Robert Wines

ATR Encourages Indiana Legislators to Reject Extreme New Taxes on Vapor Products

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Monday, April 22nd, 2019, 2:56 PM PERMALINK

In the ongoing saga around the appropriate taxation of electronic cigarettes and vapor products in Indiana, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to pass a 20 percent retail tax on products sold in the state. The recent Senate amendment to House Bill 1444 took a different approach than that of the House-passed 4 cents per mL tax on e-liquids, putting both chambers at odds with each other on what to tax and how to tax it. Both bills are misguided and should be examined further in the coming months before implementation is even considered.

The Senate-passed 20 percent retail tax would be on top of the current 7 percent state sales tax, making the total tax on vapor products, including devices, 27 percent. This onerous tax would send the wrong message to adults who smoke, by raising costs on less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. It would do so while making Indiana a standout state in its structure of a vapor product tax, making it more progressive and extreme than California or New York, which do not tax devices. Implementing the most broad, extreme, and regressive tax in the nation on this innovative industry should not be the objective of Indiana lawmakers.

Vaping is a proven-effective alternative to both cigarettes and traditional cessation methods. A study conducted by Public Health England concluded that vapor products are at least 95% less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Moreover, the New England Journal of Medicine determined that the use of e-cigarettes are nearly two times more effective than quit methods such as the use of nicotine gum and patches. Taxing effective quit methods flies in the face of both public health and ideal tax policy.

The Senate amendment to impose a massive new retail tax on e-cigarettes did not go unchallenged. State Senator Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, stood firmly against the tax, leaving him the sole opposition vote in committee. ATR applauds his efforts and encourages more of his colleagues to discuss the matter with him moving forward.

At present, the bill is being considered by a joint conference committee, to work out the differences between the House and Senate tax structures and rates. ATR encourages the legislature to reject both approaches and examine the issue in the future, particularly the appropriate use of the sales tax and the sales tax alone for the taxation of the industry and its consumers moving forward.

ATR’s letter to the state Senate can be read here.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Fox

Indiana House Rejects Regulatory Measure On Energy Production

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Monday, April 15th, 2019, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

The Indiana state House recently rejected legislation which would have prohibited electric utilities from closing coal-fired power plants. By placing a moratorium on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Amendment 7 to Senate Bill 472, further empowered government to act as a middleman between private enterprise and market demands.

Rejected by many Republicans, the move was an effort to save and arbitrarily prop up the state’s struggling coal industry. In 2010 the state housed 26 coal burning power generating units. That number dropped to 13 in 2016. Since then, Indiana’s major utilities have requested similar moves. The company Vectran, for example, has proposed to shut down 3 of their 4 coals units by 2024, hoping to move to natural gas and solar energy. Northern Indiana Public Service Company is considering the same- looking to close 4 of its 5 remaining units within 5 years.

The moratorium would have been in effect from April 30 to January 1, 2021. In that time, the IURC would have been prevented from approving projects that would create new plants, new power contracts or create alterations to fuel sources. This would exclusively apply to massive plants whose generating capacity exceeds 250 MW. The recent amendment included protections for emergency situations and smaller plans. However, had the IURC approved more than 10 GW before 2021, the 250 MW threshold would be lifted, and it would apply to all generation.

The amendment suggested that the IURC would be responsible for researching and developing a plan for Indiana’s energy market and making future recommendations. This portion was received with favor by legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Proponents of the amendment suggested that it would stabilize the rapidly changing energy sector and would ensure that transitions in energy sources would be reliable and efficient. However, this effort was one that placed further regulation on the energy sector, preventing growth and innovation, and costing consumers.

In some markets, coal is a more expensive energy source, when compared to a source such as natural gas, which is just as abundant but much cheaper. On average, utility plants using gas spend $16 per megawatt hour, compared to $22 for coal. The gap is only widened by the increased costs for the shipping and mining of coal.

Because of the significant price differences, a shift from coal to sources like natural gas result in lower costs for consumers. Previously stated, the move by the Northern Indiana Public Service Company was projected to save consumers $4 billion in the long term.

The larger question presented is whether the government should pick and choose energy sources for electricity generation. Whether the source is coal or alternative sources like wind and solar, fewer regulatory mandates and maximum flexibility should be the ultimate objective for lawmakers. In this case, a mandate for keeping open coal plants would have artificially kept prices high, inhibiting public-private enterprises from investing in modernization efforts that benefit most consumers.

This effort is only one of many designed to prop up specific industries, albeit without direct subsidies paid by taxpayers. Legislators nationwide should reject any and all efforts to protect favored interests by letting the free market make decisions about what types of energy are most appropriate in which markets. By limiting the intervention of regulators and mandates in the energy and electricity space, taxpayers and consumers ultimately benefit with lower costs and more reliability. 



Photo Credit: Jim Belford

Cuomo & Legislators Will Ban Plastic Bags, Tax Paper in NY

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Sunday, March 31st, 2019, 2:01 PM PERMALINK

Thanks to Cuomo and a legislature now totally controlled by Democrats, shopping in New York just became a whole lot more inconvenient, and precious jobs are at risk.

As part of the state’s $175 billion budget deal, New York legislators reached a deal to include the Governor’s plastic bag ban. The ban – set to be launched in March of 2020 – represents a special interest-driven government overreach that will harm New Yorkers and the state economy.

On top of that, a new tax on paper bags is included. Most of the money from that tax will go to the state, to serve the Environmental Protection Fund.

After voting for this garbage, New York legislators should walk around wearing paper bags on their heads.

Democratic law makers in the Senate and the Assembly are praising the Governor’s recommendation, citing its environmental benefits. While this sounds nice in a stump speech, evidence that a plastic bag ban is beneficial for the environment is sparse. When compared to a single-use plastic bag, multi-use bags, like paper and cotton bags, require more resources and increased carbon emissions to be produced. Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food determined that in order for a polypropylene bag (the most common form of reusable bag) to balance its harmful environmental impact with that of a single-use plastic bag it needs to be reused 37 times. Even more ridiculous, a paper bag would need to be reused 43 time and a cotton bag over 7,100 times to prove more environmentally friendly than a single-use plastic bag.

Reusable bags also threaten the health and safety of consumers. A University of Arizona study warned that reusable bags perpetuate cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses in consumers. To avoid these risks the Department of Health and Human Services encourages consumers to wash their bags often. Unfortunately for the well-being of New Yorkers, this is a practice only adopted by 3 percent of reusable bag users, and another added hurdle for consumers in Albany’s scheme.

In addition to its impact on the health of New Yorkers, Cuomo’s ban takes a shot at the New York economy. New York’s plastic industry employs 32,200 workers, statewide, making it the tenth largest in the nation. Most directly impacted by the ban would be the 1,500 workers and the 30 companies that manufacture plastic bags in the state.

The economic impact of Cuomo’s bag ban does not stop there. Rather, the ban would likely harm New York’s small business community. Unlike before, small-businesses will have to shell out more in overhead cost for paper bags. Leaving no rectification mechanism for independent stores, the provision forces merchants to shoulder the state mandated increased cost of business or pass it onto consumers. Greg Biryla, the state director of National Federation of Independent Business commented, “Independent businesses are simply not able to absorb and adjust to new mandated costs the same as their big-box competitors.”

The ban is just one more attack from Albany on everyday New Yorkers. Unfortunately, now ballooning budgets, new taxes, increased deficits, and Cuomo’s micromanaging agenda is just the “New York State of Mind.”

Arkansas House Should Reject The Tax Hikes In Senate Bill 571

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Monday, March 25th, 2019, 3:15 PM PERMALINK

Last week, the Arkansas state Senate narrowly passed Senate Bill 571, legislation that eliminated the bottom income tax bracket, created a new Earned Income Tax Credit, and raised taxes on current smokers and those looking to quit. The bill conflicts with the intent of the supermajority requirement to raise taxes and increases the state’s reliance on a volatile and declining revenue source. 

The bill does include two provisions that provide tax relief to Arkansans, including an increase in the state standard deduction and the elimination of the bottom 2 percent income tax bracket. These reforms, however, are negated by a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and vapor products. Balancing the budget on the backs of a shrinking groups of low-income consumers is misguided tax policy.

SB 571 seeks to establish revenue neutrality by bolstering revenue streams through increased excise taxes. Starting with a new 20 percent per-pack retail tax, the bill increases taxes on cigarettes by 105 percent. With an average pack of cigarettes costing $6.05, the tax would bring the average total tax to $2.36 per pack, positioning the state to have the highest tobacco tax in the region. Such a disparity would further encourage cigarette smuggling from states like Missouri ($0.17), Tennessee ($0.62), and Mississippi ($0.68). Cigarette smuggling has historically undermined revenue generation efforts in states who have boosted their cigarette excise taxes because consumer seek out cheaper alternatives across borders or on the black market. In fact, between 2009 and 2013 just 3 out of 32 tobacco tax hikes realized their revenue projections.

Adding insult to injury, the bill slaps a 68 percent “sin” tax on the sale of electronic cigarettes and vapor products. This misguided policy subsequently discourages traditional cigarette smokers from making the switch to vapor products and threatens the well-being of those who have already used vapor products to quit smoking. These devices have been found to be at least 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes, according to Public Health England.

The proposed tax hikes not only threaten public health and state revenue streams, but they dismantle the heart of the legislation. While the elimination of the 2 percent tax bracket provides for $16.8 million in relief and the increase in the standard deduction provides $41.3 million in relief, an ATR assessment of the bill projects that the new taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapor products increase taxes by at least $100 million a year. A large portion of this tax money will be pulled from those income brackets this legislation claims to help, as they disproportionately use these products.

In addition to the standard deduction increase and the 2 percent income tax bracket removal, the bill uses much of the revenue generated by the excise tax increase to pay for the creation of a larger refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The new tax revenue from tobacco is directed to the general fund and then appropriated through the EITC. Policy merits of an EITC aside, the EITC is not a tax cut or tax relief; it is a direct expenditure and government spending that may exceed a taxpayer’s liabilities for the year. Even for those that support a robust EITC program, the fact that a declining revenue source that does not fully cover the cost of the program is being cited as the funding source should be concerning for the long-term viability of the program.

Arkansas voters passed one of the strongest protections against tax increases in the country through Amendment 19 to the state Constitution. It guarantees that tax hikes can only be implemented through a three-fourths vote by the legislature. The drafters of SB 571 attempt to get creative, however, by positioning the cigarette tax hike as a “new” tax, exempting it from Amendment 19 protections. The Amendment only prevents tax increases for taxes that existed when the protection passed, several decades ago. Although a cigarette tax existed, it did not exist at the retail level in the way created by this bill. It’s purely a gimmick designed to circumvent the intent of voters and lower the threshold required for the passage of a tax increase from three-fourths to a simple majority. For historical context, the past five cigarette tax increases all honored the will of the people of Arkansas, being approved by a supermajority of the legislature.

Having passed the Senate by 18-14 last week, the bill is moving to the state House, where it will be considered by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee tomorrow. The Committee is chaired by Representative Joe Jett, who has publicly expressed his opposition to the legislation.

Americans for Tax Reform opposes Senate Bill 571 as written, a cash grab creatively designed to raise net taxes on Arkansas taxpayers in the name of low-income tax relief. Instead of engaging in budget gimmicks, the legislature should focus on broad based tax relief without increasing the overall burden and cost of government.

Photo Credit: Edward Stojakovic

Schwarzenegger Applauds PACE, Ignoring US Homeowners

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Tuesday, March 19th, 2019, 4:24 PM PERMALINK

The Schwarzenegger Institute recently published a study discussing the benefits of California’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. The study, funded by Ygrene, largely focuses on the program’s non-market value success derived from green improvements, tax revenue generation, and improvements in GDP. To the disservice of American homeowners and taxpayers, however, it fails to mention the vast issues PACE has created across the country in recent years. 

The PACE program was established in 2008 by the California state government, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor. It empowers local governments to provide financial support to private homeowners who want to make their homes more energy efficient. Under the program, municipalities can offer taxpayer-backed bonds to private loan providers on behalf of individuals in their respective districts.  The PACE financing option allows residents to then repay their debts through increased annual assessments on their property tax bills. Over 220,000 PACE loans have been made since 2010, financing projects that have cost over $5.17 billion.

The residential PACE program has proven to be a nightmare. On average, PACE loans for things like new heating and cooling systems, windows, and roofs average roughly $25,000 per home to be paid back over a 20-year period, with an interest rate between 6 and 9 percent. Homeowners are often blindsided by the new amount they are to pay in taxes, tacked onto their property tax bills annually. Data collected by the Wall Street Journal on 40 California counties demonstrated that in 2017 nearly 1,100 homes with PACE loans missed two consecutive payments on their property taxes. This was a 78 percent increase from the year prior. 

Consumer complaints show that many middle and low-income homeowners have been swindled into the PACE program through predatory lending schemes. In California, private contractors have historically been authorized to solicit PACE options going door-to-door. With just a phone call and an electronic signature, applications can be approved, regardless of the borrower’s financial history or credit score. 

PACE loans are not subject to the lending practices established by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) or the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which ensure that borrowers have the ability to repay their loans and offer increased protection to consumers. Absent some of these policies, many homeowners may be signing up for taxpayer-backed loans that they will not be able to repay. In a down economy where foreclosures rise, this presents real problem for the housing markets and the liabilities that local governments are on the hook for. 

Senate Republicans Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), along with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) have sought to reform the program in drafting legislation in the House and Senate that would hold PACE to the same standards established in TILA. 

 Because the payments are attached to property taxes, they are afforded senior lien status, or “super-priority” status over other loans. This ensures that in the case of foreclosure or debt collections, PACE loans are paid before all other loans, including mortgages, should a borrower default. The first-lien status has caused Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in addition to the Federal Housing authority under Ben Carson’s leadership at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to withdraw from insuring homes with PACE loans attached to them. 

"FHA can no longer tolerate putting taxpayers at risk by allowing obligations like these to be placed ahead of the mortgage itself in the event of a default," said Secretary Carson. "Assessments such as these are potentially dangerous for our Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund and may have serious consequences on a consumer's ability to repay, or when they attempt to refinance their mortgage or sell their home."

While the PACE program is growing, expanding to states like Missouri, Florida, Texas and New York, some municipalities are dismayed by its impact in practice. Bakersfield, for example, abandoned the PACE program, citing concerns over first lien status and housing sales. Responding to predatory tactics, California recently enacted ability-to-pay legislation, requiring that residents meet borrowing standards before receiving approval for a PACE loan. Since then, the three major providers- Ygrene, Renovate America and Renew Financial- have seen applications decrease between 40 and 50 percent, and approvals dip 20 to 25 percent. 

The benefits touted by Schwarzenegger can be boiled down to the ability of PACE to put solar panels on roofs. But the Schwarzenegger study misses its impact after the panels are installed. Following installation, PACE lines up taxpayers as collateral for risky loans, paid with a ballooning property tax rate. In response, California is rolling back the program, attempting to save its residents from PACE’s inherent flaws. 

Photo Credit: Albert Herring

House Democrats Introduce Medicare For All Bill

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Thursday, March 7th, 2019, 1:50 PM PERMALINK

Rep. Pramila Jayapa (D-Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) recently introduced the federal “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” along with 107 co-sponsors. The legislation would overhaul the current healthcare system and replace it with one that empowers the federal government to act as the only healthcare provider.

The Jayapa-Dingell plan is even more aggressive than the one proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) during the 115th Congress. Under this proposal, all private and employer health insurance, and Medicare and Medicaid recipients would be funneled onto a federal insurance plan within two years. Private health insurance would no longer be an option.

Ensuring that the federal government is the sole proprietor of the healthcare sector, the bill bans private and employer plans from competing with the single-payer system.

In addition to the obvious assault on the free market, the bill would cripple the federal budget with unsustainable spending increases. Analyzing the less progressive plan offered by Sen. Sanders in 2017, the non-partisan Mercatus Center estimated that “Medicare for All” would cost taxpayers $32 trillion over ten years. If implemented, this proposal is estimated to eat up 10.7% of the national GDP in 2022 and rise to 12.7% in 2031.

The 2019 bill will likely create an even larger burden, considering it is more expansive in nature, but similar in its structure. Excluding interest, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget suggests that federal spending could increase by roughly 60%, should a piece of legislation like the one proposed be enacted.

This begs the question, how are we going to pay for it? The bill fails to include financing provisions like tax increases, or a budget cut elsewhere. In a vain attempt at responding to these questions, Jayapal has agreed to release a series of funding options, and suggested ideas including a “wealth tax” and undoing portions of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Jayapal’s tax hikes, however, fail to make even a small dent in the overall cost of her proposal. The same Mercatus study explains that even if federal individual income taxes and corporate income tax rates were doubled, the plan’s costs could not be covered.

While the likelihood that this bill would even pass the House - especially considering its faltering support among Democrats - is low, its impact will be noticeable in the Democratic primaries. During the 2018 midterms, Democrats attempted to leverage the issue of healthcare in their successful effort to reclaim control of the House. This effort is likely to continue into 2020, as a number of presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have proudly signed onto the proposition.

Medicare for All 2019 is yet another unrealistic proposition guaranteed to drag the US economy down and push the American people into even more debt. But, for those Democrats with their names on the bill, the government’s ability to dip into the taxpayer’s wallet enables their appetite for this socialist delusion.

Photo Credit: AFGE

ATR Applauds Trump For Ending Negotiations Over CAFE

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Thursday, March 7th, 2019, 1:27 PM PERMALINK

The Trump administration announced that it would no longer be in talks with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) over the Obama-era fuel economy standards. California holds a significant chip in these negotiations, as the state holds a waiver to establish its own standards for tailpipe emissions.

In a series of discussions, CARB has been defending Obama’s regulation, mandating that new cars average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026. The Trump administration, however, has moved forward with its plan to freeze standards at 2020 levels.

The move to freeze standards ensures that consumers will not be burdened by new, unattainable, and costly government regulations. Under Obama’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the cost of new automobiles would skyrocket. A 2016 analysis conducted by the Heritage Foundation suggested that the previous auto mandate increased the price of cars by $6,800 when compared to pre-regulation trends. The Trump administration’s plan to freeze current CAFE standards at 2020 levels will save $2,340 to the average cost of owning a new car, according to the EPA.

Not only does this decision save money; it saves lives. In deregulating the market, the Trump administration is opening the door for many consumers to purchase new cars. New cars are generally safer, and include options for safety features, like blind side detection and backup cameras. Figures from the administration suggest that the freeze could save upwards of 1,000 lives annually.

In ending these talks, Trump has signaled that he will not jeopardize the savings and safety of Americans in exchange for a regulation that does little for its intended outcome. Advocates for these standards suggest that the regulations decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but consumer behavior would suggest otherwise.

Because of the price increases associated with CAFE, many consumers are priced out of the market for new cars. This sector of the market continues in driving their old vehicles, which naturally are less fuel-efficient. By holding onto old vehicles, and in some cases, purchasing used cars, 13-16% of the expected fuel savings leak into the used car market. Additionally, the increased fuel efficiency of cars encourages those who can afford the new models to drive more. This phenomenon, known as the “rebound effect,” reduces estimated fuel savings by 32%.

Had the White House folded under California’s demands, the effect on climate change would be negligible. The DOT and the EPA have reported that in the best-case scenario, the difference between Trump’s 37 mpg number and Obama’s 54.5 mpg number would be 0.00004 degrees annually.

CAFE standards fail to serve the public good. They serve as another example of overregulation in the free market. Their dismissal is a win for the American consumer. For this decision, Americans for Tax Reform applaud President Trump, the EPA and the DOT.  


Photo Credit: Anthony Nachor

Indiana House Endorses Vape Tax

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Robert Wines on Thursday, February 21st, 2019, 1:03 PM PERMALINK

The Indiana House of Representatives recently voted to impose a new tax on the liquid contents of electronic cigarettes and vapor products. The 4 cents per-milliliter tax is now under consideration by the Senate. Americans for Tax Reform urges the Senate to reject this tax, which represents a threat to harm reduction and smoking cessation efforts in the state of Indiana.  

By imposing a tax on e-cigarettes, the Indiana House is assuring that adult smokers face even greater hurdles when trying to quit combustible cigarettes.  

The health impact to consumers of cigarettes is well known. Conversely, however, vapor products do not contain tobacco and lack combustion. A battery heats a liquid, that when aerosolized and inhaled is significantly less harmful than cigarette smoke. Public Health England determined that vapor products are at least 95% less harmful than combustible cigarettes. This is consistent with the growing global consensus on the reduced risk of these products. 

The reduced health risks involved in vaping have led many smokers to turn to the products as a quitting aid. Studying adult smokers, researchers published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, determined that 40.8% of users were able to quit traditional cigarettes using a vapor product. Another 25.4% smoked less frequently because of the electronic alternative. 

E-cigarettes have even outpaced traditional treatment methods like nicotine patches and Nicorette gum. Comparing the efficacy of both, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes were almost twice as effective as traditional cessation methods. However, the state of Indiana taxes items like the nicotine gum and patches at the rate of the general sales tax. Subjecting e-cigarettes with similar tax rates, which is present law, would make for sound tax and public health policy.

In attempting to tax e-cigarettes Indiana lawmakers are leveraging their constituents’ interests in quitting smoking for a boost in revenue streams. But in this vain attempt at bolstering the state’s general fund, the Indiana House is also leveraging its states small businesses while punishing consumers who make informed decisions about alternative products on the market.

As of 2016, the state of Indiana housed between 200 and 250 specialty vape shops. This figure pre-dates the last attempt at killing the industry, an onerous permit scheme designed to give monopoly control of the market to a select few businesses.  Imposing a new excise tax such as the one passed by the House would likely price a number of these shops out of business, slowing state commerce and losing any tax revenue from these already existing entities.

Tax hikes have negative consequences. After passing their own tax on vapor products, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania lost over 100 of the state’s 400 vape shops. These businesses were forced to close their doors, as they could not sustain business while giving the government its cut. 

Before taking the route of the state House, the state Senate ought to consider the real-world effect of this bill. A few dollars extra in the state fund is not worth the blow to public health and small business.  

Photo Credit: Lindsay Fox

More from Americans for Tax Reform

ATR Endorses Mid-Level Dental Reform in North Dakota

Posted by Robert Wines on Friday, January 25th, 2019, 5:09 PM PERMALINK

The North Dakota House of Representatives will be considering legislation that permits dental therapists to practice in the state this legislative session. If passed, HB 1426 would increase accessibility to dental care and decrease healthcare costs for the state’s residents. 

The market-oriented solution allows dentists to hire mid-level practitioners, thereby expanding the number of professionals in the field. In doing so, the cost of basic services would be reduced, especially impacting those in underserved and rural areas. 

These highly-trained, mid-level professionals would be an asset to the state’s dental community. Before practicing, dental therapists are required to participate in programs certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, which also oversees the training of dentists. The practitioners would work as part of a larger team in offering preventative dental care and performing basic procedures, like filling cavities. Their services allow for dentists to treat a higher volume of patients at a lower cost. 

The bill is especially timely, considering 63 million Americans live in areas deemed by the Department of Health and Human Services to have a dental health professional shortage. North Dakota is in particular need with 185,865 of its 760,000 residents living in one of the state’s 75 designated areas. 

Among those benefitting from this bill are Medicaid recipients, who face even greater challenges in accessing the necessary care. Currently, just 1 in 3 dentists accept Medicaid, but the passage of HB 1426 would allow for more dental care providers to accept Medicaid payments with the reduced cost of care. 

Unlike most healthcare legislation, this measure would benefit the taxpayer. The program requires no extra government spending, and even offers a degree of relief to the taxpayer. In improving the quality and accessibility of care for Medicaid recipients, taxpayers are less likely to have to front the bill for untreated dental ailments and a generally less healthy population. 

This common-sense healthcare reform has received widespread support from both sides of the aisle. A nationwide poll conducted by the Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research on behalf of the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation concluded that more than 75% of likely voters supported the creation of mid-level dental practitioners, while just 15% expressed any degree of opposition. The same poll found that 80% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans supported the process, showing its political value. Measures like this one have already been approved in Minnesota, Maine, Arizona, Michigan, and Alaska. 

North Dakota ought to follow these states in making dental care more accessible for its residents, decreasing costs, strengthening consumer and business options, and mitigating the long term care costs of Medicaid on consumers who lack preventative care coverage.