Will Upton

BREAKING: The Kansas Legislature Has Lost Its Mind

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, June 4th, 2015, 1:00 PM PERMALINK

Fifteen days over their 90-day session, lawmakers in Kansas have struggled to find a solution to their $400 million overspending problem. You would think it would be simple, cut spending by an additional 6-percent as Senator Ty Masterson has proposed. Instead, they have gone to a Conference Committee with only six legislators crafting an entirely new tax plan after several plans to raise taxes failed to gain traction in either the House or Senate.

The result of the Conference Committee thus far has been startling and a betrayal of Kansas taxpayers.

House Tax Committee Chairman, Marvin Kleeb, has made an initial offer that would result in a $2.7 billion tax increase. It would raise a multitude of taxes including the sales tax, income taxes, and an 82% increase in tobacco taxes – while adding a new, un-vetted tax on to e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

Worst of all, the Kleeb offer would effectively end the March to Zero, a plan pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback, and passed by the legislature, to phase out the state income tax using economic growth. This would be a disastrous reversal for Kansas taxpayers. Americans for Tax Reform urges lawmakers in Topeka to oppose any Conference Committee proposal that includes net tax increases or a repeal of the March to Zero. 

More from Americans for Tax Reform

ATR Releases List of 2015 State Pledge Signers Following Primary Elections in New Jersey

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by John Beattie McEwan, Will Upton on Thursday, June 4th, 2015, 11:31 AM PERMALINK

Following the New Jersey primary, Americans for Tax Reform has released a new list of state legislative and state-wide candidates seeking office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have shown a strong commitment to their state’s taxpayers by putting their convictions against new and/or higher taxes in writing. Please show your support at the ballot boxes on Tuesday, November 3.

The list for New Jersey is as follows:


  • Diane Allen (Senate - 7)
  • Anthony Bucco (Senate - 25)
  • Gerald Cardinale (Senate - 39)
  • Michael Doherty (Senate - 23)
  • Tom Kean Jr. (Senate - 21)
  • Samuel D. Thompson (Senate - 12)
  • Shirley Turner (Senate - 15)
  • Joe Pennachio (Senate - 26)
  • Mary Pat Angelini (Assembly - 11)
  • Anthony Bucco (Assembly 25)
  • Jon Bramnick (Assembly - 21)
  • Michael Patrick Carroll (Assembly - 25)
  • Caroline Casagrande (Assembly - 11)
  • John DiMaio (Assembly - 23)
  • Louis Greenwald (Assembly - 6)
  • Amy Handlin (Assembly - 13)
  • Sean Kean (Assembly - 30)
  • Declan O'Scanlon (Assembly - 13)
  • David Rible (Assembly - 8)
  • Jay Webber (Assembly - 26)



  • Robert Mettler (Assembly - 17) 

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Comprehensive List of Martin O’Malley Tax Hikes

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Friday, May 29th, 2015, 3:39 PM PERMALINK

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is making it official: He is running for President. A darling of radical spending interests, environmentalists, and union bosses, O’Malley's time as governor saw astronomical increases in taxation in Maryland. Overall, in his eight years as governor, Martin O’Malley raided the wallets of Marylanders to the tune of $8 billion – according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.  

"O'Malley was committed to raising as many different taxes as high as possible during his eight years as governor," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.  "The voters of deep blue Maryland gave their verdict on his governorship when they defeated his hand-picked candidate and elected an anti-tax Republican as Governor. Not everyone can lose an election when they were not even on the ballot."

Below is a comprehensive list of the major tax increases championed by O’Malley while serving as Maryland’s governor:


  • Gasoline tax increase from 23.5 cents per gallon to 43.5 cents (fully phased in by 2016): $350 million
  • Additional contingent fuel tax rate increase tied to failure of Congress to pass Marketplace Fairness Act: $210 million
  • Indexing of fuel tax to CPI: $87 million



  • Flush tax hike: $53 million
  • Tax hike on smokeless tobacco and “Little Cigars”: $5 million
  • Elimination of Telecom Property Tax Credits (Corporate Income Tax): $7.4 million
  • Elimination of personal exemptions (Individual Income Tax): $51.7 million
  • Income tax hikes on individuals making over $100,000 and couples over $150,000: $195.6 million



  • Highway and Bridge toll increases: $90 million
  • Vehicle titling tax hike from $50 to $100: $52.4 million
  • Hospital provider tax: $390 million
  • Alcohol sales tax hike from 6-percent to 9-percent: $84.8 million



  • The Millionaires Tax pushes top marginal rate from 5.5-percent to 6.25-perent: $154.6 million


  • Senate Bill 2 - Real property transfer tax hike: $14.1 million
  • House Bill 5 – “Tip Jar” tax hike, 20-percent “Admissions and Amusement” tax: $8 million
  • Tobacco tax hike from $1 per pack to $2 per pack: $133 million
  • Vehicle excise tax hike: $36.9 million
  • Vehicle titling tax hike (bumped from $23 to $50): $23 million
  • Sales tax hike from 5-percent to 6-percent: $603.4 million
  • Income tax hike with new rates between 4.75-percent and 5.5-percent: $191.3 million
  • State corporate income tax hike from 7-percent to 8.25-percent: $118.6 million
  • Eliminated use of captive real estate investment trusts for income tax purposes: $10 million


The tax increases above represent the most significant increases signed into law by Gov. O’Malley. The Maryland House Republican Caucus has compiled a list of all taxes, tolls, and fee increases signed into law by Martin O’Malley for a grand total of 83. 

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Michigan Tax Hike Measure Goes Down in Flames, 80-20

Posted by Will Upton on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015, 10:54 AM PERMALINK

Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected a sales and gas tax increase on Tuesday, defeating Prop. 1 by an 80 – 20 margin. The coalition of spending interests pushing the tax increase outspent their opponents 17 – 1 yet still suffered a historic defeat. 

Proponents, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, sold the tax hike measure as a means of funding “roads and bridges."

“The tax and spenders and their advocates in the media thought they had finally found the secret sauce: hold highway spending hostage to higher taxes,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “The verdict is now in from Michigan. A big No.” 

According to Gongwer News Service, the abysmal support for the tax hike is the "lowest percentage of the vote for a constitutional amendment since the adoption of the 1963 Constitution.”

The latest available numbers from the Secretary of State’s office show a vote breakdown as follows:

YES:                 349,813

NO:                  1,405,716

According to public filings, pro-tax hike forces raised $9,049,010 while tax hike opponents raised $519,138.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Michigan Voters Faced With $2 Billion Tax Hike on May 5 Ballot

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 24th, 2015, 2:58 PM PERMALINK

In a few weeks Michigan voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of Proposal 1 – a $2 billion tax increase referred to the ballot by the state legislature. While most polls show this massive tax increase trailing, crony-spending interests are making a last ditch attempt to increase support for Proposal 1.

The ballot measure would amend the Michigan Constitution, increasing the sales and use tax rate to 7 percent. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also notes:

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

A study on the impact Proposal 1 would have on taxpayers has revealed that the sales and use tax increase would amount to a $1.4 billion tax increase and the new, higher fuel tax would amount to a $463 million tax increase (also outpacing the rate of inflation).

James Hohman from the Mackinac Center has produced an excellent study detailing the flaws of Proposal 1, including serious concerns with how Michigan’s road funding works. Hohman notes:

Road construction in Michigan is primarily paid for with revenues from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Since these taxes are paid by people driving vehicles on public roads, they function as a user fee.

Taxes motorists pay do not meet the strict definition of user fees, however. Vehicle registration taxes for passenger vehicles, for example, are based on their value rather than their estimated wear on the roads. Further, hybrid and electric cars tend to be heavier and thus cause more wear on the roads, but owners of these vehicles buy less fuel and pay less in fuel taxes. People purchasing fuel for use in lawnmowers, snowmobiles or other recreational vehicles also pay for road maintenance.

Despite these divergences, the bulk of taxed fuel in Michigan is purchased for use by vehicles operating on government-funded roads.* But these taxes also can be appropriated for other purposes, which reduces their functioning as user fees. For instance, 10 percent of fuel taxes go to transit operations.

Americans for Tax Reform urges Michigan voters to oppose Proposal 1 and tell the Michigan legislature to find cost effective and pro-growth ways to fund the state’s transportation needs without lining the pockets of crony-spending interests.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Ohio State House Republicans Push A Sound Tax Reform Agenda

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 17th, 2015, 2:45 PM PERMALINK

Lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives have unveiled a substitute bill for House Bill 64 – the state budget. This plan greatly improves upon the original HB 64 by removing many of the base narrowing tax hikes, and instead focusing on broad-based pro-growth tax reform

The HB 64 substitute bill would lower state income tax rates by $1.2 billion over the next two years – providing a 6.3% across-the-board cut to taxes for income taxable in the year 2015. It would also make permanent the 75-percent small business deduction while lowering the top income tax rate to just below 5-percent.

The previous version of HB 64 provided net tax relief of only $500 million over two years and saw significant, job-killing tax hikes on oil and gas, small businesses (via the Commercial Activities Tax), and an increase in the state sales tax from 5-percent to 5.5-percent. It also contained an increase in the state cigarette tax – often a declining source of revenue – and an increase in the tax on products many people use for smoking cessation – namely e-cigarettes and vapor products. 

The House substitute bill is a serious improvement upon the original tax plan contained in the state budget and addresses many of the reservations that Americans for Tax Reform previously held. 

Americans for Tax Reform would urge all members of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio State Senate to support this House substitute version of HB 64. 

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Americans for Tax Reform Urges Gov. Hogan to Veto the Maryland Travel Tax Bill

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform has sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan asking him to veto Senate Bill 190. This legislation would disparately impact the Maryland travel industry by apply the Maryland sales tax to online travel agents, brick and mortar travel agents, wedding planners, tour operators, and other service providers. With summer almost here, and tourism season gearing up, a new tax would hurt many small businesses in Maryland who rely on tourism for revenue.

We urge Maryland residents to contact Gov. Hogan and ask him to veto SB 190. You can reach his office by phone by calling 410-974-3901 or toll-free at 1-800-811-8336. You can also email the governor’s office by clicking here.

Below is the full letter ATR sent to Gov. Hogan:


Dear Governor Hogan,

I write to you today to encourage you to veto Senate Bill 190. This piece of legislation would harm Maryland businesses and deter tourists from choosing Maryland as a travel destination. The legislation would enact a new travel tax on consumers who use online travel services, brick and mortar travel agencies, and tour operators, wedding planners, and other Maryland service providers.

A tax increase on these small businesses will ultimately impact consumers and other businesses who rely on a vibrant tourism economy: restaurants, taxis, attractions, retail shops, entertainment venues, etc.  It is also important to consider that these small businesses already pay a federal and state income tax.

As House of Delegates Minority Leader Nick Kipke has pointed out: “There are special interests that are pushing this bill and frankly we need to look out for the special interests of the real Marylanders that show up to work every day, and have to balance a payroll, and they employ people right in our communities. So, I'm encouraging the members of the House of Delegates to resist any new taxes or fees. It's time Maryland has an opportunity to thrive.”

Delegate Chris Adams has said, regarding SB 190: “We have over 1,100 brick and mortar small travel business agents that are going to be affected by this bill… We’ve had 8,000 small businesses leave Maryland over the last 8 years because of policies just like this.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia has already rejected a similar measure this legislative session.

To put it plainly, SB 190 is a continuation of the crony-tax policies of the O’Malley-Brown administration – policies that Maryland voters rejected last November when you defeated Lt. Gov. Brown.

Gov. Hogan, stand up for Maryland’s small businesses and reject this crony tax hike.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to Will Upton, state affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform. He can be reached at (202) 785-0266 or via email at wupton@atr.org.



Grover G. Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Alabama Governor Insinuates He’ll Release Dangerous Prisoners Unless Lawmakers Raise Taxes

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, April 9th, 2015, 12:47 PM PERMALINK

Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley has once again lashed out at critics of his $541 million tax increase proposal – this time threatening to release prisoners unless lawmakers vote for the bill. Yellowhammer News reports:

The Governor said the state may also have to close 15 of its 22 state parks, and cut prison funding.

“You might not care about prisoners,” he said, “but when you have them in your basement, you’re going to care.”

He urged the members of the audience, and the general public to encourage their legislators to pass the tax increase, reiterating that he is willing to call several special sessions of the state legislature this summer to accomplish his agenda if the tax hikes don’t pass during the regular session currently underway.

This is just the latest threat Gov. Bentley has made regarding his plan to increase taxes. He has previously said that lawmakers will take up and pass his tax hike even if it takes 10 special sessions. When State Senator Bill Holtzclaw put up a billboard opposing the governor’s tax increase, Bentley retaliated by halting transportation projects in the senator’s district.

Americans for Tax Reform has previously highlighted that Gov. Bentley is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise to his constituents to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” On top of that, Bentley – running for re-election last November – made “No New Taxes” a key component of his campaign. Yet, immediately after his re-election, he called for higher taxes.

Help Americans for Tax Reform stop Gov. Bentley’s $541 million tax hike. Call Gov. Bentley’s office at (334) 242-7100 or click here to email and tell him stand by his promise to Alabama taxpayers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Robert Bentley Breaks His Pledge, Runs From the Truth

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015, 2:53 PM PERMALINK

After unveiling a $541 million tax increase at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been called out for violating his written promise to the voters to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

Yesterday, Gov. Bentley sat for an interview with FOX’s WBRC-Birmingham. In the course of the discussion, Gov. Bentley responded to a question about tax increases with this:

I think those are legitimate concerns. Well let me say this. I did sign a no tax pledge my first four years. I did not sign it the last four years. What we did the first four years, we streamlined, we cut, we consolidated, we did everything that was necessary to make our state more efficient and we've done that. We've cut government by 12%. We've saved the taxpayers $1.2 billion annually. And so we have done everything that you could do the first four years to make government more efficient. Now, it's halftime, little bit past halftime in fact, but we don't have enough money to fund the general fund.

Gov. Bentley is hung up on his written promise to voters to not raise taxes despite Americans for Tax Reform, Alabama’s United State Senator Richard Shelby, and many others having pointed out numerous times the danger that his proposed $541 million tax hike poses to the Alabama economy.

Despite this, Gov. Bentley would like Alabama taxpayers to think he’s just being reasonable. That he is the victim of circumstance here. In reality, it is the opposite.

In 2010, when he first ran for governor, Robert Bentley signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The Pledge reads: “I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” At no point in the history of the Pledge has it been construed to only apply to one term in office (for more information click here). If a politician says they are pro-life, is it not safe to assume that they will remain pro-life for more than just one term in office? When someone takes their vow in marriage, is it not safe to assume that that vow is supposed to be for life?

Given his response to WBRC, it would seem that Gov. Bentley doesn’t want to be bound by promises.

In fact, he has gone out of his way to attack those who have tried to hold him to his promise. State Senator Bill Holtzclaw, a retired Marine, made it clear that he would not support Bentley’s call for higher taxes with a bill board in his district. How did Gov. Bentley respond? He put a stop to $100 million worth of road projects in Sen. Holtzclaw’s district.

While running for a second term in office in 2014 – supposedly a term in which Bentley viewed himself as no longer bound by his pledge not to raise taxes – the Bentley campaign was awash with “No New Taxes” rhetoric. 

Literally, the words “No New Taxes” were on Gov. Bentley’s website.

His campaign’s Facebook page.

And on campaign billboards across Alabama.

Gov. Bentley claims that he did not know that Alabama would be facing a budget shortfall (read overspending problem) during his re-election campaign, but Alabama talk radio host Matt Murphy has thrown cold water on that theory.

The fact is, Gov. Bentley has broken his no new taxes pledge to Alabama voters and in doing so broken their trust in him. Unfortunately, having entered his second and final term as governor, Bentley may not have to face the voters ever again.

In the end – with a preponderance of evidence against him – one can only conclude that Gov. Robert Bentley is either grossly incompetent, a prisoner of spending interests and influential Democrats, or a liar.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Alabama Governor Unveils $541 Million Tax Hike

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

Robert Bentley, entering his second term as Alabama’s governor, has announced a proposal that would increase taxes by $541 million in an effort to plug what he says is a $700 million budget shortfall. Bentley’s move for higher taxes clearly violates his written promise to Alabama taxpayers to: “…oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes” — a promise he was more than happy to campaign on for re-election

Gov. Bentley’s proposal would increase taxes on cigarettes in Alabama by 82.5-cents per pack — estimated to generate $205 million. Additionally, the plan would double the sales tax on automobiles, from 2 to 4 percent, generating roughly $200 million. The $136 million remaining in tax hikes, according to AL.com, includes $47 million from ending the municipal exemption for the public utilities license tax, increasing the rental-car tax from 1.5 percent to 4 percent, an insurance premium tax, and requiring “… combined income reporting for corporations that do business in other states.” 

Relying on cigarette taxes — often a declining source of revenue as more and more Americans either reduce how much they smoke or quit — seems like a foolish way to plug Alabama’s revenue shortfall. The Washington Policy Center’s John Barnes detailed the disastrous decision in Washington state of relying on cigarette taxes to fund a 12% increase in state spending: “But actual collections under I-773 have been $2.5 million less than expected. Cigarette sales decline about 1% or 2% each year. Raising the tax pushes consumers to seek cigarettes out of state or from Indian reservations, or it cuts how much they buy. The state Department of Revenue estimated $220 million in lost revenue in 2003 due to people buying cigarettes via semi-illicit or downright illegal means.” In addition to people quitting or reducing their consumption of cigarettes, higher prices means an increase in smuggling. 

The Tax Foundation has uncovered that nearly 60 percent of the cigarette market in New York is comprised of smuggled cigarettes — New York also happens to have the highest cigarette tax in the nation. The Tax Foundation study reveals that Alabama does not currently have a severe smuggling problem but with low cigarette tax states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee well within driving distance, higher prices could cause a spike in smuggling activity in Alabama. 

Cliff Sims, writing at Yellowhammer News, has raised concerns about the declining consumption of cigarettes and what that means for the Alabama budget as well: 

And outside of the obvious fairness issue, those who think a hike on cigarette taxes could be a longterm cure for Alabama’s budget woes should also consider the precipitous decline in cigarette sales over the years.

As a result of the tax hikes, laws banning smoking, aggressive anti-smoking ad campaigns and polling that indicates Americans no longer consider smoking “normal behavior,” the U.S. Surgeon General published a 980-page report last year actually predicting an eventual end to smoking in the United States.

 …Alabama hit its peak in 1979, when there were 123 packs of cigarettes sold       for every person living in the state. By 2012, Alabama’s yearly cigarette sales       per capita had plummeted to 67.

While the governor has claimed that he wants people to pay their fair share, the two largest components of his tax plan are targeted tax increases on two consumer markets — one that is a declining source of revenue and the other, automobiles, is a captured market that people have little ability to avoid (for every 1,000 people, there are 1030 cars in Alabama.)

Couple the cigarette and automobile tax increases with a slew of other discriminatory and volatile (the proposed rental-car tax to name one) tax increases in the governor’s plan and it becomes apparent that Bentley is less concerned with governing than with attacking industries and products he finds to be politically expedient. This is not the way in which Alabama should tackle its budget issues. The fact is, between 2000 and 2009, state spending in Alabama has exceeded the rate of inflation and population growth by just over $20 billion. There is room for spending restraint. A long term plan to reduce the state’s out-of-control spending would go a long way to solve the current budget mess and ensure predictable and sound budgets in the future. 

Help Americans for Tax Reform stop Gov. Bentley’s tax hike. Call Gov. Bentley’s office at (334) 242-7100 or click here to email and tell him stand by his promise to Alabama taxpayers to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.

More from Americans for Tax Reform