Patrick M. Gleason

Tax Threats Loom Large in Arizona

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009, 7:09 PM PERMALINK

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will deliver a speech on the House floor tonight and Grand Canyon State taxpayers are on pins and needles. 

Rumors have been circulating around the state house today that Gov. Brewer will propose some form of tax increase.  No confirmation yet as to whether she will propose a direct tax increase or propose putting a tax hike on the ballot.

Either proposal would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  A written commitment that she and 30 other AZ lawmakers made to their constituents to oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.

It's never a good time to raise taxes but doing so in the middle of an economic downturn would be devastating for Arizona families and employers.  Furthermore, Arizona taxpayers already spend 194 days, well over half of the year, just paying for the cost of their government.

It should also be noted that Congressman Jeff Flake and former AZ Gov. Fife Symington recently sent a letter to all 90 AZ lawmakers informing them that tax hikes are not the solution to the state's overspending problem, which they call "an unprecedented financial disaster."

Let's hope AZ Pledge signers will uphold this commitment.  Click here to view Gov. Brewer's signed Pledge.

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South Carolina Speaker Provides Lesson in How Not to Brand Your Party

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, 1:00 AM PERMALINK

House Bill 3584 was recently introduced by South Carolina Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston). This bill, if passed, would result in a 714% increase in the state's tobacco tax. Ouch.

ATR vehemently opposes this legislation for a number of reasons.  First, this bill would levy a massive tax hike on South Carolinians in the midst of an economic downturn.  What's worse, its impact would be felt predominantly by those 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.

Furthermore, Obama just signed a 156 percent increase the federal excise tax on smokes into law.  Yet somehow lawmakers in SC believe it wise to pile on with their own increase.

The one good part of this bill is that it provides a credit for health insurance to eligible South Carolinians, presumably to offset the tax hike. However the bill includes no language that applies this credit to income tax liability, making this credit not so much a credit, but rather simply a government outlay.

So all together Harrell's bill entails nothing more than a tax and spending increase - no thank you.

Politicians seem unable to learn that cigarettes are a dubious and declining source of revenue. Here are a couple of fun facts for those scoring at home:

1) New Jersey raised the cigarette tax 17.5 cents in 2007.  They expected to bring in an additional $30 million, but the state ended up losing $24 million in total tax revenue from tobacco.

2) Maryland doubled the cigarette tax to $2 last year and cigarette sales dropped 25%, hitting expected tax revenue.

This bill is bad policy and a clear violation fo the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Gov. Sanford and 13 members of the South Carolina Senate have signed the Pledge, as have 31 House members.  

HB 3584 currently sits in the House Ways & Means Committee awaiting consideration. ATR encourages South Carolina taxpayers to call their representatives and/or Speaker Harrell to voice their opposition. Harrell can be reached at 843-572-1500.

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Texas Politicians Seek More Money While Lone Star State Families Cut Back

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Monday, March 2nd, 2009, 5:00 AM PERMALINK

While Texans are celebrating the Lone Star State's Independence Day, lawmakers in Austin are busy pushing legislation to zap a little more purchasing power from Texas families, as if the economic downturn hadn't already done enough.

HB 9 & SB 855, introduced by Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) and Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) would, if passed, allow local officials to put both tax and fee increases on the ballot in the state's most populous counties. 

Americans for Tax Reform opposes this legislation on principle. The fact that lawmakers want to take more hard earned income from taxpayers at a time when families across the state are cutting back in the midst of the current ecomomic downturn displays a problematic disconnect with reality.

Furthermore, a vote for this legislation is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which has been signed by 4 members of the Texas Senate and 29 House members.

Not only could this legislation result in a 24 percent gas tax increase, that tax hike would be indexed for inflation, effectively putting future tax increases on autopilot. Local options taxes such as this provide no option to taxpayers whatsoever. Putting both a tax hike and a tax cut on the ballot - now there is a real choice.

Revenue derived from the proposed tax increase would be directed toward transit projects, mostly rail. Commuter rail has produced dubious results in terms of ridership and cost effectiveness.  Commuter rail costs $12-$20 million per square mile. Adding additional lanes on to an existing freeway costs $4-$6 million.  Light rail comes in at a whopping $50-$60 million per square mile, again with subpar ridership.  You do the math.  Additionally, rail system construction is very energy intensive and studies have shown the environmental impact to be neutral.

It is important to find alternatives that don't take Texas taxpayers to the cleaners. Viable and pro-growth alternatives include the following:

1) End the gas tax diversion to education and other ventures not related to education. Revenue derived from this tax should go toward transportation. Furthermore, the current gas tax rate generates sufficient revenue.

2) Implement a competitive bidding process for transportation projects. Nearly 90% of engineering contracts for roads are implemented without any competition or second opinion. When this happens, it is the taxpayers who suffer.

Texans already spend 186 days out of the year just to pay for the cost of their government. ATR urges lawmakers to not pile on with further tax hikes, especially during economic contraction.

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Arizona Lawmakers Talk Taxes

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009, 9:54 PM PERMALINK

Good news for taxpayers in the Grand Canyon State - a legislative panel in the Arizona state house recently approved a bill that would permanenty repeal the state property tax, saving Arizona families and employers from the $250 million tax hike that they are currently staring down the barrel of.

The state property tax was suspended 3 years ago but is slated to come back this year.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), was approved in committee by a 5-3 vote split down party lines. 

Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges the Arizona Senate to move forward with its version of the bill. This bill will prevent Arizonans from being hit with a massive tax hike in the midst of a recession and encourage job creation and investment.  Arizona is currently at a competitve disadvantage compared to neighboring states in many corporate tax rates, severely hampering the state's ability to attract jobs and investment.  As it stands, Arizona's commercial property tax is the highest in the region and 5th highest nationally.

But wait...Arizona taxpayers should hold off on breaking out the champagne and celebrating because a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Chabin (D-Flagstaff) will make that champagne much more expensive.  Chabin's bill, HB 2524, would levy additional $3.50/ gallon in taxes on all alcoholic beverages.  This represents a 116% tax increase on distilled spirits and a mind boggling 2,185% increase on beer - OUCH!

This economy is driving many people to drink.  Unfortunately if Chabin's bill passes, some Arizonans might not be able to afford that drink. The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the matter this week but was not brought to a vote.

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Now That's What I Call Stimulus

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 4:58 PM PERMALINK

Lawmakers in Atlanta are proving Texas legislators aren't the only ones pursuing a pro-taxpayer agenda.  Two bills under consideration in Georgia would go a long way toward jump starting the Peach State economy and putting the state's nearly 400,000 unemployed residents back to work. 

Georgia House Bills 481 and 482 seek to make the state more economically competitive.  The legislative package, dubbed the Job, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2009, was recently introduced by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger). 

The package represents a pro-growth stimulus package that stands in stark contrast to the stimulus plan passed in Washington.  Rather than ramp up spending and inject the government into nearly every facet of the economy like the federal stimulus package, Rep. Grave's plan involves no taxpayer money and boosts the economy by getting the government out of the way.

Key provisions of the plans are as follows:

- Complete phase out of the state corporate income tax over a 12 year span starting in 2012.

- Elimination of the state inventory tax.

The few states that have inventory taxes have been getting rid of them in recent years.  Georgia is now one of only 13 states to levy this economically adverse tax.  In fact, none of Georgia's neighboring states have an inventory tax.  Graves' plan will remove this competitive disadvantage.  Home to the country's 3rd biggest port and the world's busiest airport, Georgia is often referred to as the logistics capitol of the south.  Elimination of the inventory tax will ensure that Georgia remains a major hub of commerce in the world.

- Suspension of the $100 business filing fee for one year.  This exemption would apply to new filings for LLC's, Limited Partnerships, and For Profict Companies.  Additionally this package contains provisions that reward employers who create jobs. 

Rep. Graves' stimulus package has been well received in the state's other legislative chamber.  Senate Majoirty Leader Chip Rogers summed it up best:

"While the politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to bankrupt our children and grandchildren through a socalled stimulus plan, we here in Georgia will lead the way on fiscal restraint and creating an environment where businesses want to set up shot."

Click "Read More" to view ATR's official statement endorsing this package.  For a pdf of the statement, click here.


Taxpayer Group Endorses Georgia Legislation
Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2009 Provides True Economic Stimulus
Washington, D.C. – Americans for Tax Reform, today, announced their support for House Bills 481 and 482, together known as the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2009. The legislative package, introduced by Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), is aimed at rejuvenating the state’s economy and job creation. 
Key provisions of the package include a 12 year phase out of the state corporate income tax rate starting in 2012 and an elimination of the state inventory tax. Georgia voters would have to approve the inventory tax elimination in a statewide referendum.
“I applaud Rep. Graves for bringing these pro-growth, pro-taxpayer measures forward,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “This package stands in sharp contrast to the Obama stimulus plan. Rep. Graves’ plan will provide real stimulus to the Georgia economy, recognizing that the true stimulus lies in policies that encourage growth and job creation in the private sector rather than big government.”
As it stands, Georgia ranks in the bottom half of the 50 state business tax climate ranking. Only 15 states have a higher state and local tax burden. Graves’ legislation has also been endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Georgia Retail Association, among others. 

“This legislation will make The Peach State a much more attractive place to live, work, invest, and create jobs,” added Norquist.



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No State is a Total Failure - Some Just Serve as Bad Examples

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009, 12:00 PM PERMALINK


On the heels of last week's budget vote imposing tens of billions in new taxes on Golden State residents, the California Republican Party approved a measure to deny campaign funding to the 6 Republicans that crossed over to vote for the tax hike-laden budget.

Click here to read ATR's statement on last week's budget vote and to read Grover's piece that was published in yesterday's Sacramento Bee, click here.  Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal also provided a succinct assessment of what plagues California.

The good news from all of this - other states are learning from California's bad example.  Legislation introduced in Texas by Representative Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) would ensure that the Lone Star State lives within its means and has a government that the state can afford.  The bill (HB 994/SB 992), dubbed the "California Disaster Avoidance Plan," would ensure that state spending does not outpace the rate of growth in population and inflation.  It's no wonder that Californians are moving to Texas in droves where elected officials are looking for ways to protect taxpayers rather than fleece them.

Click the "Read More" button to read ATR's statement in support of this legislation:


Taxpayer Group Endorses Texas Legislation
“California Disaster Avoidance Plan” ties spending to population and inflation
Washington, D.C. – Americans for Tax Reform, today, announced their support for House Bill 994, dubbed “The California Disaster Avoidance Plan.” HB 994, introduced by Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), would prohibit state spending increases from outpacing growth in population and inflation. 
“I applaud Rep. Ken Paxton and Sen. Dan Patrick for bringing forth this much needed legislation,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Nearly every state budget is in the red and profligate spending is what got so many states into the current fiscal mess. This bill will ensure that the Lone Star State avoids the same experience.”
According to Center for Fiscal Accountability, Texans already spend 186 days annually – well over half the year – just paying off the cost of their government.  Projections peg Texas’s budget shortfall anywhere from $3 billion to $12 billion.
“Has the state of Texas fared better than most states in this current recession? Yes, but the projected deficit is indicative of the fact that the state still does not live within its means,” continued Norquist. “Now more than ever is the time for a spending limit in Texas. Rep. Paxton and Sen. Patrick’s bill will take taxpayers off of the chopping block and force government to exercise fiscal restraint just as Texan families do everyday.





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California is Officially Closed for Business

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Thursday, February 19th, 2009, 8:11 PM PERMALINK

Californians have Taxpayer Protection Pledge breaker Sen. Abel Maldonado and four other Pledge violating lawmakers to thank for a $14 billion tax hike that passed the California Senate earlier today. For Sen. Maldonado’s betrayal, he received three constitutional amendments to be placed on the statewide ballot. One of these amendments was the creation of an open primary system, which he believes will allow him to better prevent electoral retribution if he decides to run for statewide office.
To read ATR’s statement on this taxpayer betrayal, click “read more.”
California Legislature Passes $14 Billion Tax Hike
6 Legislators Violate Pledge to Constituents
WASHINGTON D.C– Early today the California Senate passed a budget agreement that will raise taxes by $14 billion. Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) provided the deciding vote. The California Assembly approved the deal shortly thereafter.
In approving this massive tax increase Sen. Maldonado has violated a written promise he made to Californians that he would “oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.” Other Golden State lawmakers who broke this same commitment today include Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), Assemblyman Mike Villines (R-Clovis) and Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia).
“It is a truly sad day for California taxpayers,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “It is never good when a politician breaks a promise to constituents, but it is unconscionable when a broken promise results in a $14 billion tax hike in the middle of a recession .”
Californians face the 6th highest tax burden in the country and already pay the highest gas, sales, and income taxes in the nation. The budget deal passed in Sacramento today raises all of those rates. In exchange for Sen. Maldonado’s vote, three constitutional amendments will be put on the statewide ballot. One of those amendments would create an open primary system.
“People and employers have been fleeing the state in droves as a result of California’s punitive tax code, taking jobs and income with them. Today’s vote will only exacerbate this deleterious trend,” saidNorquist. “Californians worked 204 days last year, well over half of the year, just to pay for the cost of their government. As a result of this budget it will take much longer to pay this cost in future years. The vote that happened in Sacramento today made it very clear that California is closed for business.”

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Golden State Budget Deal Remains Elusive

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009, 5:06 PM PERMALINK

Budget negotiations continue in Sacramento.  Last week word got out that a budget vote was likely to come sometime this week.

But after a weekend of Big 5 negotiations, a vote has yet to be announced.  Stay tuned for more budget updates throughout the week.

Staying on the subject of California's budget, Democrat lawmakers have repeatedly spread misinformation on the state's overspending problem and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which ATR sponsors and all but one Republican lawmaker in California have signed.  Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) recently went so far as to send a letter to all of her constituents repeating these falsehoods and pro-tax hike propaganda.

The Flash Report, the foremost source for California political news, recently published ATR's official response - click here to read it.

ATR's Patrick Gleason recently appeared on Los Angeles area station KFI 640 AM's John and Ken Show to discuss the budget impasse.  Click here to listen to the interview - Gleason comes on at the 8 minute mark.

California Big 5 Reach Budget Deal......or Did They?

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009, 1:00 PM PERMALINK


News outlets reported earlier today that Legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have reached a tentative deal to close the state's projected $40 billion overspending problem.

Negotiations clouded in secrecy, apparently because many Californians and interest groups would oppose what was being agreed to if they found out about it. Previously, Gov. Schwarzenegger said he would proceed to lay off 20,000 state workers if no state budget deal is reached by Friday.

To make matters more convoluted, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said there's no budget deal yet.

Let us hope that any agreement tackles the real issue - chronic overspending. In the last 10 years California's spending has gone up by a whopping 92%. Golden State lawmakers have paid for this spending spree by pushing financial decisions down the road, using accounting gimmicks to hide deficits, and relying on borrowing and bonds to pay the bills. California can not blame its huge deficit on the recession, tax revenues, the stock market or any other excuse. Rather, it has only itself to blame.

Let us hope that any agreement will for once address the real structural problems plaguing the state.
A vote is scheduled for Friday. Stay tuned for breaking news on the California budget deal...


Texas Lawmakers Work to Avoid Fate of D.C. and Sacramento

Posted by Patrick M. Gleason on Friday, February 6th, 2009, 12:00 PM PERMALINK

What better day than Reagan's birthday for a conservative group of legislators to release their priorities for 2009.  
Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, reports out of Austin that the Texas Conservative Coalition today "announced their fiscal priorities for the current session ‘to help keep our economy strong and growing’ by noting that the economic climate has been caused by ‘poor decision-making in Washington D.C. and lack of responsibility on Wall Street.’ High on their list: real reductions in property taxes.” 
Another top goal this year for the Texas Conservative Coalition, led by Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches), will be the implementation of a tax and expenditure limit that will ensure the state lives within its means and avoids the ill fate of their profligate counterparts in other states like California and New York.
ATR supports legislation by coalition member Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), House Bill 994, that would limit increases in state spending to population growth and inflation.  The text of 994 can be found here.
The TX Conservative Coalition outlined their priorities in a letter sent to Gov. Perry and other key state officials. To read the letter click  here and for Sullivan's full commentary click here. To learn more about the TX Conservative Coalition click here.

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