Patrick M. Gleason

A Little Hiccup in Rendell's Pursuit of Higher Taxes in Pennsylvania

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 8:33 AM PERMALINK

A wrench was thrown into Gov. Rendell’s tax-hiking plans on Tuesday when his fellow Democrats in the PA House realized they didn’t have the votes to pass his proposed $320 million in higher taxes on natural gas and tobacco products. The legislative vehicle for Rendell’s tax hikes, HB 325, was subsequently pulled from the floor and sent back to the House Appropriations Committee to settle some issues that, as Rendell put it, “need to be ironed out.”

The point of contention amongst the Democratic caucus isn’t whether taxes should go up, but rather, how to divvy up the bounty when they are done looting more money from Keystone State taxpayers and employers.

The crux of the dispute is how to allocate the more than $140 million that the proposed severance tax on natural gas is estimated to generate. Rendell and Democratic leadership are calling for most that revenue to go to state coffers, with the rest divided among local governments. Rank and file House Democrats, led by Rep. David Levdansky, are calling for an even split between state and local coffers. The remainder of the $320 million in higher taxes would come from tax hikes on tobacco products and elimination of the 1-percent vendor discount.

Yesterday, during an afternoon press conference, Rendell announced that he will resume meetings with the four legislative caucuses to try and reach and agreement. There is some speculation over the prospect of Senate Republicans coming back and passing what reporters are calling “Son of ‘850’,” a tax hike free budget similar to SB 850, which Senate Republicans put forth last year. Asked if he was concerned about Senate Republicans doing this and then pulling off enough Dems in the House to pass it – Rendell shrugged it off and made clear that such action would be met by his veto pen. Rendell wants to raise taxes and he doesn’t care if it takes all summer.

ATR would support passage of a “Son of ‘850’” and continues to urge lawmakers to craft a budget that does not include tax increases. The House is expected to take up the budget again early next week. With the budget deadline two weeks away, now is the time for Pennsylvanians to contact their representatives in Harrisburg and urge them to oppose Rendell’s irresponsible budget, which raises taxes, increases spending, and makes the state more reliant on a federal government that is $13 trillion in the red. Click here for a copy of the letter that ATR sent to Pennsylvania lawmakers last week.

ATR urges Pennsylvania taxpayers to take action today and contact thier legislators by simply clicking HERE.

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Rick Perry to Obama's EPA: Don't mess with Texas

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010, 9:18 AM PERMALINK

The following article by Patrick Gleason, ATR's Director of State Affairs, was published in The Daily Caller this morning:

Much of the current focus on the EPA these days surrounds its move to be the largest regulator of the nation’s economy by treating carbon as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. As controversial and arduous a task as that may be, it hasn’t precluded the agency from finding time to go after the most prosperous state in the nation. After years of threatening to do so, the EPA recently announced plans to take over Texas’ air quality permitting system.

Since 1994, Texas has operated under a flex permitting system whereby overall emission caps are established for power plants and petrochemical facilities in the state. The caps are applied to each facility as a whole and it is up to management to abide by these limits. The system has served Texas well, improving air quality during a time in which the state has experience rapid economic and population growth. Sounds like a model that federal officials would hold up for other states to consider, right? Not so much.

To continue reading, CLICK HERE.

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For Rendell, "Manning-Up" Means Stealing More Money from Penn. Families and Employers

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, June 14th, 2010, 11:15 AM PERMALINK

“Man up.” That was Gov. Ed Rendell’s message to Keystone State lawmakers last week at an event launching his statewide tour promoting the state’s tax amnesty program (you know – the program that creeped out the nation with Orwellian threats from the PA Department of Revenue).

However, Rendell’s idea of what it is to “man up” is a little different than how you or I may think of it. Rather making tough decisions about necessary spending cuts (Read: actually governing), Rendell’s definition of “manning up” entails raiding the pocket books of Pennsylvania taxpayers - the same Pennsylvania taxpayers who had to work 226 whole days last year just to pay for the cost of PA’s bloated state government and who just had hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes imposed upon them last year.

When Rendell claims that legislative Republicans are obstructionists and that tax increases are necessary, know that is a lie. In fact, House Republicans have proposed a series of reforms that would bring state spending within anticipated revenues without more job killing tax increases. The Commonwealth Foundation has also proposed a host of common-sense and much needed reforms that will rectify the state’s overspending problem.

While House Republicans remain in steadfast opposition to tax increases, sources at the PA Capitol have expressed concern that Senate Republicans, who hold a 30-20 majority in that chamber, may cave in to pressure from Rendell at the end of the day. If there is ever a time when the public understands that the taxpayer well is dry and that the state can’t spend what it doesn’t have – now is that time. If Senate Republicans can’t stand up to Rendell’s bully tactics now, they never will. ATR encourages Pennsylvania taxpayers to contact their Senator today and urge them to hold the line against Rendell’s tax hikes.

The deadline by which lawmakers must pass a budget is June 30. However, don’t expect that to be met. It hasn’t been met once during Rendell’s entire tenure in office and last year the budget wasn’t finalized until 101 days after the deadline. It looks like legislators might need to prepare for another long, hot summer in Harrisburg.

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Supporters of South Carolina Tobacco Tax Hike Still Don't Get It

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010, 2:13 PM PERMALINK

The Charleston Post-Courier ran an article yesterday calling into question whether the South Carolina legislature is moving away from their limited government, anti-tax hike tendencies in light of the 50 cent per pack cigarette tax increase that the legislature approved last month with an override of Gov. Sanford’s veto.

The article noted that in voting for this 714% rate hike, 19 legislators broke their Taxpayer Protection Pledges, a written promise they made to their constituents to oppose all tax increases. Apparently at least one lawmaker was confused as to the commitment he made to constituents. In the article, the Post-Courier notes:

“Rep. Kenneth Bingham, R-Lexington, is one of the legislators that Americans for Tax Reform has said broke the no-tax pledge. Bingham said he signed the pledge during his House campaign in 1999 but did not re-sign for later terms, unaware that he would be held to it for life.”

No, Bingham is not held to his Pledge for life. But he is bound by the Pledge for the duration of his tenure in the office for which he signed. This is no secret and not unreasonable by any measure when one considers this was a central campaign promise that he ran on. In fact, ATR informs all legislators and candidates of this every election cycle.

Bingham wasn’t the only legislator to make questionable statements to the Post-Courier. Rep. Chip Limehouse said that he voted for the bill because viewed it as “a worthwhile inroad against a dangerous habit.”

The fact is, if Limehouse’s goal was simply to curb smoking, he could’ve have done so in a way that didn’t raise taxes by supporting a revenue neutral bill. In fact, Gov. Sanford made it clear that he would have signed a cigarette tax hike, so long as it was offset with tax relief elsewhere. That Limehouse and his colleagues refused to send Sanford such a bill proves that this was all about more money for the government and not about public health, or the kids, or any of the other warm and fuzzy, but false, reasons given by Limehouse and his fellow tax hikers.

Lawmakers also used this tax hike to further game the dysfunctional federal matching fund system; allowing the state to draw down as much as a 3-1 federal match. As if passing a massive tax increase (which will be borne mostly by the state’s poorest) amidst skyrocketing unemployment and a down economy weren’t bad enough, the Palmetto State will now be further dependent on a federal government that is over $12 trillion in debt.

Call the Republicans who overrode Sanford’s veto what you want, just don’t call them conservative. South Carolina voters will have the opportunity to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions in next Tuesday’s primary. All four Republican gubernatorial candidates have signed the Pledge. For the list of challengers who have signed, CLICK HERE. For the list of incumbent Pledge signers, CLICK HERE.

California Assembly set to vote on statewide bag ban this week

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010, 10:34 AM PERMALINK

The California Assembly is set to hold a final vote this week on Assembly Bill 1998, legislation that would ban plastic and paper shopping bags at supermarkets, retailers, and conveniences stores statewide.

As I pointed out in a piece that ran in Big Government last month, all of the claims and assertions made by bag ban proponents are either false or without merit. First, there is no proof that a bag ban will provide any environmental benefit or reduce litter. In fact, after San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban plastic bags in 2007, litter audits found plastic bags comprised a greater percentage of street litter after the ban. The stated goal of this legislation is to “reduce the environmental….and societal costs resulting from the production, use, and discard of single-use plastic carryout bags.” If that is the case, it should be incumbent upon AB 1998’s proponents to show support for their claim that a bag ban will improve the environment and reduce litter. They have not.

It’s hard to imagine California becoming even less business friendly, but that would be the result if AB 1998 is passed. In addition to creating a whole new series of regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic red tape for businesses to contend with, this bill would create what amounts to a veritable reusable bag Gestapo, authorized to go around to supermarkets and retailers to test reusable bags in order to make sure they meet the requirements of AB 1998 and assess penalties and fines.

This bill, in conjunction with the billions in higher taxes Assembly Democrats have called for, is sending a clear message to employers (both present and prospective) that California is not a good place start a business, invest, or create jobs and only looks to get worse based on the proposals coming out of Sacramento.

Friday is the deadline by which all bills must be passed out of their chamber of origin. So if the Assembly doesn’t pass AB 1998 this week, it’s dead. ATR urges Californians to contact their representatives in the Assembly today and tell them to vote “NO” on AB 1998. To do so, simply CLICK HERE.

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Lying, Stealing, Earn California Lawmakers Prestigious Award

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010, 8:04 AM PERMALINK

Yesterday the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation bestowed four California state legislators – Senator Dave Cogdill, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assemblyman Mike Villines, and former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass – with the JFK Profile in Courage Award.

It turns out it’s “courageous” for politicians, despite a recession and rising unemployment, to impose the largest state-level tax increase in history. At least, that is what the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation would have you believe, as the instrumental role played by the aforementioned four in passing last year’s tax-hike laden budget was the cause for their award.

It also must now be courageous to go against a central campaign committment to constituents, which Villines and Cogdill did in voting for a budget that raised taxes by $11 billion and did nothing to address the state's structural deficit.

For their part in making California the nation’s leader in raising taxes last year, Schwarzenegger lauded Cogdill, Villines, Steinberg, and Bass as “real action heroes.”

So the courageousness of these “heroes” must’ve saved the day, right?

Not so much.

Schwarzenegger actually had to deliver his congrats by video yesterday because he is currently stuck in California…..dealing with yet another budget crisis. It appears that the “courageousness” of Villines, Cogdill, Steinberg, and Bass solved nothing and only served to put off necessary reforms and spending cuts.

Dealing with what is now an approximately $20 billion deficit, it turns out the Senate Democratic caucus is comprised entirely of what Schwarzenegger would classify as heroes.

Yesterday Senate Democrats proposed raising taxes by nearly $5 billion. In addition to extending last year’s income and car tax hikes, Senate Dems’ plan calls for taxing e-commerce and indexing the state alcohol tax to inflation (AKA putting tax increases on auto-pilot).

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Raising DC's Income Tax Would Take Heavy Toll on Small Businesses

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, May 20th, 2010, 7:09 PM PERMALINK

What’s more ridiculous than lawmakers dressing up in capes to demonstrate support for higher income taxes? The fact that they do not understand who will be affected by their actions.

As DC City Council works to finish up a budget before the May 27 deadline, one of the many tax increases being pushed by Council members (in this case Graham, Brown, Wells, and Thomas) is the creation of two new top individual income tax rates of 9% for those earning between $200,000 and $1 million per year and 9.4% for income earned beyond that.

Sold as a tax hike on the rich only, raising taxes on high earners is politically expedient for lawmakers. This soak the rich approach is nothing new. It has been quite popular at the state level over the past two years, during which eight states raised taxes on upper-income individuals and families. However, this misses the devastating toll that such a rate hike would have on small businesses, many of which file under the individual income tax system.

Based on analysis of IRS data, approval of the two new top rates that City Council members are calling for would raise taxes on 5,114 small businesses in the District that file under the individual income tax system. This does not even include the many small business owners of S-corporations and partnerships who earn this amount of income. 

For the sake of DC small businesses and the jobs they create, let’s hope this proposal suffers the same fate as Council member Cheh’s soda tax.

For a pdf of ATR's press release on the matter, Click Here

Philadelphia City Council Scheduled to Vote this Week on Proposed Tax Hikes

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 4:48 PM PERMALINK

District of Columbia residents aren’t the only ones facing the threat of a new tax on soda. The Philadelphia City Council, currently in the last stage of budget negotiations, will soon make a final decision on Mayor Nutter’s soda tax and proposals to raise taxes on property and tobacco.

Late last week the City Council gave preliminary approval to new taxes on tobacco products and a 9.9% property tax increase. Property tax critics contend, and ATR agrees, that it is ill-advised to raise the levy given the city’s problematic property tax assessment system. Mayor Nutter himself has admitted that the assessment system is flawed.

While the Council did not act on Mayor Nutter’s beloved soda tax last week, he has not given up. As budget deliberations near a conclusion this week, Mayor Nutter is engaging in a full court press for his beloved soda tax, failure of which will be considered a major political defeat for Nutter. Unable to receive initial sign off from the Council last week, Nutter is ramping up his lobbying efforts but has ratcheted down his proposal from 2 cents per ounce to ¾-cent per ounce.

It’s clear that the problem here is spending, not taxes. Philadelphia is the most highly taxed city in the U.S. and City Council just imposed a 14% sales tax hike less than nine months ago. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, yet this is how the Philly City Council continues to operate.

ATR encourages Philly taxpayers to contact their City Council members and tell them to vote “NO” on all pending tax increases. Simply CLICK HERE to make your voice heard today.

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Washington Post Has it Right - DC City Council Must Avoid Raising Taxes

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, May 17th, 2010, 8:07 PM PERMALINK

It’s a rare thing for the Washington Post editorial board and ATR to agree on matters of public policy; so when it happens, it worth pointing out. Yesterday’s Washington Post included a an editorial arguing that Mayor Fenty and the DC City Council should cut spending and not raise taxes in their effort to close a half a billion dollar deficit.

The WaPo editorial correctly points out that the proposed tax increases on an array of goods and services such as soda, income, sporting event tickets, gym memberships, pre-paid wireless minutes and even vacant property “would place new burdens on Washingtonians while placing the District at a competitive disadvantage with its suburban neighbors.”

While they are correct, it’s too bad they didn’t point this out last year when the DC City Council raised the cigarette tax to a level higher than Maryland’s and well above that of its other neighbor, Virginia. The competitive disadvantage created by that levy hike actually had a negative impact on District coffers. Similarly, while the proposed soda tax won’t improve public health, it will certainly be a boon to VA and MD retailers at the expense of DC businesses. Same goes for the proposed taxes on pre-paid wireless minutes and gym memberships, which won’t resolve the District’s budget woes but will boost the bottom line for cellular retailers and gyms in Maryland and Virginia.

It appears the Washington Post has learned its lesson on the adverse effects of raising taxes, hopefully DC council members have as well. ATR urges Washingtonians to contact their Council member today and urge them to reject calls for higher taxes as they work to complete the budget by the May 27 budget deadline.

Take action today: Simply CLICK HERE to contact your representative on the City Council and make your voice heard!

See below for your Council member's contact information:

Vincent C. Gray, Council Chairman
Tel:  (202) 724-8032

David A. Catania, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-7772

Phil Mendelson, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8064

Kwame R. Brown, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8174

Michael A. Brown, Councilmember (At-Large)
Tel:  (202) 724-8105

Jim Graham, Councilmember (Ward 1)
Tel:  (202) 724-8181

Jack Evans, Councilmember (Ward 2)
Tel:  (202) 724-8058

Mary M. Cheh, Councilmember (Ward 3)
Tel:  (202) 724-8062

Muriel Bowser, Councilmember (Ward 4)
Tel:  (202) 724-8052

Harry Thomas, Jr., Councilmember (Ward 5)
Tel:  (202) 724-8028

Tommy Wells, Councilmember (Ward 6)
Tel:  (202) 724-8072

Yvette M. Alexander, Councilmember (Ward 7)
Tel:  (202) 724-8068

Marion Barry, Councilmember (Ward 8)
Tel:  (202) 724-8045

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California Candidates Pledge to Rein in Taxes and Spending

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, May 17th, 2010, 12:45 PM PERMALINK

The following was originally published this morning on The Flash Report, the preeminent political news source in California:


Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

Every election cycle Americans for Tax Reform asks all candidates for state legislature to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise that candidates and incumbents make to voters and constituents to “oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.” The simplest utility of the Pledge is that it allows all voters to know where candidates stand on two key issues of the day: taxes and spending.

The good news is that Pledge takers tend to keep their commitment and when they fail, punishment has been swift from voters and fellow legislators; the most prominent example being George H.W. Bush’s broken “read my lips” statement and voters’ subsequent denial of a second term in 1992. When Senator Cogdill and Assemblyman Villines broke their Pledges last year by voting for the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, they were appropriately removed from their leadership posts. The Pledge will certainly help those trying to decide on a preferred candidate for Lt. Governor this year. While it was unfortunate that Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado broke his Pledge when he cast the deciding vote for last year’s budget, at least it will be clear to voters that his word is worthless.

To continue reading Grover's piece in today's Flash Report, Click Here.

To read Flash Report publisher Jon Fleischman's commentary on the importance of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in California, Click Here.

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