, concerns with the Netflix tax do not end there. “Netflix taxes” set a dangerous precedent for government to further intrude into our lives.

These days, books, music, and other forms of entertainment can be accessed more conveniently via the Internet. It will not be long before government starts targeting those services as well. This is already the case in Pennsylvania, as it extends its sales tax to downloadable books and music, online games, apps and e-greeting cards.

All of these items have made the lives of Americans more convenient. So, lawmakers should consider the repercussions of implementing such burdensome taxes on innovative businesses.

“Netflix taxes” and the like require businesses to stay on top of numerous taxing jurisdiction across the country. In California alone, for example, the cities considering taxing Netflix, Hulu, and other services would require businesses to collect and remit tax rates ranging from 1-11 percent.

By imposing such complexities on business operations, “Netflix taxes” make it more difficult for companies to succeed. With fewer creative businesses, Americans could have less access to technology that makes life easier.

And more immediately, hardworking Americans have already been dealt Obamacare’s 20 new or higher taxes over the last seven years. Many of them would like to come home from a hard day’s work and catch up on their favorite shows online without lawmakers are shaking money out of almost every activity of their lives.

 

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ATR, CWF Promote Right-to-Work in Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Posted by Margaret Mire on Friday, May 15th, 2015, 2:33 PM PERMALINK

Until recently, the economic benefits and personal freedoms of right-to-work were not available to Kentuckians because state lawmakers have blocked such laws. But late last year, this began to change thanks to brave local officials.

Starting with Warren County in December 2014, local authorities used Kentucky’s home rule statute – which gives significant economic development authority to Kentucky counties – to successfully pass a right-to-work ordinance. To date, 11 more counties have followed suit and even more are considering.

And no wonder. The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce reported that since Warren County became right-to-work, it has had interest from more than 40 companies, representing over $800 million in potential investment and 4,000 new jobs.

The Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) knows that as news of this economic success spreads, many Kentuckians would like to learn more about local-right-to-work and the truth about labor unions. So to help, and CWF will be hosting a town hall at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky to promote local-right-to-work.

The town hall will be held on Monday, May 18th and feature a panel of experts and lawmakers:

State Representative Jim DeCesare, 17th District, Warren, Butler counties

Jim Waters, President, Bluegrass Institute

Matt Patterson, Executive Director, Center for Worker Freedom

Ron Bunch, Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce

Jason Nemes, Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens PLC

Jon Crosby, Field Representative of Senator Rand Paul

The panel will educate workers, managers and business owners on the economic benefits of right-to-work, gives workers the freedom to decide whether or not they want to belong and pay dues to a union.

So come join us Monday for panel presentations from 6:00-7:00 PM CST and a Q&A from 7:00-7:30 PM CST. 

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IRS Does Not Need More Money

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Posted by Loren Long, Margaret Mire on Friday, October 3rd, 2014, 4:55 PM PERMALINK

A recent report issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reveals that the IRS collected more revenue in the fiscal year 2013 for the third consecutive year despite funding reductions made by Republicans.

Though the IRS conducted fewer audits, its gross collection peaked at $2.9 trillion in fiscal year 2013 while enforcement revenues increased by $3.1 billion between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013. Additionally, an increase in tax return fillings and gross accounts receivable, now $400 billion, was also reported.

Regarding delinquent accounts, the TIGTA report concluded that the IRS’collection function received more delinquent accounts than were closed.

An increase in revenue combined with a lack of control of delinquent accounts makes it apparent that the IRS has no problem enforcing its policies on hardworking American people, yet has no solid internal regulation of its own.

As the IRS budget continues to decrease due to a Republican-led Congress, the revenue continues to expand at a horrifying rate. The report of increasing IRS revenue comes at a time when frustrations with the IRS’ regulatory process are also continuing to grow. The Freedom of Information Act failures, coupled with the Breitbart investigation and Lois Lerner scandal prove that despite collecting more money than ever before, the IRS is rapidly losing the very-little internal regulation it had to begin with.

Unfortunately, with programs like ObamaCare, the IRS will continue to grow its revenue while becoming more intrusive and oppressive upon hardworking American taxpayers.

Will the IRS ever learn that an increasing budget does not equal more bureaucratic bias and government intrusiveness?  The continuous unraveling of the regulations of the Internal Revenue Service make it clear that, in fact, the agency does not need more money.

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ATR and COGC Support House's IRS Accountability Package


Posted by Margaret Mire on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014, 4:19 PM PERMALINK

The House of Representatives is poised to consider several bills that would increase accountability of the IRS and strengthen agency oversight.  ATR and the Cost of Government Center support these reforms, and encourage members to vote in favor of passage.

H.R. 5420 would amend the Internal Revenue Code to permit the release of information regarding the status of certain investigations.  Currently, victimized taxpayers whose confidential information has been inappropriately made public by the IRS are not required to be notified.  H.R. 5420 would restore victims' rights by ensuring taxpayers would not only be made aware of what confidential information has been leaked, but would also be apprised of the progress of the investigations involving their personal information.

H.R. 5418 would prohibit IRS officers and employees from using their personal email accounts to conduct official business.  Investigation into the targeting of individuals by the IRS has found that employees have been exposing confidential taxpayer information by conducting business using their personal email accounts.  H.R. 5418 would prohibit this risky behavior, and increase both taxpayer information security by also requiring a full record of business activity conducted.

H.R. 5419 would amend the Internal Revenue Code by providing the right to an administrative appeal relating to rejection of tax-exempt status.  Current practices do not allow groups that have been denied a tax-exempt status by the IRS to seek an appeal.  H.R. 5419 would rein in the ability of faceless bureaucrats to dictate the First Amendment rights of private citizens and allow groups the right to appeal these decisions.

H.R. 5169, The SES Accountability Act, would require senior officials to face the same disciplinary protocol as those they supervise.  Probationary periods would be lengthened and expeditious termination would be required of Senior Executive Service (SES) members who underperform and partake in misconduct.  Additionally, paid administrative leave for employees on notice of termination would no longer be described as a paid vacation.  Upon termination, SES members would be required to repay the government for paid administrative leave that was accumulated while on termination notice.  This would prevent higher-ranking officials from defending against abuse in their departments by claiming ignorance of subordinates’ activities.

H.R. 5170, The Federal Records Accountability Act, would create a process for removal of employees who intentionally destroy federal records.  H.R. 5170 would prevent the utilization of non-official messaging and email accounts to conduct official business unless messages are forwarded immediately to official business accounts.  This bill would require federal agencies to automatically capture both emails and instant messages, and to preserve all electronic records in an electronic format.  Finally, agencies would be required to disclose the loss of any federal records in agency custody on their public websites.

Americans for Tax Reform and the Cost of Government Center support these efforts to rein in abusive action by the IRS and increase accountability in federal agencies.  We encourage members to vote in support of these bills.

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