Paul Blair

Oregon Spends $200,000 to Figure Out How to Impose a Carbon Tax

Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013, 5:31 PM PERMALINK

Following a “regional climate change agreement” with California and British Columbia, Oregon legislators have commissioned a taxpayer-funded $200,000 study to examine a new state carbon tax. The study aims not to examine the impact on consumer energy costs, but merely on how to implement it in Oregon.

A new cap-and-trade tax regime will do little to address concerns of legislative do-gooders who are worried about The Day After Tomorrow (or any other sort of apocalypse).

In fact, California Governor Jerry Brown said, “This is global. So, if it’s only Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia, nothing’s going to happen.”

He's right. As developing countries exponentially increase their emissions, there isn’t much a few states can down to lower overall global emissions. The clear impact of cap-and-trade, however, is an increase in the cost of electricity. Precise numbers are hard to acquire, given that most studies focus on how to implement the policies not on their economic impact. President Obama, however, in support of national cap-and-trade legislation admitted that utility rates would “necessarily skyrocket.”

Peter Orszag once noted that electricity “price increases are essential to the success of a cap-and-trade program.” Cap-and-trade is regressive and hits hardest poor and middle-income households who spend more of their paychecks on energy.

For Oregon taxpayers that could mean anything from several hundred extra dollars per year up to several thousand. The legislature, unfortunately, has expressed no interest in a cost-benefit analysis.

Supporters of the plan told an Oregon legislative committee that the tax revenue generated from the selling and trading of cap-and-trade credits could “replace portions of existing revenues” in the form of “corporate tax cuts, low-income tax relief, and targeted investments in certain industries.”

The predictive reality of such tax increases would be investing in "green" technology that is far more expensive than coal and if California is any indicator, an expansion of the welfare state.

From the Wall Street Journal:

California expects to generate $500 million this year from auctioning off permits to emit carbon, and between $2 billion and $14 billion annually by 2015. This rich new vein of revenues was supposed to flow to green programs (e.g., solar subsidies), but Governor Jerry Brown cut a deal with Democrats in the legislature to seize this year's proceeds to finance more generous welfare and Medicaid benefits.

When push comes to shove, Democrats are far more interested in using higher revenues from tax hike schemes on spending increases, not tax cuts. Oregon taxpayers should be wary of any promises about future tax cuts in exchange for cap-and-trade schemes that have been rejected at the national level. 

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Florida Governor Rick Scott Plans to Roll Back Charlie Crist's 2009 Vehicle Registration Fee Hikes

Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, December 16th, 2013, 2:46 PM PERMALINK

Last week Florida Governor Rick Scott announced plans to make good on his promise of 500 million dollars in tax relief. His latest initiative will save Florida drivers over $400 million; plans for the other $100 million in savings will be announced in January. Scott aims to undo a 54 percent increase in automobile registration fees signed into law in 2009 by then Governor Charlie Crist.

The 2009 fee hike raised automobile registration fees from approximately $46 to $71, forcing Florida taxpayers to pay an additional $25 on average. Scott recognizes that taking money out of the pockets of Florida’s families is the wrong approach to expanding Florida’s economy.

Photo from Bright House Networks, News 13

Victimized by regret and now running for governor not surprisingly as a democratCrist says he’s glad that Governor Scott got on around to rolling back the fees, and that they were never meant to be permanent.

Governor Scott has been busy cleaning up the mess that Crist left behind. In the three years he’s been Florida’s chief executive, Scott has cut taxes over twenty times. Though he inherited a 3.6 billion dollar budget deficit, the Sunshine State now enjoys a 1.2 billion dollar surplus. On inauguration day in 2011, Florida’s unemployment rate was above the national average; today it’s below. Scott’s plan is working, and working well.

As a testament to Florida’s “open for business” tax climate, Hertz announced this year that they would be moving their global headquarters from the northeast to Florida. The $50 million headquarters complex will host at least 700 jobs paying more than $100,000 per year on top of countless additional service industry and information technology jobs in the state.

Despite Governor Scott’s proposed $500 million in tax relief for next year, there will still be a $700 million budget surplus. The legislature would be wise to join Governor Scott in looking at even more ways to provide tax relief to state residents, small businesses, and corporations asking “Who is open for business?”

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Tax Hiker Joe May Announces Bid for Virginia State Senate Seat

Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, December 2nd, 2013, 5:41 PM PERMALINK

Outgoing Virginia Delegate Joe May confirmed that he is running for the Republican nomination in the 33rd Senate District in Northern Virginia. A special election for that seat will take place if Democrat Mark Herring wins a recount in the Virginia Attorney General race against Republican Mark Obenshain. Herring, a state senator, recently was certified by the State Board of Elections as the next Attorney General with a 165 vote margin and a recount will take place in the coming weeks.

Joe May is the most recent candidate to announce that he’s jumping into the possible open senate race. The 20-year incumbent in the House of Delegates was defeated this past spring by conservative Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer Dave LaRock. May was one of the architects of Speaker Bill Howell and Governor Bob McDonnell’s $6 billion tax hike, which raised a myriad of taxes in the Commonwealth.

ATR President Grover Norquist noted at the time, “Make no mistake. House Transportation Committee Chair Joe May's defeat can be directly attributed to his vote for Speaker Bill Howell's misguided $6 billion tax hike”

As the Loudon Times-Mirror noted this spring, “LaRock received a boost from Americans for Tax Reform during his primary campaign. The group launched and funded roadside signs calling May a “serial tax hiker” in the weeks leading up to the election.”

LaRock, who won with 57% of the vote made May’s vote for higher taxes the key issue in the race. 

Two other Republicans have already announced that they are running for the seat should it become open as well. Republican chairman of the 10th Congressional District and Leesburg attorney John Whitbeck announced on November 25th and Herndon resident Ron Meyer announced the following day.

Stay tuned regarding Americans for Tax Reform's plan to educate voters about Joe May's tax-hiking record. 

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New Braves, Falcons Stadiums Hand Local Taxpayers Major League Loss

Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, November 15th, 2013, 12:20 PM PERMALINK

Blumenfeld, now the Director of Advance for "How Money Walks" at Pelopidas, LLC, examines the cost to taxpayers for two new sports stadiums in the Atlanta area

Recently, the Atlanta Braves announced that they will not be renewing their lease with Turner Field, the home of major league baseball in Georgia for the past 17 years. Instead, the team will build a new stadium north of Atlanta in Cobb County.  While a new Braves stadium will provide needed upgrades from a facility and neighborhood attractiveness standpoint, there is one alarming factor being overlooked in talks over the estimated $672 million project. The Braves want $450 million in public funds from Cobb County – roughly 67 percent of the total cost – in order to build this grandiose baseball cathedral.

(Turner Field, Atlanta)

While it’s true that using public funds to finance extravagant stadium renovation and construction projects is the most popular trend among team owners, what is particularly interesting in this case is that the Atlanta Falcons are also requesting $300 million of hotel tax revenue from the city of Atlanta to fund their $1.2 billion dollar football stadium. Opening day for each stadium is tentatively set for the start of the 2017 season, yet taxpayers should refrain from celebrating that day, given the immense tab they are on the hook to pay.

Despite Georgia being announced as the number one place for business by Site Selectionmagazine, the men and women who live, work, and pay taxes in Cobb County and Atlanta were not consulted even once during the discussions to use public funds. In fact, no public vote was ever held. The officials overseeing these projects claim that the surrounding neighborhoods will see a boom in economic activity and revenue generated, but that is all reliant on attendance and tourism: volatile and inconsistent figures.

If the Falcons and Braves were really interested in keeping the fans who support these teams in mind, the proposals would incorporate a plan for the reimbursement of public funds used through ticket and concession sales over a designated period of time. Instead, the local governments are going to give money to privately owned and operated stadiums with teams that continue to profit, despite repeated promises to reduce government spending.  Rather than hitting a home run with the addition of the new Braves stadium, taxpayers will be on the receiving end of an economic tackle for significant loss.

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ATR Releases 2013 List of State Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers in New Jersey

Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, November 4th, 2013, 5:04 PM PERMALINK

With the New Jersey general election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and statewide office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, November 5. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:


Diane Bindler (A-12)

Patrick McKnight (A-16)

Dierdre G. Paul (A-37)

Michael Urciuoli (A-34)


Diane Allen (S-7)

Anthony Bucco (S-25)

Gerald Cardinale (S-39)

Michael Doherty (S-23)

Tom Kean, Jr. (S-21)

Samuel D. Thompson (S-12)

Shirley Turner (S-15)

Joe Pennachio (S-26)

John Amodeo (A-2)

Mary Pat Angelini (A-11)

Anthony Bucco (A-25)

Jon Bramnick (A-21)

Michael Patrick Carroll (A-25)

Caroline Casagrande (A-11)

John DiMaio (A-23)

Louis Greenwald (A-6)

Amy Handlin (A-13)

Sean Kean (A-30)

Eric Munoz (A-21)

Declan O’Scanlon (A-13)

David Rible (A-30)

Scott Rudder (A-8)

Jay Webber (A-26)**

[PDF of Press Release]

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ATR Releases 2013 List of State Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers in Virginia

Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, November 4th, 2013, 4:33 PM PERMALINK

With the Virginia general election taking place Tuesday, Americans for Tax Reform has released an updated list of incumbents and challengers for state legislative and statewide office that have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have made a written commitment to their constituents to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

ATR strongly encourages taxpayers to consider those who have made this commitment when they vote on Tuesday, November 5. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday is as follows:


EW Jackson (Lt. Gov)                                              

Mark Obenshain (Attorney General)

Dave LaRock (H-44)

John Bloom (H-95)

House Incumbents:

Dave Albo (H-42)

Robert Bell (H-58)

Kathy Byron (H-22)

Ben Cline (H-24)

Mark Cole (H-88)

Barbara Comstock (H-34)

Kirk Cox (H-66)

C. Todd Gilbert (H-15)

Greg Habeeb (H-8)

Tim Hugo (H-40)

Steve Landes (H-25)

Scott Lingamfelter (H-31)

Robert G. Marshall (H-13)

Randy Minchew (H-10)

Israel O’Quinn (H-5)

Chris Peace (H-97)

David Ramadan (H-87)

R. Lee Ware, Jr. (H-65)

Michael J. Webert (H-18)

Tony Wilt (H-26)

Tommy Wright (H-61)

[PDF of Press Release]

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Proposes Highest Cigarette Tax in Nation

Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013, 8:45 AM PERMALINK

In an effort to close Chicago’s projected $339 budget shortfall next year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed increasing the city’s cigarette tax by 75 cents per pack. This would make Chicago the most expensive place in the nation to purchase cigarettes, where the total tax per pack will rise to $7.42.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Annual Summit

While the Emanuel administration claims that the tax hike would generate roughly $10 million for vision care for low-income students in public schools, countless examples demonstrate that raising taxes on tobacco does not necessarily generate more revenue.

In 2006, Chicago collected $32.9 million in cigarette taxes. After two consecutive tax hikes, revenue fell to $16.5 million this year. Carrie Austin, chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee acknowledged this reality, stating, “we’ve run sales away.”

In May of 2012 when Illinois raised the cigarette tax by $1-per-pack, nearly doubling the state’s tax rate to $1.98 per pack, the tax delivered $138 million less than expected. What’s more, local small businesses lost tens of thousands of dollars as a direct result as consumers purchasing tobacco across state lines.

To avoid higher cigarette taxes, consumers constantly demonstrate that they are willing to purchase the products in less expensive markets. This is especially true for Illinois’s highest tobacco tax rival New York. Nearly 21 percent of cigarettes are smuggled into the state as a direct consequence of their absurdly high tobacco taxes. If Chicago’s goal is to compete with New York’s black market for cigarette smuggling, this is a step in a right direction. If however, Chicago politicians are concerned about the resulting theft, violence, and lost revenue, it’s a complete step in the wrong direction.

Tobacco taxes are an extremely volatile revenue source that prompt future tax hikes. Proponents of cigarette taxes neglect economic realities. To argue that a cigarette tax will increase revenues while decreasing the number of people buying cigarettes is absurd. When prices increase, consumption declines, taking revenue with it.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed tax hike will do little to solve Chicago’s budget woes. It will hurt Chicago small businesses and when tobacco sales fall, resulting in less revenue for the city, Chicago politicians will again be debating what to do about the city’s empty coffers.

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Acid-Trip Obamacare Ad Costs Taxpayers $3.2 Million

Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013, 1:11 PM PERMALINK

Taxpayers are on the hook for $3.2 million for acid-trip TV ads promoting Obamacare in Oregon. Devoid of information about the state exchange, Oregon’s newest Obamacare ad features absolutely no information about the health care law and what enrolling in the state exchange means. Cover Oregon, the state Obamacare agency, began airing this ad last week thanks to a taxpayer funded $9.9 million contract awarded to a Portland public relations firm.

Here are the lyrics:

“We fly with our own wings. Care about the same things. We stand strong together. So let me hear you say. We fly with our own wings. Dreamin’ all the big dreams. Long live Oregonians; we’re free to be healthy. Long live Oregonians; we’re free to be healthy."

“Free” has quite the interpretive meaning in the context of a bill projected to cost more than $1.76 trillion over the next 10 years.

With 20 new or higher taxes and a slew of big government mandates, Obamacare was destined to fail from the get go. This ad exemplifies why more people trust Republicans on health care than Democrats – a first in over 20 years. It also possibly explains why 46% of the uninsured have negative opinions about President Obama’s health care law.

Obamacare is more unpopular today than it has been at any point since its passage in 2010. That may explain why Cover Oregon’s objective is to get a song stuck in the heads of young hipsters instead of outlining the true consequences of the job-killing and disastrous legislation.

This ad is the second ad aired by Cover Oregon in an effort to convince people to enroll in the state exchange. The first similarly contained no information and simply directed people to a website.

(h/t to

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City of Duluth Considers Nonsensical Regulations on e-Cigarettes

Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013, 5:13 PM PERMALINK

The City Council of Duluth, Minnesota will take up a new set of regulations for e-cigarettes at an upcoming meeting that unfairly lumps these products in with traditional tobacco. By banning the use of tobacco-free e-cigarettes in the same locations as cigarettes, the City Council is using unnecessary force on a product that poses no threat to the public.

The emerging popularity of tobacco free products should be encouraging to Council members, not concerning. Studies have shown that electronic cigarettes stand to improve health and prevent disease. By using e-cigs instead of smoking cigarettes, consumers can obtain a nicotine fix without the combustion and smoke — responsible for much of the negative health effects of tobacco cigarettes. For smokers already addicted to nicotine, e-cigs provide an alternative delivery mechanism that does not come with the proven harm that results from smoking.

An unintended consequence of this proposed ban could be to keep Duluth citizens smoking tobacco cigarettes, a product that kills hundreds of thousands of people annually. E-cigs help people end their dependence on traditional cigarettes, which is extremely beneficial from a policy perspective.  

What about second-hand effects? A study released this month by Drexel University concluded that the chemicals in e-cigs are not harmful to users or those in their proximity. That’s probably because you’re producing water vapor.

As ATR’s Patrick Gleason recently pointed out in Reuters:

This new attack on e-cigs demonstrates that for many politicians, it really was always about bossing people around.

 Members of the Duluth City Council would be wise to sack the proposed ban on e-cigs and focus on other, more pressing issues.

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Top 5 Most Ludicrous Taxpayer-Funded Obamacare Promotions

Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, July 11th, 2013, 5:34 PM PERMALINK

Here are the top five most ludicrous taxpayer-funded Obamacare promotions:  

1. Coffee Cup Sleeves. Oregon may begin printing Obamacare notices on coffee cup sleeves so everyone is aware of the great “opportunity” for higher premiums. Lisa Morawski, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange said, “That’s what we’re thinking right now for getting to those hard-to-reach populations.”

Yes, the hard to reach hipster populations who might fear enrolling if it becomes too mainstream.

2. “Modern Family” Plot Revisions. California has signed a $900,000 contract with a public relations firm to market the state Obamacare exchange. One proposal is to write about the exchange in plotlines for primetime shows.

3. Airplane Banner Ads across Beaches. Federal dollars provided through exchange grants in Connecticut will pay for beach flyovers advertising Obamacare...

4. …and Customized Sunscreen That Says “Get Covered.” Access Health CT, the official state health insurance exchange will even be at Sailfest, a southeastern Connecticut event that attracts more than 300,000 people annually, to promote their exchange.

5. Porta-Potty Ads. Washington’s health exchange is promoting itself to young people in the music-loving state with outreach at concerts and music festivals. Michael Marchland, who does communications for the exchange said, “We’ve talked about everything we could use, even whether we could do some branding on porta-poties.”

A fitting place for those of us with an appreciation of strong metaphors.

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