Taxes, Debt, Spending

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Tax Increases Coming to West Virginia?

 

 

If Governor Jim Justice gets his way, West Virginians may be paying higher taxes and fees. In his budget proposal, the governor has asked legislators to approvea variety of tax increases as a way to eliminate the gap between revenue and desired spending.

 

In early February, the governor proposed tax and fee increases that included:

  • Increasing the sales tax from 6% to 6.5%
  • Imposing the sales tax on a variety of services that are currently untaxed
  • Levying a .2% gross receipts tax, which a business would pay regardless of its profitability
  • Increasing the beer tax
  • Raising the DMV license fee by $20

 

Gov. Justice also proposed raising the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to pay for new infrastructure projects. That would bring the state gasoline tax to 43.2 cents a gallon.

 

Later in the month, he revised his proposal in a few significant ways:

  • Increasing the gasoline tax by 4.5 cents a gallon as opposed to 10 cents
  • Charging out-of-state motorists increased tolls when they use West Virginia toll roads
  • Imposing a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks

 

Do you think these tax increases are the best way to deal with the state’s budget situation? Are you willing to pay higher gasoline prices to pay for state infrastructure projects?

 

Michigan House Bill 4001: Cut state income tax rate .2 percent

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Michigan, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 4001, Cut state income tax rate .2 percent: Failed 52 to 55 in the state House on February 23, 2017

 

To cut the state income tax from the current 4.25 percent to 4.05 percent over two years. Twelve Republicans voted 'no' and one Democrat voted 'yes.'

 

Comment below to share what you think of Michigan House Bill 4001!

 

What’s Up with President Trump’s Budget?

 

 

Defense spending up. Big cuts to social programs. Federal funding for the arts on the chopping block.

 

You may have seen headlines or social media posts that give details about President Trump’s budget. Depending on where you stand, you may be cheering, weeping, or shrugging your shoulders. But what is actually going on with the president’s spending plan?

 

Officially, nothing is going on – yet. A 1990 law requires that the president submit a budget proposal to Congress by early February. Donald Trump has not done so (he wouldn’t be the first president to miss the deadline). In fact, his spokesman says that the president’s budget will be unveiled “later this year.”

 

Right now, the White House has asked agencies to find a way to increase defense spending by $54 billion and cut other spending by an equal amount.  That gives a broad idea of what the president will propose, but it does not give any details about what agencies may be targeted for cuts or what shape those cuts may take.

 

Even after the president submits his budget, this does not mean that his spending plan will go into effect. Under the federal budget procedure, the president submits a budget, but Congress must pass its own budget resolution. The congressional budget resolution may or may not incorporate what the president wants to see happen. Each chamber passes its own resolution, and these two versions must be reconciled by the two chambers.

 

The congressional budget is not even the final spending plan. It is, instead, a detailed outline of what spending should look like. If the resolution recommends changes to mandatory spending programs such as Medicaid and Social Security, Congress must pass those changes. For non-mandated spending, such as on defense or national parks, the congressional budget resolution provides a guide for appropriation committees to allocate actual spending amounts. The budget resolution does set forth special rules for consideration of some items, so it is a useful blueprint for Congress to take on future spending decisions.

 

It should be pointed out that this process is often ignored by Congress. Some years it does not pass any budget resolution. Instead, it simply passes appropriations bills to authorize a certain level of federal spending. We don’t know if that could happen this year. Given that the president is not close to submitting his budget resolution (remember, it was due in early February), chances are good that we’ll see some interesting maneuvers during this year’s budget process.

 

Comment below and share how you think President Trump and Congress should structure the 2017 federal budget!

 

North Carolina House Bill 7: Earmark share of revenue increases to the state's rainy-day fund

 

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

North Carolina House Bill 7, Earmark share of revenue increases to the state's rainy-day fund: Passed 110 to 3 in the state House on February 15, 2017

 

To set aside 15 percent of new revenue growth per year in the state saving reserve. That fund currently gets one-fourth of what's left over in state coffers at the end of the fiscal year. The bill would limit the fund's use to avoiding spending cuts if revenue declines, if a court ruling imposes damages against the state, or if there is a state emergency. Also, if a proposed withdrawal is more than 7.5 percent of the last state budget, the bill would require a two-thirds vote of both houses to approve it.

 

Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 7!

 

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 181: Establish Performance-Based Budget Review

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Pennsylvania, and check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted.

 

Senate Bill 181, Establish performance-based budget review: Passed 49 to 0 in the state Senate on February 6, 2017

 

To direct the Secretary of Budget to review agency budgets based on performance instead of on subtracting or adding to traditional spending levels. Under a performance-based review, an agency would have to show how its proposed spending is being allocated to meet certain performance goals and benchmarks. The bill would allow the Secretary to undertake a review at least once every five years, and the General Assembly could also request such a review. The bill also directs the state to undertake a review of the effectiveness of various state tax credits.

 

Highlights of the First Presidential Debate

 

In the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the candidates clashed over a number of issues, including the economy, race relations, policing, and national security.

 

One of the main themes of the night for Trump was that the U.S. is being held back by bad deals, including trade agreements like NAFTA, defense agreements with nations like Japan, or national security agreements like the one negotiated with Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons. He said that he would bring his experience as a businessman to the office of president and negotiate better deals for the U.S.

 

Clinton stressed that she is prepared to be president, bolstering her case by focusing on policy specifics. She also made pointed appeals to minority voters and women voters.

 

The two candidates did not hesitate to attack one another. Clinton scored against Trump by going into a lengthy discussion of his refusal to release his tax returns and his questioning of whether President Obama was born in the United States. Trump hit Clinton on her e-mail server scandal. He also attempted to use the experience issue against her, saying that Clinton has been in politics for 30 years but has not used that time to address the problems she is discussing during the campaign.

 

Areas of agreement

 

While the debate mainly consisted of Trump and Clinton pointing out how they differed, there were some areas of agreement. While Trump strongly attacked free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Clinton also took a skeptical view of many trade deals.

 

On gun control, Clinton called for stronger measures to restrict gun sales. One of the proposals she stressed was prohibiting individuals on the no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms. While Trump did not explicitly endorse this idea, he did suggest that he may agree with it.

 

Both Clinton and Trump agreed that the U.S. should concentrate more on cybersecurity issues.

 

Areas of disagreement

 

On the economy, Trump said that he would create jobs in the U.S. by re-negotiating trade agreements, cracking down on companies that invest overseas, lowering taxes so that the wealthy create jobs, and cutting middle class taxes.

 

Clinton laid out a plan for economic growth that consists of creating new government programs for things like paid family leave and college tuition subsidies. She also repeatedly called for raising taxes on the wealthy. She said that Trump’s tax cuts are “trickle down” and will not work, befitting Trump himself, not the American people.

 

On crime, Trump said, “We need law and order.” He vigorously defended the controversial stop-and-frisk practice that came under fire and was halted by a judge in New York City. Clinton said there was an epidemic of gun violence and called for more gun control

 

When it came to national security, Trump blames Obama and Clinton for creating a vacuum that led to ISIS. He said the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil to deprive ISIS of income. Clinton accused Trump of not caring whether other nations obtained nuclear weapons, but Trump countered that he believed nuclear weapons (not global warming) was the single greatest threat to the U.S.

 

On the nuclear issue, Clinton said, “The man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his finger near the nuclear codes…”

 

Their best lines?

 

Clinton: “I have a feeling by the end of this evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened.”

Trump: “Why not?”
Clinton: “Why not? Yeah, why not? Just join the debate by saying more crazy things.”

 

Trump: “I have a much better temperament than she does… my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament.”

 

Clinton: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing.”

 

Trump (on who may have hacked the DNC e-mails): “It could have been Russia. It could be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

 

What do you think?

Do you think Clinton or Trump won the debate? What do you think was their strongest moment against each other?

Impeach the IRS Commissioner?

If some congressmen have their way, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will be leaving office shortly.

There is a move in the House of Representatives to impeach the Commissioner Koskinen. Members of the House could force a vote on this in the near future. Members of the House Freedom Caucus want him disciplined for what they view as a failure to comply with the investigation into Lois Lerner’s activities regarding conservative nonprofits.

National Review sums up the case against Koskinen:

“Koskinen, who became commissioner after Lerner left, failed to disclose the disappearance of e-mails germane to a congressional investigation of IRS misbehavior. Under his leadership, the IRS failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation. He did not testify accurately or keep promises made to Congress. Subpoenaed documents, including 422 tapes potentially containing 24,000 Lerner e-mails, were destroyed. He falsely testified that the Government Accountability Office’s report on IRS practices found ‘no examples of anyone who was improperly selected for an audit.’”

The editors of the Washington Post, on the other hand, say that impeachment would be an abuse of the process:

“The cumbersome and partisan Senate confirmation process has made it hard enough to fully staff the highest realms of government with competent people. Never-ending, partisan impeachment proceedings against executive officers would make it even harder to keep the essential mechanics of government working. The result would be more bureaucratic bungling, not less.”

Generally impeachment motions first go through the House Judiciary Committee. With the Judiciary Committee failing to act, however, some House Republicans want to use a procedural motion to force a vote on the House floor. That idea is meeting resistance from some House Republican leaders.

Impeachment is only the first step in the process of removal for office. If a majority of the House of Representatives votes in favor of impeachment, then it would be up to the Senate to have a trial and vote on whether to remove Koskinen from office. Senate leaders have said they will not conduct a trial if the House votes for impeachment.

Only one cabinet official has ever been impeached -- Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

Do you think that the House of Representatives should impeach Commissioner Koskinen? Or do you think that the impeachment proceedings are an abuse of the process?

What’s in Trump's Economic Plan?

The economy is one of the major issues in this presidential race, with both candidates touting plans to create jobs. On August 8, GOP presidential candidate gave a speech outlining his “America First economic plan.”

What did Trump pledge to do in this speech?

  • Eliminate the carried interest deduction for income taxes
  • Reduce the 7 income tax brackets to 3. These would be rates at 12%, 25%, and 33%. In contrast, the current income tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%
  • Cut the corporate income tax to 15% from 35%
  • Allow families to take a full deduction for childcare expenses
  • Permit American companies to repatriate income back into the U.S. with a 10% tax
  • Eliminate the “death tax,” also known as the estate tax
  • Issue a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations
  • Cancel all “illegal and overreaching” executive orders
  • Ask agencies to compile a list of unnecessary rules or rules that do not improve public safety, and then eliminate them
  • Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • Impose tariffs on countries that “unfairly subsidiz[e] their goods”
  • Renegotiate NAFTA
  • Enforce American trade agreements with China
  • Lift federal restrictions on American energy development
  • Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare
  • Force military allies to pay “their fair share” for protection
  • Reform the Veterans Health Administration

What do you think about Donald Trump’s economic plan?

Would a Redskins Stadium be Worth It?

The Washington Redskins may be coming to Virginia. Would the state benefit if taxpayers shelled out for a new stadium?

Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe is having what he calls “very serious negotiations” to persuade the Washington Redskins to move to Northern Virginia. While the Redskins’ current lease in Maryland is not up for another decade, the team is already looking at its options for future stadiums.

Governor McCauliffe would like the state to use its resources to persuade the team to move across the Potomac River. However, he also says, “It’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia.”

Will such a deal make sense for taxpayers? It may be possible, but it will be difficult. The academic literature on the economic impact of stadiums and the return to taxpayers is summed up by researchers from the Brookings Institution:

A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.

Virginians may gain some pride from having the Washington Redskins located within their commonwealth. However, as Governor McCauliffe works to lure the team, he should be aware of the ways that stadium subsidies can go wrong.

Do you support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize sports stadiums?

Gov. Scott Walker at odds with Assembly Republicans over how to fix road funding shortfall

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is standing firm against raising the gas tax without cutting taxes elsewhere. Some legislators are pushing to increase the gas tax to fund already-scheduled projects. Do you support a higher gas tax if there are no offsetting cuts in other taxes?

http://fox6now.com/2016/06/28/gov-scott-walker-at-odds-with-top-republicans-over-how-to-fix-road-funding-shortfall/

State-Run Internet Gambling

According to Capitol reporter Tim Skubick writing for Mlive, last November the Michigan lottery quietly began letting individuals buy lottery tickets online. The number of online users has grown 300 percent, from 86,000 the first month to 322,000 now, with sales of $147 million.

 

Elsewhere in the Capitol, a Senate committee has advanced Senate Bills 889 and 890 to the full body for consideration. The bills would allow casinos in the state to enter the internet gambling market, subject to a 10 percent tax. A fiscal analysis suggests the move may or may not increase state revenues, because it could divert sales from the lottery.

 

None of the above addresses the ethical concerns surrounding state governments not just being in the gambling business but advertising heavily to entice individuals to gamble.

 

Research suggests that low-income and minority individuals disproportionately spend money on lottery gambling, where even more than casinos “the house” is the only real winner. In other words, government lotteries prey upon those least able to afford them.

 

Koch Group Pushes 2-Year ‘Stop, Cut, and Fix’ Spending Plan on Congress

One limited government group is urging Congress not to enact individual spending bills this year. Instead, it proposes funding the government at current spending levels for the next two years and working on a plan to cut spending in 2018. This would end the threat of a government shutdown and give Congress time to find ways to trim spending. What do you think?

http://dailysignal.com/2016/06/21/koch-brothers-push-2-year-stop-cut-and-fix-spending-plan-on-congress/

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