Paul Blair

Vaping Claimed First Victim One Year Ago

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, November 2nd, 2015, 4:21 PM PERMALINK

Electronic cigarettes are dangerous, so dangerous in fact that they’re banned from checked bags on airplanes, so dangerous that no one under the age of 18 can purchase them legally nearly anywhere, so dangerous that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has spent years trying to ban them.

In fact, e-cigarettes claimed their first victim just one year ago. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson was a Democrat member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, who had a career as a pediatric physical therapist before serving in the legislature beginning in 2013.

But, Representative Thomson didn’t die; voters kicked her out of office for her baseless assault on vapor products and the consumers and voters who use them.

E-cigarettes are banned from checked bags because they contain lithium ion batteries, which have been banned from checked bags since 2008.

Every reasonable person and business supports restricting the sale of nicotine containing products to minors.

The FDA’s overreach is an extension of the Obama administration’s anti-public health agenda, dead-set on protecting the government’s excise tax collections on traditional cigarettes.

Read this article in National Review, "Vaping for Tax Freedom," for more information on the vaping wars.

Over the objection of some so-called public health groups last year, New Mexico banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Some, like Rep. Thomson, wanted the products stripped from the hands of adults and teens alike. They wanted to subject the products to “sin” taxes, limit the types of products available, and ban their use in public places.

In October, vapor businesses and consumers organized a sizable group to attend a hearing in Santa Fe. Rep. Thomson was among those who attacked public health professionals like Dr. Joel Nitzkin in her quest to expose the “dangers” of e-cigarettes.

Vapers discovered soon after Rep. Thomson’s assault on the products they attribute to saving their lives that she was involved in one of the most closely contested races in New Mexico. Her opponent, Republican Conrad James, was a more market-oriented candidate, open to science and facts and not jaded by his hunger for more tax dollars and control over consumer choices.

Vapers made significant financial contributions, knocked doors, made phone calls, and were involved in a significant Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort in the days leading up to the election. Financial contributions were so great, James started turning down contributions out of a lack of need.

Rep. Liz Thomson was defeated by Conrad James by 374 votes and Republicans won control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years.

The next time you hear about the dangers of electronic cigarettes from Democrats, Republicans, or the press, remember Liz Thomson of New Mexico. She became the first victim of these dangerous products just one year ago.

Click here to learn more about Congressional efforts to restrict the FDA's plan to kill the e-cigarette industry. 

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Alabama House Committee Passes Massive Porn Tax

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, September 10th, 2015, 6:33 PM PERMALINK

Rather than fix a $200 million overspending problem before October 1, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee has passed a 40 percent “porn tax” on the gross receipts from the sale, rental, or admission charges of pornographic material. This includes pornographic magazines, adult videos, and online adult rentals.

Alabama lawmakers have struggled to pass a budget this year, now into their second special legislative session. Negotiations began in February with a proposal from Gov. Robery Bentley to raise taxes by more than $500 million. Despite having campaigned on his personal written commitment to oppose tax hikes, the governor has rejected budget restraint and reforms that did not include tax increases. The governor has attacked conservative lawmakers, threatened to withhold state funding for local projects, and neglected the will of taxpayers who elected him as a result of his promise to oppose tax hikes since the beginning of session. 

Though Bentley's proposals to raise cigarette taxes, eliminate state deductions for F.I.C.A. taxes, and a wide range of other targeted tax hikes have been rejected by the legislature thus far, the legislature has until October 1 to balance the budget in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestava Hills) explained his reasoning for proposing the massive tax by saying “any entertainment product that’s adult in nature, that you have to be over 18 to purchase, would have an excise tax like cigarettes and tobacco do.”

Despite declining tobacco use and tax revenue, typical proponents of tobacco tax hikes have cited the impact on public health costs borne by taxpayers as a result of smoking. Proposals, like those from the governor, that include cigarette tax hikes will only increase the state'd dependence on cigarettes, an extremely volatile source of revenue. It is unclear what public health program porn tax revenue would fund.

It is also unclear how books and movies will be treated with regards to the new tax. One person described a conflicting scenario where "Fifty Shades of Grey" the book would be taxed as porn but the movie, which is rated “R” by the Motion Picture Association of America might not be.

Proposals like this come as a result of pressure from Governor Bentley, who threatened to release criminals unless lawmakers raised taxes this spring. He noted in April, "you may not care about prisoners…but when you have them in your basement, you're going to care." 

A fiscal note is not available. The porn tax now heads to the full Alabama House for a floor vote.

Related: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Proposes More Tax Hikes in Second Special Session

Related: Alabama Lawmakers Balk at Tax Hikes, Set to Cut State Spending

Related: Robert Bentley Breaks His Pledge, Runs From the Truth

Related: Alabama Governor Unveils $541 Million Tax Hike

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Governor Cuomo Rejects Math Showing New York Biggest Population Loser in 2013

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Posted by Paul Blair on Saturday, September 5th, 2015, 12:12 PM PERMALINK

In 2013, New York lost more taxpayers than any other state in the nation according to IRS data released this week. As we recently pointed out, 114,929 people left the Empire State, taking with them $5.7 billion in annual adjusted gross income (AGI).

Upon learning about the mass migration of taxpayers fleeing to more friendly states, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office responded by saying the data “wasn’t fair because it didn’t include migration into the state.”

He continued, “Looking at one-half of the equation is not how you do math.” We agree. Which is exactly why we used outflow and inflow data, provided by the IRS.

Here’s how that math works.

The New York state-to-state migration data is broken down by state outflow and inflow. Three data points are provided: number of tax returns, number of exemptions, and adjusted gross income (AGI).

Whereas the number of returns only represents the number of individuals that filed tax returns, the number of exemptions represents individual filers and their dependents. Parents would claim a child as a dependent, for example.

In calendar years 2012-2013, 386,395 exemptions were filed on 219,652 tax returns. That represents a loss of 386,395 individuals (half of the equation; outflow).

In calendar years 2012-2013, 271,466 exemptions were filed on 167,337 tax returns. That represents a gain of 271,466 individuals (the other half of the equation; inflow).

To simplify this even further for the math-challenged in Albany, 386,395 minus 271,466 results in a NET LOSS of 114,929 residents.

(Graphic from New York Post)

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Click this link to access the IRS data. The excel data is provided here. 

New York remains…the biggest loser. 

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Taxpayers Fleeing Democrat-Run States for Republican Ones

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Posted by Paul Blair on Friday, September 4th, 2015, 6:00 AM PERMALINK

In 2013, more than 200,000 people on net fled states with Democrat governors for ones run by Republicans, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by Americans for Tax Reform. 

"People move away from high tax states to low tax states. Every tax refugee is sending a powerful message to politicians," said ATR President Grover Norquist. "They are voting with their feet. Leaders in Texas and Florida are listening. New York and California are not."

That year, Democrat-run states lost a net 226,763 taxpayers, bringing with them nearly $15.7 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI). That same year, states with Republican governors gained nearly 220,000 new taxpayers, who brought more than $14.1 billion in AGI with them.

Only one-third of states with Democrat governors gained taxpayers, compared to three-fifths of states with Republican governors.  

Top 5 loser states for Democrat governors in 2013:

·      New York (114,929 people with $5.7 billion in AGI)

·      Illinois (68,943 people with $3.8 billion in AGI)

·      California (47,458 people with 3.8 billion in AGI)

·      Connecticut (14,453 people with $1.8 billion in AGI)

·      Massachusetts (11,915 people with $1 billion in AGI)

Top 5 winner states for Republican governors in 2013:

·      Texas (152,912 people with $6 billion in AGI)

·      Florida (74,094 people with 8.3 billion in AGI)

·      South Carolina (29,176 people with 1.6 billion in AGI)

·      North Carolina (26,207 people with $1.5 billion in AGI)

·      Arizona (16,549 people with $1.5 billion in AGI)

The single largest net migration from one state to another took place between New York and Florida (17,355 people). 


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Taxpayers Crown Winner of America’s Biggest Loser: New York

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015, 12:42 PM PERMALINK

Newly released IRS migration data from 2013 shows that New York lost more taxpayers than any other state in the nation. That year, nearly 115,000 residents left the Empire State, taking with them $5.65 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) to spend elsewhere.

This new data shows that New York will remain America’s “Biggest Loser,” having lost nearly 1.6 million taxpayers between 1985 and 2013. Those residents took with them more than $80.8 billion in annual AGI.

The phenomenal failure of New York to retain taxpayers and businesses is directly related to its uncompetitive tax and business climates. By some measures, New Yorkers face the greatest tax burden of any state in the nation. The personal income tax system consists of eight brackets and a top rate of 8.82%. The corporate tax of 7.1% and property tax collections are $2435 per person. The Tax Foundation ranked New York 50th until this year after a set of minor tax reductions.

In 2013, New York had the largest population losses to the following states:

  • Florida -20,465 (-$1.35 billion)
  • New Jersey -16,223 (-$1.1 billion)
  • Texas -10,784 (-$354 million)
  • North Carolina -9,070 ($294 million)
  • California -7,849 (-$200 million)


Even Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the status quo has “cost us dearly” being the “highest tax state in the nation.”

In an attempt to edge out some bottom-of the-list competitors, Cuomo has enacted minor property tax caps, corporate tax relief, and attempted to lure G.E. from Connecticut in the midst of that state’s massive tax hikes this year.

Who was the biggest winner in 2013? Click here to find out. 

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Vapers Remain Top Target of Lawmakers and Bureaucrats

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015, 3:04 PM PERMALINK

In my last podcast with ATR president Grover Norquist, we discussed the newest target of tax hikes at the state level. The new “sin,” an alternative to combustible cigarettes, is vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes.

Click here to listen to our January podcast, “The Grover Norquist Show: Leave Vapers Alone!”

With nearly every state legislative session coming to a close, Grover and I re-examined the status of e-cigarette taxation at the state level and the looming threat of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over-regulation. In this podcast, we preview the two temporary Congressional pathways to prevent the prohibition of the products currently on the market.

Click here to learn more about one of those solutions, Rep. Tom Cole’s H.R. 2058.

We last examined the lay of the land in January of this year. At the time, I predicted 25-30 states would look to raise taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products and wrote about the trend in Forbes, which you can read here. Listen to the podcast to see if my predictions were correct!

Click here to support our efforts to fight higher taxes and unnecessary regulations on e-cigarettes and vapor products.

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ATR Opposes Massive New Excise Tax on Vapor Products in Washington State

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, June 25th, 2015, 2:11 PM PERMALINK

In a letter to legislators in Washington, Americans for Tax Reform reminded members of the House Finance Committee of the potential consequences of raising taxes on electronic cigarettes and vapor products. Now into their second special session on the budget, legislators are scrambling to tie up loose ends to fund their overspending problem.

Click here for a PDF of the letter. 

This afternoon, behind closed doors, legislators will debate House Bill 2211, which includes a new 60 percent tax on the wholesale cost of e-cigarettes and vapor products sold in Washington. The threat of this tax has already forced a medium-sized company that employs more than 100 Washington residents to begin its relocation to Arizona.

“These bills are a clear existential threat to our business,” Mt. Baker Vapor explained. “Even if the bills did fail, Governor Inslee has another year left in office and has made it clear that he will continue tormenting our industry.”

The vaping industry and the consumers who are using the products have been a top target for state lawmakers since the products began gaining popularly among smokers looking for an effective way to quit with a healthier alternative product.

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products don’t contain the tar or countless carcinogens that can produce cancer, illness, and disease. Where some see a new technology that is helping people quit smoking, cash-hungry politicians like Gov. Inslee and his legislative allies in Washington see a new target to tax.

The letter to the House Finance Committee from ATR president Grover Norquist can be read below:

Dear Representative,

I write today in opposition to House Bill 2211, which would impose a 60 percent tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products sold in Washington. Not only is this a massive tax increase that will hurt small businesses in Washington, but to impose a massive tax on vapor products makes little sense from a health perspective as well.

This 60 percent tax will make Washington extremely uncompetitive in e-cigarette and vapor product pricing, leading to an increase in online purchasing. E-cigarettes will prove to be an extremely volatile source that costs in-state businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales, resulting in even less revenue for the state government. 

The threat of onerous taxation on vapor products and businesses has already resulted in the announcement that Mount Baker Vapor, which employs more than 100 Washington residents, will be relocating to Arizona this year. The income, property, and sales taxes generated by this medium-sized company will no longer be collected in Washington as a result of legislative threats like HB 2211.

Taking aim at e-cigarettes with higher taxes works at cross-purposes with efforts to cut down on the harm associated with smoking. Mitch Zeller, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA has recognized this reality. He recently noted, “If we could get all of those people to completely switch all of their cigarettes to one of these non-combustible products, that would be good for public health.” 

A number of studies have shown that electronic cigarettes stand to improve health and prevent disease. By choosing to “vape” e-cigs instead of smoking traditional tobacco, consumers get their nicotine fix without the combustion and smoke, which are responsible for many of the negative health effects of tobacco cigarettes.

With e-cigarettes, the free market has provided a solution to a problem that social engineers have not been able to address through stiff government regulations. The imposition of new taxes on innovative products that reduce smoking and people’s dependence on tobacco cigarettes is misguided and will impede proven harm reduction methods. It makes little sense in this fragile economy to impose hundreds of thousands of dollars in higher taxes on a product that provides consumers a viable and harmless alternative to traditional tobacco products.  

I would urge you to reject House Bill 2211 in its present form and in any form that imposes an excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products. Not only will the tax yield insignificant revenue for the state, it will keep smokers from transitioning to a far healthier alternative. While this might protect state cigarette tax revenue, it will continue to impact state health care costs in a far more detrimental way. 

Support our efforts to fight e-cigarette and vapor tax hikes by clicking here. 

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Florida Governor Rick Scott Cuts Spending and Taxes in 2015

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 3:12 PM PERMALINK

This week, Governor Rick Scott (R-Fla.) signed a 78.2 billion budget that included a historic $461.4 million in line item spending cuts, among the largest cuts ever made by a governor. This comes on the heels of a $429 million tax cut package, which he signed just last week.

Taxpayers have a friend in Gov. Scott, who said this of his cuts: “I went through the budget looking at every project and saying: What’s a statewide priority? Can I get a good return on investment? Has it gone through a state process?”

In his letter to the legislature, he explained why he line item vetoed specific projects by noting:

“Tax revenue is generated by Floridians who are working hard to provide for their families and we are committed to effectively using these dollars by investing them in areas with proven results. That is why I have vetoed $461.1 million in special projects.”

Below is a list of several special spending projects inserted into the budget by lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat alike:  

  • $300,000 for a water taxi on Clearwater Beach
  • $1 million for the restoration of a marina in Pahokee
  • $1 million to expand a library in Palm Harbor
  • $5 million for “strategic land acquisition”
  • $250,000 for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American studies, which already received $600,000 for two prior reports
  • $1.5 million for Teach for America
  • $260,000 for the Therapeutic Performing Arts Therapy program
  • $140,000 for “Nature’s Paradise”
  • $500,000 for a children’s “ability center”
  • $5.5 million for no-bid contracts for wetland/chemical treatment systems and two floating aquatic vegetative tilling treatment systems
  • $550,000 for “promotional awards” at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services”
  • $2 million for a horse park
  • $250,000 for the Arcadia Rodeo
  • $10 million in “Quiet Zone” improvements
  • $500,000 in media campaigns to publicize the dangers of unlicensed real estate activity
  • $500,000 for the Circus Arts Conservatory
  • $500,000 for the relocation of the Miami Boat Show
  • $61,366 for the a Plant Museum in Tampa
  • $200,000 for a contemporary dance company in Miami


A health insurer also tried to pass on the costs of federal Obamacare taxes onto state taxpayers. Rick Scott put a stop to $136,000 in that expenditure and hundreds of thousands in tax dollars intended to fund electronic medical record systems for private organizations.

The governor also vetoed millions of dollars in local water treatment and improvement projects; expenditures the governor rightly argues must meet a statewide investment benefit.

At the conclusion of his letter, Scott again voluntarily reduced his state-funded salary to one cent per month.

For Republican governors looking for role models, one needs to look no further than the Sunshine State where a beacon of hope remains. Transparency remains an effective disinfectant for out-of-control spending and Scott’s vetoes send an effective message to legislators, even in years where the state has a surplus: taxpayers will not be swindled by back-room budget deals; the governor is watching. 

Click here for the full list of vetoes. 

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Florida Legislature Overwhelmingly Passes Tax Cuts in Special Session

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, June 16th, 2015, 11:04 AM PERMALINK

Monday, the Florida Legislature passed a $429-million tax-cut package that among other things will lower cell phone and cable taxes for Florida taxpayers. Though a debate over Medicaid expansion and proposals on higher health care spending resulted in a special budget session, the tax relief package passed the Senate by a vote of 34-2 and the House by a margin of 91-2.

Governor Rick Scott pushed for nearly $700 million in tax cuts this year with his “Keep Florida Working” annual budget, but he applauded the legislature’s smaller plan in a statement yesterday afternoon:

“Florida’s budget had an over $1 billion budget surplus this year because of the hard work of Floridians, and this tax cut package will send more than $400 million back to the people who earned it. I applaud the Florida House and the Florida Senate for their work on this legislation and I look forward to working with them to keep cutting taxes next year and to keep Florida working.”

The largest component of the tax package involved a reduction of the Communications Services Tax (CST). Currently, Florida has the fourth highest CST rate in the country with a total tax bite of 22.38 percent when you consider all levels of government that tax wireless services (including federal).

Communication services like cell phones and satellite television are subjected to a myriad of taxes, including a state tax and gross receipts tax, local communications services taxes, 911 operator fees, and a federal Universal Services Fund tax.

The CST cut passed by the legislature will permanently reduce the state portion of cell phone and satellite taxes by 0.9 percent to 5.75 percent on cell phones and to 9.9 percent on direct-to-home satellite services. It also temporarily reduces both taxes by another 0.9 percent through 2017.

Gov. Scott sought a permanent 3.6 percent CST reduction and the legislature met him half way, at least for two years.

Sens. Clemens (SD-27) and Thompson (SD-12) and Reps. Artiles (HD-118) and Pafford (HD-86) were the only legislators to vote against the package, which received 125 yeas to 4 nays.

The bill doesn’t only lower a $100 cell phone bill by $1.73 a month; it includes a number of other smaller tax cuts and exemptions as well.

  • New 10 day back-to-school sales tax holiday
  • Exempts college textbooks from the sales tax for one year
  • Adds irrigation equipment to a list of farm supplies that are exempt from sales tax
  • Exempts gun club memberships from the sales tax permanently
  • Caps boat repair taxes at $60,000
  • Exempts food and drinks sold by school support organizations like booster clubs from the sales tax after they’ve been purchased, before resale
  • Increases corporate income tax credits for one year for companies who clean up the Brownfields (polluted area of land)
  • Corporate income tax credits of up to 10 percent for R&D
  • Sales tax exemption for aviation fuel at flight schools and colleges
  • Prolongs life of Florida Enterprise Zones, which were set to expire this year, by 3 more years


The governor is expected to sign the $429 million tax relief package this week, bringing the total size of tax cuts signed by Gov. Rick Scott to more than $2.6 billion.

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Anti-Business Governor Jay Inslee Forces Emerging New Vapor Business to Relocate from Washington to Arizona

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015, 5:09 PM PERMALINK

Mount Baker Vapor, an electronic cigarette and vapor product business based in Bellingham, Washington announced today that they would be relocating their business operations to Mesa, Arizona “due to legislative pressure.”

In their announcement they explain, “Legislative pressure from Washington State has made it clear that they no longer offer a suitable environment for a growing business in the vaping industry.”

That pressure has come in the form of proposal to ban online sales and the imposition of astronomical taxes ranging as high as 95 percent, both proposals from Democrat Governor Jay Inslee.

“These bills are a clear existential threat to our business,” they explain. “Even if the bills did fail, Governor Inslee has another year left in office and has made it clear that he will continue tormenting our industry.”

The vaping industry and the consumers who are using the products have been a top target for state lawmakers since the products began gaining popularly among smokers looking for an effective way to quit with a healthier alternative product.

Electronic cigarettes and vapor products don’t contain the tar or countless carcinogens that can produce cancer, illness, and disease. Where some see a new technology that is helping people quit smoking, cash-hungry politicians like Gov. Inslee in Washington see a new target to tax.

Click here for a map of where threats of higher taxes on e-cigarettes stand in the states.

An analyst for Wells Fargo estimates that e-cigarette sales will top $10 billion by 2017 and could overtake combustible cigarettes within a decade. Among those looking to prevent that growth are politicians like Gov. Inslee and bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Click here to read more about the FDA and e-cigarettes.

Arizona is far friendlier to businesses than states like Washington. Governor Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) ran for office on the platform of significantly reducing the income tax. He’s rejected Nanny-State proposals like plastic bag bans and cut spending by hundreds of millions of dollars in just one year.

“I want Arizona to be the best state in the country to work and do business,” Ducey remarked in March.

Mt. Baker Vapor’s move to Arizona makes it clear that businesses looking to escape high taxation and unnecessary regulations have a friend in Gov. Ducey and the state of Arizona. NJOY, another company that produces and sells e-cigarettes and vapor products is also headquartered in Arizona. 

Though a Democrat lawmaker from Arizona proposed imposing sin taxes on e-cigarettes this year, the bill got no traction, didn’t come up for a vote, and garnered no support from the governor.

Mt. Baker Vapor employs more than 100 people in Washington and expects to be fully operational in Arizona later this year. 

Might Arizona become the Silicon Valley for electronic cigarette companies looking to relocate to more business friendly states? Only time will tell. 

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