William Paul

EPA Administrator Pruitt Announces Repeal of Obama's Clean Power Plan

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Posted by William Paul on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017, 2:32 PM PERMALINK

EPA Administrator Pruitt Announces Repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan

This week Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the end of one of the most onerous and costly regulatory regimes put forth under former President Obama, the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Administrator Pruitt made the announcement at a local coal equipment business in Eastern Kentucky. Pruitt noted that Obama’s CCP exceeds the authority granted by the Clean Air Act, among other issues, and by signing the notice of proposed rulemaking the EPA can proceed in planning a repeal strategy. Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, stakeholders will have 60-days to submit public comments.

In March of this year President Trump signed the “Energy Independence” executive order, targeting costly Obama era regulatory policies, the focus of which was the CPP. In the release issued by the EPA this week, the Agency noted the CPP was estimated to cost $33 billion annually, with annual compliance costs estimated to reach over $70 billion.

American businesses and consumers have dodged an economic bullet from the CPP that would have raised electricity costs from 12-17 percent, with every state seeing increases, 44 of which would see double-digit rate increases. This is music to the ears of middle-income families that would have seen job losses and a projected decrease in household spending power between $64 and $79 billion.

Even with the CPP having not gone into effect, and having been stayed by the Supreme Court, power companies have been reducing carbon emissions on their own for years. This hasn’t stopped Democrats and activists from pledging lawsuits against the agency.

Pruitt stated that there could be a more industry-friendly replacement rule, but did not confirm. Either way, the actions taken by EPA Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration this week to reign in the regulatory overreach left over by the Obama Administration are a boon for consumers and the U.S. economy. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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ATR Urges Senate Lawmakers to Pass Arbitration Rule CRA (S.J. Res. 47)

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Posted by William Paul on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, 9:20 AM PERMALINK

Senate lawmakers may soon vote on S.J. Res. 47, introduced by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), which would use the powers under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rescind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) costly rule banning arbitration agreements in certain consumer contracts.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) strongly urges lawmakers in the upper chamber to support and vote for this important resolution. Failure to use the CRA to rescind the arbitration rule would be a boon for trial lawyers, while conversely having negative impacts on America’s consumers.

In July ATR joined 26 other free-market, limited-government, and liberty-oriented groups in calling on Congressional lawmakers to use the power of the CRA to repeal the CFPB’s rule relating to arbitration agreements.

As outlined in the coalition letter, the CFPB’s arbitration rule doesn’t benefit American consumers and would flood courtrooms with class-action lawsuits putting more money in the pockets of trial lawyers. The rule would lead to a projected 6,000 class action lawsuits every five years.

The arbitration rule would also cost American consumers billions, as all of this work, money, and litigation would be wasted on an average payout of $2.00 per person, according to the CFPB’s own study. This is significantly lower than a payout from the arbitration process. Additionally, a mere 20 percent of class-action lawsuits are approved and among those the average wait time for a settlement is around 3 years, compared to the arbitration process wait time of only 6.9 months.

The House of Representatives in July passed their version of the CRA resolution rescinding the arbitration rule. Now lawmakers in the Senate should do the same by passing Senator Crapo’s S.J. Res. 47, rescinding this harmful and costly rule put forth by the CFPB.  

 

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Netflix Tax: A Dangerous New Trend

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Posted by William Paul on Friday, August 25th, 2017, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

Enjoyed by over 50 million subscribers, Netflix is best known for affordable and convenient online streaming of our favorite movies and TV shows. Sadly, their popularity has made them a target on the government taxation radar.

Thanks to what has been dubbed as the ‘Netflix tax’ – a tax on online streaming services – some Americans are now seeing an increase in their monthly Netflix bill. To date, this new tax is levied in Chicago, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Florida. A Netflix tax passed in Kentucky in 2015, though it was later nullified, and Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, West Virginia, and a handful of California cities have considered implementing this tax in recent years.

Nationwide, lawmakers would be wise to avoid this trend. In addition to the immediate financial harm the Netflix tax would inflict on consumers – higher priced TV and movie streaming – it would also result in a number of other negative consequences.

For one, businesses could decide to offset some of the compliance costs associated with the tax, which could impact wages or jobs. Businesses may also be forced to cut investments in future technology, depriving Americans of newer, better digital goods.

Along with stifling innovation and economic impacts, the Netflix tax is also likely to result in taxpayers footing a costly legal challenge. Indeed, this is the case in Chicago, where the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has filed suit against the city’s Netflix tax, citing that it violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA).

Similarly, the state of Kentucky also faced legal challenges over its Netflix tax in 2015 and lost, with the court ruling the state could not tax Netflix on the basis that the state cannot treat a digital streaming service the same way as traditional television services.

It is simply illogical to implement a tax that raises constitutional questions and is likely to be overturned.

Finally, it is also important ask the question: Where does it end? These days, books, music, games and greeting cards are all accessed more easily over the Internet. If revenue hungry lawmakers start taxing Netflix today, what will they go after tomorrow? Netflix spokesman, Jonathan Friedland, commented on the issue stating "Our view is that it is a dangerous precedent to start taxing Internet apps and websites using laws intended for utilities like water and electricity."

The Netflix tax is a disturbing encroachment by big government into American lives. Even California Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D – 54th District) wants lawmakers to think twice before slapping a tax on Netflix. His AB 252, also known as the ‘Stream Act’, would have prohibited cities from implementing such taxes until 2023.

Taxing Netflix and other streaming services not only sets a dangerous precedent that threatens further government intrusion and taxation of online entertainment services, but also makes it increasingly easier for lawmakers to justify targeting more services and products that consumers rely on everyday. 

 

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Norquist: “Trump’s Infrastructure EO Increases Accountability, Efficiency and Saves Taxpayer Dollars”

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Posted by William Paul on Wednesday, August 16th, 2017, 12:42 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist this week issued the following statement praising President Trump’s Executive Order that seeks to increase accountability and efficiency in the review and permitting process for infrastructure projects.

“President Trump’s Executive Order issued this week represents a much needed step in reducing waste and inefficiency in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects.

“For too long permitting and review processes surrounding U.S. infrastructure projects have been mired in a sea of red tape and bureaucratic roadblocks. Needed improvements to the highways, tunnels, roads and bridges that keep America moving are delayed and the costs driven up.

“According to the Government Accountability Office, complex infrastructure projects can be delayed for an average of 7 years while going through the environmental review process. Studies show that an average 6-7 year delay for major infrastructure projects costs the American economy over $3.7 trillion dollars.

“The Executive Order issued by President Trump this week would be a first step in correcting these issues. Under the President’s Executive Order, a 2-year timeline is established for the Federal Government to process reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects.

“The Executive Order also requires agencies to track the costs of conducting reviews and making permitting decisions. The Order further replaces the patchwork of agency reviews with a consolidated approach that establishes a One Federal Decision Policy, whereby one Federal agency will take the lead on reviews and permitting decisions.

“President Trump’s actions this week will begin the process of improving the efficiency with which American infrastructure projects are carried out by increasing agency accountability, streamlining the permitting and review processes, and inevitably saving U.S. taxpayer dollars.”  

 

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