Paul Blair

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.

Photo Credit: Mike McBride, Flickr

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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. 

Photo Credit: Center for American Progress

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Nevada Legislature Vetoes Voters and Passes Largest Tax Hike in State History

Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, June 1st, 2015, 6:37 PM PERMALINK

Last night, by a vote of 30-10, the Nevada state Assembly joined the Senate in approving a $1.5 billion tax hike over the next two years. Governor Sandoval sought at least $1.1 billion in new revenue to fund the expansion of Medicaid, higher education spending, and corporate handouts to companies like Tesla immediately after winning re-election last year. The legislature gave him even more than he asked for when the Senate sent him the tax hike bill this afternoon. 

When the question of whether Nevada should impose a margins tax on businesses in the state to fund increased education spending was put before Nevada voters last year, they rejected the “Education Initiative” by an 80-20 margin.

The margins tax, if approved, will jeopardize Nevada’s recovery,” Gov. Sandoval said last year when he too opposed one of the worst elements of this year’s budget bill.

Gov. Sandoval told voters that he opposed tax hikes so that he could get re-elected. Unfortunately, the legislature let him get away with it.

Here’s a list of the tax hikes:

  • Higher state business license fee
  • Higher payroll/modified business tax
  • Higher payroll/modified business tax; even higher on mining
  • New “Uber” tax on ride-sharing customers
  • New tax on taxis and limousines
  • Higher Live Entertainment Tax on auto racing and concerts
  • A 125% increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes
  • Higher tax on elk hunters car owners (registration fee)
  • Higher sales tax


Every Democrat in the Assembly and the following Republicans voted for the largest tax hike in Nevada history: John Hambrick (violated the Taxpayer Protection Pledge with yes vote), James OscarsonDavid Gardner, Erv Nelson, P.K  O’Neill, Steven SilberkrausDerek Armstrong, Glenn Trowbridge

None of them ran on raising taxes last year. All of them were elected and re-elected on false pretenses.

Assembly Republicans who voted against the tax hike included: Michele Fiore, Victoria Seaman, Brent Jones, Ira Hansen, Jill Dickman, Chris Edwards, Shelly Shelton, Robin Titus, Jim Wheeler and John Ellison. Senate Republicans who opposed the final bill included: Pete Goicoechea, James Settelmeyer, and Don Gustavson. 

"The leadership of both houses should be ashamed of themselves for forcing through the largest tax increase in history," said Sen. Gustavson of the vote. 

ATR applauds those legislators who opposed Sandoval's proposals and thanks them for standing with taxpayers by voting no. 

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ATR Supports Rep. Tom Cole’s FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015

Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015, 3:21 PM PERMALINK

Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) recently introduced H.R. 2058, the “FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015.” This legislation would prevent the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from banning tobacco products (like cigars) and 99 percent of the innovative vapor and electronic cigarette products that have hit the market since 2007.

The FDA is finalizing a regulatory framework for premium cigars and vapor products that stands to require pre-market approval for all products that have hit the market since February 15, 2007. Any product on the market prior to that date would largely be exempt and any product that has hit the market since then would be given two years to apply for approval.

H.R. 2058 moves up the 2007 date to the date of the announced “deeming regulation,” which is likely to occur later this year. This would permit products that have hit the market since 2007 to remain on the shelves, pending approval. This is important for a number of reasons. First, nearly every vapor product on the market today did not exist in 2007. The thousands of e-liquids and countless versions of electronic cigarettes available to smokers looking for an effective way to quit would be banned pending FDA approval without a change to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or subsequent Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which established the 2007 date.

That Act was intended to apply to cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and roll your own products. The FDA’s attempt to categorize new products under the authority given to them by that legislation lays out two pathways to “legalization” for new products on the market. The first is “substantial equivalence,” whereby a manufacturer must file for a tobacco product application, which includes clinical trials and would be relatively expensive for small and medium sized businesses.

Rep. Cole’s common-sense legislation moves up this substantial equivalence 2007 date to date of deeming regulation in 2015 and would prevent countless companies from having to cease operations given the cost of compliance for products that are already being sold to consumers.

If this legislative change if not made, and for the companies who could afford compliance, the FDA would be inundated with applications that the agency is not equipped to fast-track for approval. For combustible cigarette smokers looking to or considering quitting with e-cigarettes, this would be a tragedy as countless innovative smoking cessation devices would be at risk of never being sold.

The FDA has claimed that it does not have the power to modify the February 15, 2007 date, making a Congressional solution imperative. Americans for Tax Reform supports H.R. 2058 and urges more members to join on as co-sponsors in the coming weeks. This legislation will encourage innovation and teardown an unnecessary federal barrier to the sale of many products that stand to improve public health. 

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ATR Opposes DC Mayor Muriel Bowser's Proposed Tax Hikes

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, May 11th, 2015, 5:02 PM PERMALINK

As the Washington, DC City Council weighs Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 2016 budget, low and middle-income taxpayers should be wary. Last Friday, ATR testified before the Committee of the Whole to express our concerns regarding Bowser’s regressive tax hikes.

Among other things, the $12.9 billion budget submitted by Bowser raises the city’s sales tax from 5.75% to 6% despite growing city revenue and annual growth. This $22 million tax hike would adversely affect the city’s poorest, even if intended to fund government projects to their benefit. The city rejected this increase last year, when Bowser was on the Council.

“It’s the most regressive kind of tax . . . and besides, you save raising the tax for the rainy day,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), noting that local revenue is projected to grow to more than $7 billion next year, an increase of $185 million, or nearly 3 percent. “When revenues are growing by 3 percent, you don’t need to be raising taxes.”

Another tax increase contained in the budget targets smokers looking for an effective way to quit. Bowser's 70% tax on electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) would constitute more than 1200% increase on the products currently subjected to the city’s 5.75% sales tax. This tax on quitting smoking is misguided and will result in closed businesses and a loss of city jobs.

That testimony can be found in its entirety here:

Chairman Mendelson and Members of the DC City Council,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, thank you for providing us the opportunity to testify before the Committee of the Whole this morning.

Americans for Tax Reform is a non-profit taxpayer advocacy organization based here in Washington, D.C. that has existed since 1985. Last year, ATR was happy to support the historic tax reform package passed into law by the Council, which broadened the base of taxable services, reduced tax rates for individuals and businesses and took a step in the right direction towards making DC more competitive.

Unfortunately, this year’s Budget Request and Support Acts take a step in the wrong direction, particularly targeting low and middle-income consumers with higher, regressive taxes.

First, the proposal to raise the sales tax to 6%. District revenues are growing. This happens in periods of natural and competitive growth and makes this tax hike unnecessary. To target those who can least afford it with $22 million in higher taxes on the products they purchase just to get by flies in the face of last year’s tax reform package aimed at encouraging people to live, stay, shop, and move into the District.

Second, the proposal to raise taxes on electronic cigarettes and vapor products contained in the Vapor Products Amendment Act of 2015. Last year this Council changed the way DC taxes tobacco based on a recommendation from the DC Tax Reform Commission and the Tobacco Free Coalition. Electronic cigarettes and vapor products were exempt from being defined as tobacco for good reason. They’re tobacco-free and they’re effective smoking cessation products that stand to save thousands of lives in DC and millions of tax dollars.

The massively unjustifiable 70% tax on the wholesale cost of vapor products will guarantee that the poorest DC residents continue smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes. And while projections assert that this new tax will result in $382,000 in revenue next year, that is extremely unlikely because it assumes two things.

First, that consumers who have and are looking to make the switch from tobacco to vapor products will not simply buy the products in Maryland or Virginia, where the products are taxed at 6 percent in retail locations.

Second, that DC vapor product sales won’t go online where the District does not have the authority to tax or regulate sales to consumers.

Both assumptions are wrong and will result in less revenue than anticipated and less sales tax revenue from products currently taxed at 5.75 percent in DC retail locations. For products costing as much as $300, not even wealthy consumers will purchase the products in DC retail locations.

There are real, operational, new businesses in this City who stand to be put out of business with this tax hike. While they can speak better to the new employees they’ve hired, the rent, income, and sales taxes they’re paying, I wanted to echo their concerns. Increasing the cost of vapor products by 70 percent will make their sales no longer viable in DC. These shops may shut down and the city’s tax policies will discourage new shops from opening. This budget stands to kill current and future jobs.

The Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products remarked last year, “If we could get all of those people to completely switch all of their cigarettes to noncombustible cigarettes (electronic/vapor), it would be good for public health.” Does this Council disagree? Should we not create tax policy that facilitates and encourages consumers switching to tobacco-free technology products without placing an undue and costly burden on them?

Even as the FDA considers a set of guidelines on the industry, they admit vapor products are likely good for public health. That’s precisely why vapor products may save the District millions of tax dollars. The cost borne by taxpayers for the use of tobacco by recipients of Medicaid far outweighs the revenue generated from cigarette sales or tobacco settlement payments by an astounding 200 percent, according to a recent study by State Budget Solutions. Vapor products, used by lower and middle-income consumers on Medicaid will bring down the long-term health care costs paid for by the rest of District taxpayers. 

There’s a reason every state in the nation that considered taxing vapor products like tobacco in 2014 failed. Politicians in both parties agree that vapor products may just accomplish what lawmakers have failed to do for decades: ending tobacco cigarette use, as we know it. Any policies, including higher taxes that make it more expensive for residents to make the switch to far healthier alternatives, should be rejected.

We urge the City Council to reject the Mayor’s tax hike proposals.​


Photo Credit: Crystal Nicole Davis

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Hawaii Bans Smoking For Young Adults, Lets Kids Continue to Have Sex

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, April 27th, 2015, 4:15 PM PERMALINK

Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to increase the legal smoking age to 21. In a move that indicates this has absolutely nothing to do with public health, the bill passed by the legislature on Friday also prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco-free electronic cigarettes.

While some localities, like New York City, have raised the legal smoking age to 21, if Gov. David Ige signs this law, Hawaii will become the first state to impose a statewide ban on young adult access to legal cigarettes. The law would go into effect January 1, 2016.

An example of an absurd claim regarding cigarette advertising came from Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who introduced the bill. “While the industry is not allowed to directly market to children, it is still developing packaging and advertising products in ways that appeal to children.”

No offense to the producers of Marlboro, but these are among the most boring and unappealing packaging designs imaginable:

Regarding e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently weighing a new set of deeming regulations regarding advertising and sales. Hawaii should defer to the FDA for guidance on this regulatory framework. 

At least one opponent of the legislation, Democratic Sen. Gil Riviere had some common sense insight: “You can sign contracts, you can get married, you can go to war and lose an arm or lose an eye… you come back and you’re 20 years old and you can’t have a s cigarette.”

The logic behind legislation saying “cigarettes are disgusting and should be banned” might as well apply to all adults, Riviere’s thinking goes (sarcastically).

The Nanny State is out of control.

Think about this. Beyond being able to serve in the military - putting your life at risk in many cases in the course of war for your country, in Hawaii, the legal age of consent is 16. There is a “close in age exception” that allows kids, yes children, who are 14 years old to also legally have sex with anyone who is less than 5 years older than they are. Hawaii has clearly concluded that middle schoolers have enough maturity and cognitive development to consent to sex with high school graduates, but not enough to think about the impact of cigarette use. 

Think what you will about age of consent laws but compare the double standard for permitting two different personal choices, both of which may have significant life-long consequences.

Hawaii’s rationale seems to be that what you do in your own bedroom is your call, unless it includes the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes. In the latter cases, the government must save you from yourself. 

Give me a break.

Photo Credit: Daniel Ramirez

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Martinez Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Paul Blair on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 3:54 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform would like to applaud Governor Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) and the state legislature for passing historic civil asset forfeiture reform legislation. The governor, a former district attorney, signed HB 560 which passed the legislature unanimously earlier this month. In a recent letter to Martinez, ATR urged the governor to sign this important law:

We ask that you help put an end to a regime that allows authorities to take and keep property from individuals not charged with a crime. By signing the bill, civil asset forfeiture is changed into criminal asset forfeiture; thereby ensuring that criminals, not law-abiding civilians, pay the price for broken laws.

In her a released statement, Martinez asserts “the changes made by this legislation improve the transparency and accountability of the forfeiture process and provide further protections to innocent property owners.”

This is, of course balanced with concern for law enforcement.

She asks that “we… ensure that our law enforcement officers have the training, protection, and tools necessary to fight crime within our borders. The burden is on public officials at every level to ensure that our law enforcement officers are respected for the work they do and have all the resources they need to protect our families.”

Civil asset forfeiture has been in the spotlight as a problematic tool that may invite abuse by some in the law enforcement community; however, New Mexico now finds itself leading the charge in reforms aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of Americans.

Hopefully, lawmakers and politicians will follow New Mexico’s example in protecting both citizens and law enforcement with similar reform legislation.

Photo Credit: Denise Womack-Avila

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ATR Opposes Transportation Tax Hikes in Idaho

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, April 8th, 2015, 8:29 AM PERMALINK

Yesterday, the Idaho state Senate amended a transportation plan to include new gas and car tax hikes to be phased in over the next four years. Intended to fund transportation projects, the $126.6 million tax hike cleared the Senate 22 to 13 and heads to the House for approval. Without a re-appropriation of funds from other parts of the budget, the state faces a $262 million shortfall for maintenance of its roads and bridges.

Click here to send a letter to your representatives and Governor Otter telling them to reject this tax hike. 

The House recently passed a 7-cent gas tax hike, which was coupled with a cut in the top income tax rates and the elimination of the sales tax on groceries. The Senate killed that bill without a debate or vote. 

Idaho’s gas tax stands at 25 cents per gallon and when combined with the federal 18.4 cents per gallon of gas taxes, Idaho consumers pay 43.4 cents per gallon of gas in taxes. The Senate amendment would raise the Idaho gas tax to 35 cents per gallon for a total of 53.4 cents per gallon total paid in taxes by Idaho commuters. That's higher than consumers pay in neighboring Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Oregon. 

The plan would raise the gas tax 4 cents this year, 4 cents in 2017, and another 2 cents in 2019.

Idaho Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) opposed the tax increase, noting, "This is a very large tax increase…In my opinion, to come in, in the best revenue year since I’ve been here, to take all of that money and allocate it and raise taxes on top of that, I don’t think is frugal or conservative.” 

The original House bill contained $20 million in new revenue. The Senate’s tax hike is 8.5 times larger than the House transportation package, which relied on registration fee increases of $15 on cars and trucks and $6 on motorcycles. 

Another legislator who opposed the bill, Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) noted the rushed nature of the proposal. “If we pass this, my constituents will never be heard on it…I didn't think that’s the way we did business.”

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and other lawmakers have refused to prioritize transportation projects with revenue from the general fund. This is misguided, as Sen. Steve Vick recently pointed out. From 

Vick said lawmakers should have found money in general fund spending hikes, at least $200 million in this year, to ease the burden of the gas tax and fee increases.

“To the citizens, it all comes out of the same pocket for them,” Vick said. “They have to budget for it. To those people, this is all the same money.”

Instead of focusing on ways to extract more revenue from taxpayers, commuters and small businesses in Idaho, the legislature should fund transportation with currently collected revenue, regardless of which fund it comes from. There isn’t a rule against using general fund money for transportation; it’s illogical to pretend that there is. General fund revenue should be spent on the legislature's greatest priorities, which should include maintaining state roads and bridges. 

The Idaho House should reject this tax hike and demand tax relief instead. 

Sign a letter to your representatives and the Governor by clicking here! 

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ATR Joins Coalition Opposed to Free Speech Restrictions in Georgia

Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015, 1:59 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform joined a coalition of conservative organizations and individuals opposing free speech restrictions in Georgia. If signed by Governor Nathan Deal, Senate Bill 127 would restrict the ability of nonprofit organizations from engaging in public debates and political discourse during election years. A House amendment was made to a Senate ethics bill that would subject nonprofit organizations to disclosure requirements imposed upon political campaigns and PACs. 

From the letter: 

"SB 127 now is remarkably similar to recent legislation pushed by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C. designed to silence advocacy groups from educating the voting public. Fortunately, it didn’t pass at the federal level."

This is a clear effort intended to silence critics of incumbent legislators and it flies in the face of Supreme Court protections against this type of legislation.

"The 1958 Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Alabama put a stop to this type of onerous legislative restriction on free speech and free association. The Court’s decision to provide for “immunity from state scrutiny” for organizations like the NAACP at the time guaranteed an important protection on First Amendment rights. The case protected members of organizations from intimidation and harassment. The 2010 case of Citizens United v. FEC further restored free-speech protections for non-profit organizations.

SB 127 would tear down those constitutionally protected rights, for individuals and organizations."

SB 127 stands to do far more damage than simply shielding legislators from educated voters. 

"If this bill is signed into law, Georgia would restrict free speech and association more so than any other state in the nation. SB 127 stands to hurt not only the organizations who participate in public discourse but the voters, taxpayers, and residents of Georgia who will no longer be entitled to know where elected officials truly stand on important public policy issues.

The clandestine and confusing efforts to advance SB 127 not only make for bad public policy, but are seen by members of impacted organizations as a legislative weapon intended to silence dissenting voices."

Click here to read the full letter. 

The coalition letter was signed by *(updated list): 

Linda Fowler, Georgia Tea Party Patriots

Teresa Tatum, Georgia Tea Party Patriots

Debbie Dooley, Atlanta Tea Party & Georgia Tea Party Patriots

Jenny Beth Martin, Co-Founder of Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund

Jeanne Seaver, Chairman/ President of Georgia Grassroots Coalition

Erick Erickson, Editor of

Tim Head, Executive Director of Faith and Freedom Coalition

Patrick Parsons, Executive Director of Georgia Gun Owners

Stuart Griffin, Chairman of Georgia Pro Life

Jason Pye, Georgia Resident/Director of Messaging at FreedomWorks

David Bossie, President and Chairman of Citizens United

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of Susan B. Anthony List

Brent Wm. Gardner, Vice President of Government Affairs at Americans for Prosperity

Charmaine Yoest, President & CEO of Americans United for Life

Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks

Ed Martin, President of Eagle Forum

Amy Noone Frederick, President of 60 Plus Association

L. Brent Bozell III, Chairman of ForAmerica

Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment

Virginia Galloway, Southern Regional Director of Faith and Freedom Coalition

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform

Healther Higgins, President and CEO of Independent Women's Voice



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Georgia Lawmakers Pass Massive New Tax Hikes Targeting Tourism and Commuters

Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015, 5:37 PM PERMALINK

Last night, Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 170, a massive transportation funding bill that will raise taxes by $700 million a year. Americans for Tax Reform opposed the legislation and urged the legislature to prioritize currently collected revenue to fund new and existing transportation projects instead. 

Georgia ranks 36th in the country in the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate. Florida ranks 5th. As Florida looks to further reduce the net tax burden on residents, particularly low-income ones, Georgia continues to fall behind by not working to simplify the tax code with pro-growth policies that reduce the net burden on small businesses and consumers. This may prove to be a boon for Governor Rick Scott, who has worked hard to attract new residents and businesses to the Sunshine State. 

Here is a list of the tax hikes including in HB 170: 

  • A new $200 fee on electric vehicles and the elimination of a $5,000 tax credit for purchases or leases of electric cars;
  • A new fee on heavy trucks between $50-$100 amounting to a $50 million tax hike;
  • A new $5 per night hotel or motel occupancy tax amounting to a $200 million tax hike;
  • A recalculation of the statewide gas tax and fee structure amounting to $390 million in tax hikes.

According to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, "Local sales taxes on motor fuel amount to about 6 cents per gallon at current prices, so a revenue-neutral excise tax that does not change local sales taxes on motor fuel would equal 23.2 cents per gallon." Unfortunately, this legislation was not revenue-neutral. HB 170 imposes a new state 26 and 29 cent excise tax per gallon of gas and diesel. This is on top of the local taxes and a federal 18.4 cent per gallon gas and 24.4 diesel tax.  

A last minute addition to the legislation included the $5 per night motel and hotel tax. These taxes are a top target for lawmakers who like raising taxes without doing so on people who can vote them out of office. These taxes punish hoteliers, small businesses that provide jobs and help stoke economic growth in their communities. Higher taxes reduce hotel business, which hurts downstream businesses such as restaurants and convenience stores whose success depends on hotel traffic. In inserting this tax hike into HB 170 at the last minute, legislators targeted the 5th largest employer in the state, an industry that already generates $2.8 billion in direct and indirect revenue for Georgia. 

ATR opposes House Bill 170 and if Governor Nathan Deal signs it, he will be violating his Taxpayer Protection Pledge to Georgia taxpayers. 

Click here to read Paul Blair's op-ed in the Daily Caller on the tactics employed by supporters of this legislation to try to silence critics like ATR. 

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