Patrick M. Gleason

Internet Access Tax Dies in the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009, 10:04 PM PERMALINK

The following was cross-posted on www.stopetaxes.com.

What a difference almost two weeks makes. 13 days ago HB 569, legislation that would have resulted in the nation's first internet access tax, quietly saled through the House by a vote of 82-9. Since that vote ATR and other allies worked hard to educate senators, the public, and the media about the misguided nature and adverse consequence of this legislation.

After a lengthy and spirited debate in today's Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee hearing, HB 569 was deferred by a 5-0 vote, essentially killing the bill in the legislative session's waning days.

This development represents a huge victory for Pelican State taxpayers. Not only were Louisianans spared the threat of the nation's first internet access tax, they avoided further squandering of their taxpayer dollars on what would have been an inevitable legal challenge.  As ATR has repeatedly pointed out throughout this debate, HB 569 ran afoul of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2007.

With this coming on the heels of this week's defeat a tobacco tax hike in the house, 2009 can be considered, overall, a fairly successful session for Louisiana taxpayers.

 

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Louisiana Senate Commerce Commitee Considers Internet Tax


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009, 6:12 AM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted on www.stopetaxes.com

The Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing this morning on House Bill 569, legislation that would impose a new tax on internet access.

The internet has been an invaluable driver of economic growth and job creation, making a tax on internet access particularly onerous. Furthermore, it is preempted by federal law.

In testimony to the commerce committee and in a letter to the entire Senate, ATR noted that perhaps most troubling is the fact that HB 569 represents an attempt to circumvent federal law. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, passed by Congress in 1998 and reauthorized in 2007, prevents states from enacting taxes on internet access.  Calling this tax hike a “fee” in an attempt to bypass federal law is misleading and would invite significant and costly legal challenge for Louisiana if adopted. The contracting economy has presented many budgetary challenges for the Pelican State. In such an environment, it would be foolish to pass legislation that would inevitably require the state to expend taxpayer funds to not only defend the case, but pay the plaintiffs attorneys’ fees if the law is struck down.

ATR staff will be on hand at the hearing today. Stay tuned to this website for further updates. For more frequent updates from the hearing, follow ATR's state affairs manager, Patrick Gleason, on twitter: @patrickmgleason

Below is the full letter that ATR sent to the Louisiana Senate.

 
 
Dear Chairman Duplessis and Members of the Commerce Committee,
 
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), I am contacting you today to express strong opposition House Bill 569, legislation that would impose a new tax on internet access.
 
The monthly 15 cent tax that this bill, if passed, would levy on internet access is ostensibly for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting internet crimes. While this is a laudable goal, there are many ways to fund such an effort without resorting to a $2.4 million tax increase in the middle of a recession.
 
Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that HB 569 represents an attempt to circumvent federal law. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, passed by Congress in 1998 and reauthorized in 2007, prevents states from enacting taxes on internet access.  Calling this tax hike a “fee” in an attempt to bypass federal law is misleading and would invite significant and costly legal challenge for Louisiana if adopted. The contracting economy has presented many budgetary challenges for the Pelican State. In such an environment, it would be foolish to pass legislation that would likely require the state to expend taxpayer funds to not only defend the case, but pay the plaintiffs attorneys’ fees if the law is struck down.
 
While all tax increases should be avoided, especially in an economic downturn, a new tax on internet access would be particularly onerous. The internet has been an invaluable driver of economic growth and job creation. As such, any level of tax placed on access to the internet would have an economically deleterious effect.
 
Furthermore, this tax would set a horrible precedent. There is an endless limit to noble causes politicians may claim necessitate a new tax. Pelican State residents already work 187 days out of the year paying for the cost of government services and regulation. If something is a priority, make it one by funding it with current revenues. Claiming that a new tax is needed is an admission that the cause to be funded by that tax is the lowest priority on the totem poll.
 
The Internet has survived and thrived because the government has thus far been forced to keep its hands off of it. It is the last, best example of a truly free market left in this country and this bill before the committee today would be a step in the wrong direction for the Louisiana economy and online community.
 
As you continue to weigh options to address spending priorities, I urge you to stand up for Louisiana taxpayers and oppose all tax increases. If you have any questions, please contact ATR’s State Affairs Manager, Patrick Gleason at pgleason@atr.org.
 
Sincerely,
Grover G. Norquist
 
CC: Governor Bobby Jindal

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31 Flavors of New Tax Proposals for California


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason, Kimberly Moogalian on Thursday, June 11th, 2009, 5:12 PM PERMALINK

In last month’s special election, California voters sent a clear message that the taxpayer well has run dry and lawmakers need to address the GoldenState’s overspending problem.

That message apparently did not get through to the union thugs that control California DemocratsDespite already being one of the highest tax states in the country, AFSCME is proposing more new taxes, thirty-one new taxes to be specific.  They claim they have found a whopping $44 billion in “missed revenue.”  Note: missed revenue, translated from liberal speak, means higher taxes. 

In response to this, Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), chairman of the Taxpayer Protection Caucus, has launched a great website in opposition to these tax increases.  DeVore’s website, 31 Flavors of New Taxes for California,” highlights AFSCME’s tax hike wish list, which touches on everything from alcohol, to sales, to gas, and even online commerce

Only 5 other states have a higher state and local tax burden than CaliforniaAnd until last month, California’s income tax was the highest in the nation. Now they have the second highest. This is not how you attract employers, jobs, people, and investment.

Point of fact, California needs to get its fiscal house in order by cutting duplicative programs and wasteful spending. This is no secret. California lawmakers have increased spending by 300% since 1991.  Had spending been limited to population growth and inflation since that time, the state would have a $15 billion surplus rather than facing a more than $24 billion deficit.  California does not have a $24.3 billion deficit. It has a $24.3 billion overspending problem.

If high taxes were the answer, states like California would be in great shape and have balanced budget. Instead, California is perhaps the biggest fiscal train wreck in the U.S. ATR encourages Californians to visit the website and sign DeVore’s petition opposing the proposed tax hikes.

photo credit: aquarian librarian

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A Tobacco Tax Approved by Committee, a Pledge Broken


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, June 8th, 2009, 6:07 PM PERMALINK

Earlier today, the Louisiana House Ways & Means Committee by 8-7 passed HB 889 which will result in a sharp tax increase for consumers of tobacco products. HB 889 would cause Pelican State tobacco consumers to see taxes to rise 50 percent on cigars, 50 percent on smokeless tobacco, and the price of a pack of cigarettes rise by 50 cents per pack – a 138 percent tax increase.
 
Americans for Tax Reform, a non-profit taxpayer advocacy organization that opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle, noted that while some committee members upheld their promise to not raise taxes, not all remained true to their word. In voting to pass HB 889 out of committee, Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) broke the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that he signed.
 
“It’s unfortunate that Rep. Carter went back on his promise by signing off a massive tax hike that would hit Pelican State taxpayers in the middle of a recession.” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.  “However, there is still an opportunity for Carter to correct this misstep. ATR remains hopeful that he will reconsider his position and vote in the best interests of taxpayers when this comes to a vote before the full House.”
 
Rep. Carter was the only committee member to break his Pledge. The other Pledge signers on the Ways & Means Committee – Representatives Jane Smith (R-Bossier City), Cameron Henry (R-New Orleans), and Jerome Richard (Thibodaux-I) – all upheld their promise to constituents by voting “Nea.”
 
“Evidence from nearly every state that has unfairly targeted smokers for government revenue shows that very few tobacco tax hikes actually meet their revenue goals. Point of fact, you cannot fund broad spending programs on a declining revenue source. Smokers and non-smokers alike should be opposed to a tobacco tax hike. A tobacco tax increase today ensures a sales, income, or property tax increase down the road.” added Mr. Norquist. “What’s funny is that many proponents of this bill claim to defend ‘the little guy.’ In reality, a tobacco tax increase will be borne by those Louisianans least able to afford it. On average, smokers, whose median income is a little more than $36,000, make about 30 percent less than non-smokers. With Obama recently imposing a 61 cent federal tobacco tax increase, any additional levy at the state level will only add insult to injury. I urge all Louisiana legislators to reject HB 889.”

Arizona Needs a Tax Me More Fund


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, June 8th, 2009, 8:15 AM PERMALINK

Last week Sean Noble, author of the blog Noble Thinking, offered a solution for those that insist taxes must be raised in Arizona. Noble suggests "The Arizona Department of Revenue should expand the option of voluntarily paying more taxes by adding a form – let’s call it Form SITIC – for “stuff I think is critical.” Then, all these people who want to pay more taxes can check the box for what their additional contribution will fund."

ATR supports Noble's idea and notes that it is not without precedent. The solution Noble offers is a Tax Me More Fund. Arizona lawmakers can simply create a Tax Me More Fund so that people who feel they are under-taxed, like Gov. Brewer, Chuck Coughlin, and Randy Pullen, have a place to send their money. As it stands, 8 states already have a Tax Me More Fund in place.

The concept has it's origins in the cradle of the liberty movement in America. According to the Center for Fiscal Accountability, Massachusetts led the way in developing a Tax Me More Fund proposal at the turn of the century. After Bay State voters passed a 2000 referendum to lower income taxes, the Voluntary Optional Tax Endowment (VOTE) was introduced as a way for opponents of the tax cut to voluntarily pay at the old rate. In 2001, the MA legislature added a checkbox on its state tax forms in 2001 that allows the taxpayer to decide which tax rate to pay.

ATR agrees that those who claim taxes in AZ aren't high enough should be given the ability to put their money where there mouth is. ATR urges AZ lawmakers to introduce and pass a bill to create a Tax Me More Fund in the Grand Canyon State. The bill might be most appropiately titled "The Brewer-Coughlin Arizona Patriot Act."

For a list of states that have enacted Tax Me More Funds, Click Here

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Grover Norquist Letter to AZ Republican Party Chairman


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, June 4th, 2009, 6:35 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist sent the following letter to Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen today:
 
Chairman Randy Pullen
Arizona Republican Party
3501 N. 24th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85016
 
Dear Chairman Pullen,
 
I write today to express grave concern regarding plans to politically target lawmakers who are standing strong in defense of Arizona taxpayers. As you know, it has recently been announced that the firm High Ground Inc., a group that advises Governor Jan Brewer, will launch a $225,000 media campaign against legislators who oppose Gov. Brewer’s calls for a multi-billion dollar tax increase in the middle of a recession.
 
The Governor has made clear that this campaign, which targets fiscally conservative legislators from your own party, has her full-throated support. Several months ago Americans for Tax Reform asked your staff if rumors of a campaign to target Republican legislators were true and if such an effort would be supported by the Arizona State Republican Party. That inquiry, disturbingly, was met with silence by you and your staff.
 
It is no secret that you have close ties to those behind the aforementioned campaign. This is troubling given your duties as chairman of the state Republican Party and RNC treasurer.
 
One of the few things economists of all political stripes can agree on is that the last thing you want to do in a recession is raise taxes. Additionally, opposition to higher taxes is a long-held and central tenet of the Republican Party. In fact, your counterparts at the Maine and Washington State Republican Parties have gone so far as to incorporate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge into their party platforms.
 
According to the Center for Fiscal Accountability, Arizona taxpayers already spend 194 days – more than half the year – working just to pay for the cost of government. Yet Gov. Brewer doesn’t think this is enough.
 
As we approach an important election year, it is shocking that Gov. Brewer is supporting a campaign that will attack members of her own party because they are standing up for Arizona taxpayers. It would be unconscionable for the state Republican Party to not condemn this effort.
 
I therefore ask you, as chairman of the state Republican Party, to unequivocally and publicly announce your opposition to and repudiation of this campaign to be waged by Gov. Brewer and High Ground.
 
Feel free to call on me or ATR’s state affairs manager, Patrick Gleason (pgleason@atr.org) with any questions or concerns.
 
Onward,
 
Grover G. Norquist
 
CC: RNC Chairman Michael Steele, all RNC Committeemen & Women, Arizona Press
 
For a pdf version of the letter, Click Here
 

For more ATR commentary on the Arizona budget,

Click Here

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Tax Hike Free Budget Passes Arizona Senate, Moves to House


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, June 4th, 2009, 1:35 PM PERMALINK

 Early this morning the Arizona Senate passed a budget that closes the state’s $3 billion deficit without raising taxes. The nine bill budget package passed by the Senate was approved on a 16-1 party line vote. All Democrats, save for one, were absent for the vote. 

Americans for Tax Reform supports the Senate’s budget plan and urges the House to send it to Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer has stated that she will veto any budget sent to her that does not include her sought after $3 billion sales tax hike.
 
“Unlike the Governor, the Arizona Senate comprehends one of the few things that economists of all political stripes agree on – the worst thing that you can do in a recession is raise taxes,” said Grover Norquist, Presidents of Americans for Tax Reform. “While not ideal, the Senate’s budget plan is far better than any plan that would raise taxes in this time of economic contraction and rising unemployment.
 
30 Arizona legislators have made a written pledge to not raise taxes. Despite making the same commitment to her constituents that she would oppose any and all tax hikes, Gov. Brewer is pushing a $1 billion per year sales tax hike that she alleges will be temporary and expire after three years. Arizonans that have land line phones are still paying the “temporary” tax hike put in place to fund the Spanish-American War of 1898.
 
“It is clear that Arizona has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. In the last five years general fund spending has grown at double the rate of population and inflation. Furthermore, Arizonans spend 194 days out of the year just paying for the cost of their government. Shockingly, Gov. Brewer doesn’t think this is enough” added Norquist. “Some elected officials view taxpayers, rather than spending interests, as their constituents. Americans for Tax Reform commends those elected officials like Sens. Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem), Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu), and Jack Harper (R-Surprise), who work for taxpayers rather than against them.”

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California Republican Party Chairman on the GOP and Taxes - AZ Gov. Brewer Should Listen Up


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009, 9:48 AM PERMALINK

Before she has her attack dogs spend money going after legislators from her own party, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer should read the following column by Ron Nehring, California Republican Party Chairman and San Diego center-right coalition leader, which was recently published in the California FlashReport:

 

As debate continues on the solution to California’s state budget deficit, the question is posed as to the “best” way to raise taxes: broad based taxes such as those on income or sales, or narrow taxes on products and activities such as cigarette smoking or oil extraction.

The right answer is: neither.  As the party that supports limiting the size of government, all tax increases should be opposed with equal vigor.

It’s very encouraging to see Governor Schwarzenegger and Republican legislators avoiding a dangerous trap as they focus on reducing government spending to balance today’s California state budget.

Yet, every day we’re reminded the proponents of big government have plenty of tools in their toolbox for separating taxpayers from the money they earn. 

One approach is to link a tax increase to something considered desirable – such as an income tax surcharge to pay for mental health services, or a cigarette tax to pay for other health programs.  This approach is designed to shift debate away from the tax itself and onto the purported “benefit” – a technique based on politics, not economics or budgeting.  If the “benefit” was so important, then government should be doing it already, and shift resources from lower priorities.

And that brings us to the crux of the issue: setting priorities.  Politicians who campaign on big government always want to avoid setting priorities because doing so means one interest group gets their money, while another does not. 

Raising taxes means avoiding choices: everyone gets a bigger slice of the government pie, and no interest group “loses.”  Except those paying the taxes, of course.

Republicans should never compromise principles by turning a blind eye to tax increases targeted at specific groups.  To accede to such tax increases is to say that there is no fat left to cut in the state budget, that every single program is vital and necessary, and government is running at peak efficiency.

That, of course, is nonsense.

As a school board member I saw first hand how much money state government causes to be wasted through rules and mandates adopted not to improve education, but to ensure certain politically connected constituencies benefit.  Rules making it difficult or impossible for schools to competitively shop around for certain non-education services like busing and food services come to mind immediately as one example.  There are thousands more.

Capitulating to a tax increase – even the most narrow – immediately shifts the debate away from drawing down spending to match reality, and moves the discussion onto our opponents’ turf.  “Well we all agree revenues need to be raised, now it’s just a question of where we find the money,” you can just hear the liberals saying the moment a Republican agrees to a tax hike.

Raising taxes on oil extraction, tobacco products, alcohol, or on business property through a so-called “split roll” directly contradicts and undermines Republican principles supporting limited government and restraining spending and therefore should be rejected, immediately, out of hand. 

To view this column as it appeared in the FlashReport, Click Here

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Senator Carona's Local Option Gas Tax - the Bad Idea That Just Won't Die


Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, May 28th, 2009, 1:26 PM PERMALINK

As the 2009 session of the Texas legislature heads into the home stretch, things are heating up in Austin - both in terms of the weather and action under the capitol dome.

The biggest threat to Lone Star State taxpayers heading into the final weekend of session remains Senator Carona's local option tax and fee package, which if passed could lead to a 125% gas tax increase in every major population center in the state.

It recently appeared that the measure was dead due to lack of support in the House but that all changed this week. In an effort to keep his tax and fee package alive, Senator Carona (R-Dallas) has attached the local gasoline tax (up to 10 cents per gallon), the local drivers license fee (up to $24), and the “mobility improvement” fee on vehicle registration (up to $60) to HB 300, the TxDOT sunset bill.

Yesterday, 84 Texas House members voted courageously and correctly to instruct its conferees on the bill to not return a version that includes those new taxes and fees. As this legislation heads to conference, Americans for Tax Reform is asking lawmakers to reject any version of HB 300 that includes the local option tax and fee package. 

Americans for Tax Reform agrees with other pro-growth groups – such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Americans for Prosperity-Texas – that a new local option gas tax, drivers license fee, and “mobility improvement” fee would adversely affect Lone Star State motorists and the Texas economy.
 
To make matters worse, the local option tax and fee package flies in the face everything Texas has done to lead the transparency in government movement sweeping the nation. Carona's proposal entails no assurance of accountability or transparency. Counties will not be required to post their spending for public review, or even to prove that funds from the gas tax hike improved transportation and relieved congestion. Texans deserve better from their elected officials.
 
Stay tuned for developments in this important matter.

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