Mike Palicz

Sen. Mitt Romney states he’s “looking at” introducing a $2 trillion carbon tax.

Posted by Mike Palicz on Tuesday, August 20th, 2019, 7:22 PM PERMALINK

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said in a speech on Monday that he is “looking at” and “considering” a massive new carbon tax of “roughly $50 per ton,” an energy tax that would hike taxes by roughly $200 billion in year one and at least $2 trillion in a 10 year window. While Senator Romney stopped short of outright endorsing a carbon tax, his warmness towards the idea should be a cause for alarm to taxpayers.

For context of how radical a $50 per ton carbon tax would be, voters in the deep-blue state of Washington handily rejected a carbon that began at $15 per ton in a 2018 ballot initiative. Perhaps Romney thinks voters just want to be taxed at even higher rates.

In his speech, Romney outlined that this proposal would use 90% of the revenue to issue rebate checks to individuals “affected by the fact that they’re paying more in taxes.” The other 10% would be used to aid individuals in “coal country” and help them “get back on their feet” from the tax’s impact. I'm sure coal country will be relieved to hear a politician promising to pick them up after he kicks them down.

The proposal described by Romney closely mirrors the carbon tax “dividend” legislation introduced earlier this year by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Francis Rooney (R-FL). The Deutch-Rooney plan uses the carbon tax revenue to issue rebate checks back to individuals as an attempted offset for rising energy prices faced by consumers.

So let’s take a look at the details of the carbon tax “dividend” plan Romney is considering:

Contains anti-family provisions with children receiving only half of a credit and 18 year olds not counted as adults.

Taken directly from the legislative text:

“(B) PRO-RATA SHARE. —A carbon dividend payment is one pro-rata share for each adult, and half a pro-rata share for each child under 19 years old, of amounts available for the month in the Carbon Dividend Trust Fund.”

Do families spend less money on gas driving their kids to school or practice? Does it cost less money to heat and cool your home if you have more bedrooms? It’s inexplicable why the bill’s sponsors decided families only receive half of a credit per child.

Would cause significant damage to GDP growth.

According to a March report from the Congressional Research Service, a carbon tax and dividend plan set at $50 per metric ton (the same as described by Sen. Romney) would “yield GDP losses each year, ranging from 0.3% to 0.4%.” The report goes on to state that “if one were to add up the annual GDP losses (for example, over a 10-year period) from the lump-sum scenario compared to the baseline scenario, the resulting sum would be much larger.

Retirees will pay more taxes on their social security benefits

report published by the pro-carbon tax Citizens' Climate Lobby acknowledges the following:

"Over the income-related phase-in range for the taxation of social security benefits, each additional $1.00 of non-social security income causes an additional $0.50 or $0.85 of social security benefits to become taxable. In most situations, the ordinary income tax rate in the phase-in range is 10 percent; however, at some income levels, the rate is 12 percent. Thus, $1.00 of non-social security income -- including income from the Dividend -- will be taxed at effective marginal rates of 15 percent, 18 percent, or 22.2 percent."

It even imposes income tax on the carbon tax "dividend." 

The rebate checks the government would send back to individuals will count as taxable income. Americans would be forced to pay taxes on apology checks sent by the government for raising taxes in the first place. At tax time, Americans would have to deal with carbon tax paperwork for each member of their family. Here it is straight from the bill’s text:

 “(D) FEE TREATMENT OF PAYMENTS. -- Amounts paid under this subsection shall be includible in gross income.

A tax on a tax, which will likely increase the complexity of your annual tax filing. Here's an idea -- how about not taking the money from taxpayers in the first place?

Greases the skids for a European-style Value Added Tax, a cash cow for big government by erecting a complex carbon tax border adjustment scheme.

It should be noted again that Sen. Romney did stop short of endorsing a carbon tax. However, his self-stated openness to a multi-trillion dollar tax hike is certainly concerning. Americans for Tax Reform urges Sen. Romney to reconsider his apparent interest in carbon taxes and join the 90 conservative and free-market organizations who oppose ANY form of a carbon tax.

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Lawmakers Should Oppose the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act

Posted by Mike Palicz on Wednesday, July 24th, 2019, 3:52 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform encourages lawmakers to oppose H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act.

Congress should instead focus on enacting meaningful reform that addresses multiemployer pension plan funding, secures solvency of the PBGC and minimizes the burden placed upon taxpayers.

As ATR has previously noted, the multiemployer pension plan (MPP) crisis will require Congressional action to prevent somewhere between 1 million and 10 million plan beneficiaries from losing the majority of their pension benefits. With an unfunded liability over $600 billion, MPPs are set to begin failing at significant levels in the next 6 years and the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) is scheduled to reach insolvency by 2025. Congress has a narrow window to address this crisis and the longer lawmakers wait to reform MPPs, the larger the problem becomes.

Unfortunately, H.R. 397 fails to enact meaningful reform to the funding rules governing MPPs and enables a failing system to continue the same practices which brought us to the present crisis.

H.R. 397 would simply provide 30-year loans and new financial assistance in the form of grants to financially troubled multiemployer pension plans with few protections for taxpayers. H.R. 397 fails to secure workers’ benefits in the long-run and would only necessitate further government intervention in the future.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 397 would cost taxpayers over $67 billion over the next decade. However, this number is likely to be significantly higher as the CBO score only accounts for a 10-year window rather than the 30-year repayment timeframe outlined in the legislation.

While promises were made to participants in multiemployer plans, they were made by private labor unions, not the government and certainly not taxpayers. Given the lack of guardrails surrounding these loans combined with the history of failed pension plans, there are few reasons to believe these loans would ever be paid back, making H.R. 397 an effective taxpayer bail out for MPPs.

ATR encourages lawmakers to vote “NO” on H.R. 397 and instead enact meaningful reform aimed at addressing the long-term stability of MPPs.  A list of possible reforms can be found in ATR’s letter to the Joint Select Committee on Multiemployer Pension Solvency from last Congress.

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ATR Joins Free Market Coalition Supporting Trump’s CAFE Reform

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Friday, July 12th, 2019, 12:23 PM PERMALINK

A coalition of 30 free market organizations sent a letter to President Trump yesterday voicing full support for his administration’s proposed rule to reform the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate.

The coalition was comprised of leading conservative and free market think tanks and organizations including Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks and the American Energy Alliance along with a host of state-based think tanks from across the country.

In the letter, the signing organizations urged the President to revoke the waiver granted to the state of California under President Obama which allowed California to effectively dictate national standards at the expense of car buyers.

 Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, issued the following statement:

“California bureaucrats should not decide what kind of cars and trucks Americans are allowed to drive. That decision rightly belongs to consumers, not regulators. Californians may have to live under the thumb of California politicians and bureaucrats but no one in Iowa or Michigan voted for California’s nanny state rules.

Allowing the government of California to dictate national standards for the rest of the country has led to higher vehicle prices for consumers while forcing them to subsidize vehicles preferred by California’s regulators. ATR urges President Trump to maintain his stance on reforming the federal fuel mandate and to revoke the special waiver granted to California under the Obama administration.”

The full content of the letter and list of signatories can be read here.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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Tom Steyer, Billionaire Carbon Tax Activist, Enters 2020 Presidential Race

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019, 1:06 PM PERMALINK

Democratic megadonor and radical environmental activist Tom Steyer on Tuesday officially entered the crowded field for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Steyer is best know for launching the political organization NextGen America, which has raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on progressive issues throughout the country. His political activism has ranged from funding carbon tax campaigns and renewable energy mandates to his “Need to Impeach” initiative which has poured millions into a lobbying effort aimed at convincing lawmakers to impeach President Trump.

In the 2018 elections, Steyer fronted a $15.2 million failed effort to establish a carbon tax in Washington State and spent nearly $18 million trying to pass a renewable energy mandate in Arizona, a campaign which also ended in defeat. Both of these efforts would have raised household energy prices for consumers while disproportionately impacting poor Americans who spend a greater share of their income on energy than wealthier Americans.

Steyer has also praised Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution, calling it “extremely successful” and said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez deserves “enormous credit” for introducing the Green New Deal.

In his announcement, Steyer pledged to focus his campaign on climate change and to spend at least $100 million on his campaign.

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell

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Trump EPA takes step forward in push to withdraw preemptive veto of Alaska’s Pebble Mine

Posted by Mike Palicz on Thursday, June 27th, 2019, 6:06 PM PERMALINK

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced it is resuming consideration of withdrawing the 2014 preemptive veto against Pebble Mine issued under the Obama Administration.

EPA General Counsel Matthew Leopold issued a memo EPA General Counsel, Matthew Leopold, directing staff to resume “consideration whether to withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination” while citing the agencies responsibility to reduce “confusion and uncertainty surrounding arcane regulatory processes.”

ATR President Grover Norquist Reacts:

"Americans for Tax Reform applauds the EPA's decision to resume consideration of withdrawing the Obama Administration's unprecedented preemptive veto of Pebble Mine. Pebble Mine, like all other projects, should be evaluated based upon a proper and well-established environmental review process. Instead, the Obama Administration chose to abuse and weaponize its authority under the Clean Water Act to block Pebble Mine's development before a permitting application was even submitted. Yesterday's announcement from General Counsel Matthew Leopold is a step forward towards restoring a consistent, fair and rational permitting process at the EPA. The Trump EPA now has a chance to right the wrongs of the past and withdraw the Obama Administration's unprecedented preemptive veto. ATR encourages them to do so."

A broad coalition of conservative groups has publicly urged the Trump EPA to rescind the Obama Administration’s unprecedented preemptive veto of Pebble Mine. While the preemptive veto is still left in place after this announcement, yesterday's move is widely considered a prelude to withdrawing the veto entirely.

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Trump EPA finalizes Affordable Clean Energy Rule, replacing Obama’s unlawful Clean Power Plan.

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

Today, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the finalized Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule which repeals the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The Obama EPA’s CPP was intentionally designed to regulate away coal from our nation’s energy portfolio with the ultimate goal of eliminating traditional forms of energy, resulting in higher prices for consumers.

The CPP was regulatory overreach at its worst as the Obama EPA exceeded its authority given by Congress under the Clean Air Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court was forced to issue a stay of the CPP and blocked it from ever actually being implemented.

The Trump EPA’s ACE Rule repeals the unlawful CPP and correctly returns power back to the states while restoring the EPA to its proper regulatory role under the Clean Air Act.

The ACE rule creates guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit emissions at their coal-fired power plants by identifying heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction (BSER). States are given 3 years to submit plans ensuring flexibility and adequate time for development.

The EPA projects that ACE Rule will result in annual net benefits of $120 million to $730 million, including costs, domestic climate benefits, and health co-benefits.

“Today, we are delivering on one of President Trump’s core priorities: ensuring the American public has access to affordable, reliable energy in a manner that continues our nation’s environmental progress,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford.”

ATR applauds the Trump EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule which puts more power back in the hands of the states and the private sector. This is a win for advocates of smaller government and consumers who want reliable and affordable energy.

Photo Credit: Maine Public Broadcasting

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House Democrats Plan New Traffic Tax

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Thursday, December 13th, 2018, 11:00 AM PERMALINK

Democrats have an idea to make bumper-to-bumper traffic worse; tax drivers more when they’re sitting in traffic.

Incoming House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is planning to propose a new tax that would penalize drivers by taxing them at a higher rate when they experience traffic. 

The traffic tax would be part of a new pilot program for a “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) tax which would replace the federal gas tax and instead charge motorists based on a per-mile fee.

In order for a VMT system to work, GPS systems would be installed in vehicles which would track vehicle movement and measure miles traveled in order to calculate the tax. Rep. DeFazio would then use the guise of replacing the gas tax with a VMT tax to charge differential rates based on highway congestion.

"The only fair way to do VMT is with congestion pricing. You shouldn't charge a farmer who has to travel 20 miles to the feed store the same per-mile fee as someone who jumps on 205 in Portland and causes a backup," DeFazio said.

To be clear, DeFazio isn’t talking about creating new toll lanes or raising toll prices to reduce highway congestion. He is instead talking about installing a tracking system in your car that would monitor your vehicle’s movement and location at every moment, transmit this information to federal agencies, and then tax you based upon how busy traffic is when you’re driving.

Such a form of congestion pricing is a deeply regressive form of taxation that would be exponentially more detrimental to the working poor who spend a higher percentage of their income commuting to work. DeFazio’s traffic tax would also disproportionally tax suburban and rural drivers who use highways more frequently and commute further to work than individuals in urban areas.

Apart from the inherent unfairness of the tax and obvious privacy concerns of having the federal government collect information on every driver’s whereabouts, the point of taxation would be deeply unpopular with voters.

Imagine the frustration you’d experience when you’re late for work because road construction is causing traffic delays while at that same moment knowing the government is charging you more money for the pleasure.  

Photo Credit: Martin Kleppe

New WOTUS Rule Ends Obama-Era Overreach

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Tuesday, December 11th, 2018, 11:43 AM PERMALINK

President Trump has delivered on his commitment to end a major federal overreach of the Obama Administration.

This afternoon, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its new proposed rule to define “waters of the United States”, a move by the administration to end the Obama EPA’s effort to expand the federal government’s control over local land use decisions.

Obama’s 2015 rule extended the application of the Clean Water Act (CWA) to authorize unelected bureaucrats to regulate effectively any standing body of water and the lands next to it. Obama’s rule had nothing to do with clean water and everything to do grabbing power for the federal government to hold over farmers and private businesses.

The newly proposed definition is designed to end years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends, giving much needed clarity to property owners. Under this new definition, landowners will be able to understand whether a project on their land requires federal permitting without having to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees and years in court.

“My goal for this is so that any property owner can stand on his or her property and be able to tell for themselves whether or not they have a federal waterway on their property without having to hire a lawyer or an outside consultant,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Americans for Tax Reform applauds this move by the Trump Administration. Today’s proposal puts power back in the hands of elected officials while allowing taxpayers and business owners to spend less time and money deciding if they need federal approval to run their own land.

Photo Credit: Matthew Peoples

Trump Dismantles Obama's Unlawful Energy Regulations

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Tuesday, August 21st, 2018, 2:39 PM PERMALINK

Today, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dealt a major blow to the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s radical climate agenda.

The Trump EPA began the process of replacing Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) by proposing their own regulatory framework, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Plan. The CPP was the administrative state at its worst. In its creation, the Obama EPA used a groundless reading of the Clean Air Act to coerce states to adopt sweeping plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, doing so by threatening the flow of federal highway funds to states. This clear abuse even led Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe, President Obama’s legal mentor, to argue that the CPP “is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority.”

The legal standing of Obama’s CPP was so unsound that the Supreme Court blocked its implementation in early 2016 and has since never gone into effect.

Aside from its unlawfulness and clear governmental overreach, the CPP was an economic nightmare. The CPP was projected to cause a 12 to 17 percent increase in electricity prices and would’ve decreased household spending power between $64 and $79 billion, with annual compliance costs projected to reach up to $73 billion. The economic impact on businesses and families would’ve been crippling.

Thankfully, the Trump administration has been dedicated to repealing CPP. On October 2017, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the EPA’s intent to begin scaling back the CPP by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Now, after the laboriously sifting through the 270,000 public comments received, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler rolled out EPA’s ACE Plan to replace the CPP.

The ACE Plan focuses on giving states more authority over regulating emissions and lengthens to timeframe states have to submit emission reducing plans from nine months to three years, allowing for appropriate flexibility. The proposal also defines the best system of emissions reduction for greenhouse gases as improving heat-rate efficiency at individual power plants. This approach is designed to make it easier for power plants to upgrade equipment. According to the EPA’s estimate, replacing the CPP with the ACE rule will net $3.4 billion in benefits, including $400 million annually, and could save up to $6.4 billion in compliance costs.

The announcement of the ACE Plan marks a significant roll-back of President Obama’s climate agenda and a major check on the Obama Administration’s overreach. Paired with Trump’s withdrawal of the Paris climate agreement and correction to the CAFE Standards, the ACE Plan is a continuation of much needed reform to the Obama climate agenda that shackled the American economy for eight years.  

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

ATR Applauds the Trump Administration's Plan to Correct Obama's CAFE Power Grab

Posted by Mike Palicz on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018, 4:34 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform applauds the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their newly proposed rule that would freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels. The proposal retracts the Obama administration’s decision to allow California to impose their own regulations on automobile emissions, which effectively ensured national standards are tied to California’s environmental agenda.

The Trump administration’s proposal corrects the Obama-era regulation which abandoned the formal rule making process in a midnight regulatory push meant to solidify unreasonable fuel-efficiency standards on cars and light-duty trucks. The Obama administration even failed to consult the Office of Management and Budget as is required. Trump’s EPA and DOT have rightly halted such abuses and are moving forward with a public comment period. The proposal’s end goal is establishing a single national CAFE standard that improves vehicle safety and reduces costs on consumers.

Washington bureaucrats shouldn’t have the power to decide what kind of car Americans can drive. By limiting the types of automobiles on the market, Obama’s CAFE standards significantly raise prices by forcing automakers to manufacture expensive automobiles that consumers do not want to purchase.

A study conducted by the Heritage Foundation concluded that the Obama CAFE standards are adding at least $3,800 to the average cost of a new car. In their current form, the fuel-efficiency standards simply leave too many Americans priced out from owning the vehicle they want. Consumers will benefit greatly from the Trump administration’s proposal. According to the EPA’s press release, the new proposal’s plan to freeze standards at 2020 levels will save $2,340  to the average cost of owning a new car.

ATR strongly supports the Trump administration’s correction of the fuel economy standards and applauds this effort to protect consumers from one of the most overreaching regulations of the Obama administration.

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