Will Missouri’s Incoming Republican Lawmakers Eliminate The State’s Income Tax?

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

On election day, as the New York Times’ David Leonhardt put it, “voters mostly chose the status quo [regarding taxes], rejecting measures that would have raised new taxes but also those that would have repealed existing ones.”

However, one state may be facing an incoming class of lawmakers ready to blow a hole in its tax base. Last year, a bill to eliminate Missouri’s income tax (and replace it in part with regressive hikes in the sales tax) passed the state House but flopped in the Senate. However, huge pickups by the state GOP means that elimination of the income tax is back on the docket:

Gleeful Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives said Wednesday that they will use their historic majority to make state government smaller and Missouri more business-friendly. Speaker-elect Steve Tilley said their agenda will include a measure eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with a higher sales tax.

Completely eliminating the Missouri income tax would cost the state about $ 6 billion, when the state is already facing a nearly $ 1 billion shortfall in its 2012 budget. Missouri business groups are also pushing the new GOP legislature to repeal the state’s corporate income tax, costing another $ 500 million.

Missouri already has a slightly regressive state tax system; those in the lowest income quintile can expect to pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those in the top one percent will pay about 5.4 percent. So why implement a change that will make the tax code even more regressive?

Well, in addition to furthering the general conservative goal of having marginal tax rates be as low as possible, regardless of their effect on government deficits, Citizens for Tax Justice says it’s a matter of following the Missouri GOP’s money:

Speaker-elect Steve Tilley has said that this plan to weaken and undermine the state’s tax structure is one of his top priorities. Not surprisingly, this proposal is strongly supported by Rex Sinquefield (bankroller of Proposition A — which eliminated the right of local governments to have local income taxes). Sinquefield reportedly gave Speaker-Elect Tilley $ 200,000 in campaign contributions even though Tilley ran unopposed in both the primary and the general election.

Wonk Room

The Lone Star State’s Good Reasons for Going It Alone on Education Standards

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
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Texas Governor Rick Perry was at The Heritage Foundation on Monday to speak on his new book FED UP! Its message is bringing limited, constitutional governance back to Washington and the role that state governments should play in that restoration.

In his speech, the Governor stressed that the election was a clear message to lawmakers in Washington to return to exercising their constitutionally defined powers and that the federal government needs to support the states, not work against them.

One of the areas in which the Governor has demonstrated the kind of state leadership he advocates is education. Texas href="http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/062409dnmetedstandards.3caa24c.html">refuses to sign on to the national standards encouraged by President Obama’s Race to the Top program. National standards would likely href="http://www.heritage.org/research/factsheets/education-standards-the-next-federal-takeover">standardize mediocrity across the states as well as conflict with the principle that Governor Perry articulated Monday morning: that the best government is that which is closest to the people. The push for national standards represents another area in which the federal government is trying to do a job that should be done by states. id="more-46559">

Texas also has another good reason to oppose the suggested “common core” standards, since their Board of Education, under its Perry-appointed Chairman Don McLeroy, recently completed a revision of Texas’s social studies standards. The standards emphasize the American founding, highlight the role of free-market enterprise in American economic success, and institute “Celebrate Freedom Week.”

Media furor over the revised standards focused especially on the alleged removal of Thomas Jefferson from a list of political philosophers, prompting the Huffington Post to href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schneider/an-open-letter-to-the-tex_b_497695.html">call the new standards “propaganda.”

Despite the hysteria, Thomas Jefferson fans can rest assured that the Founder retains his place—actually, places—in a number of different objectives under the new standards. Other revisions include insertion of additional historical figures, organizations, and movements, from The Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association to feminist Betty Friedan, labor leaders Cesar Chavez and href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolores_Huerta">Dolores Huerta, and of course, President Obama. (Only the first few drew the ire of href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html">The New York Times, of course.)

As Governor Perry href="http://www.heritage.org/multimedia/video/2010/10/governor-rick-perry-on-national-standards?query=Texas+Governor+Rick+Perry+on+the+Danger+of+National+Standards">said to Heritage in October, “Our reforms that we’re putting into place that have been fine-tuned for Texas and our very diverse population out there [are] working.” Texas doesn’t need a one-size-fits-all plan from Washington, and its social studies standards are a good case in point. Governor Perry has reaffirmed Texas’s commitment to the principle of federalism in education.

Co-authored by Jennifer Marshal.

Inez Feltscher is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: href="http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm">http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

GA GOP Governor-Elect Nathan Deal’s Transition Team Is Comprised Of State’s Top Special Interests And Lobbyists

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Few states were impacted by last week’s Republican victories as much as Georgia. In addition to defeating Blue Dog Rep. Jim Marshall (D), Republicans seized control of every single state-wide office and expanded powerful majorities in the legislature, giving them a position of strength they have not had in modern political history.

Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R) won the governor’s race 53-43, handily defeating former Gov. Roy Barnes (D). During the campaign, Deal had to overcome numerous serious investigations and allegations of corrupt behavior, including his history of exerting political influence to win no-bid contracts for businesses he had a financial stake in. Many good government watchdogs worried that a Deal governorship would continue to use political means for the private profit of special interests tied to Deal.

This morning, the Deal campaign released a list of staffers who comprise his transition team. The list reads like a who’s who list of some of the state’s top special interests and lobbyists — people who have represented corporate giants ranging from Georgia Power to Goldman Sachs. Here are a few highlights:

- Rogers Wade: Wade is leading the transition team. He is currently the Chairman of the Board of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF), a far-right local think tank which seats numerous corporate special interests on its board. Before joining GPPF, Wade was a “senior partner in the public affairs firm of Edington, Wade and Associates.” While there, he represented “over half of the Fortune 100 companies from throughout the United States and Europe.” He is also the former vice president of Watkins Associated Industries, a “national company with major holdings in transportation, development, seafood processing, insurance and communications.”

- Pete Robinson: Robinson is the Chairman of Troutman Sanders Strategies, a major Atlanta-based lobbying firm. The firm has in the past defended major polluters and employers fending off labor abuse lawsuits.

- Joe Tanner: Tanner is the president of Joe Tanner & Associates, another Atlanta-based firm heavily involved in lobbying. His firm has served such clients such as WellStar Health System and energy giant Georgia Power.

- Monty Veazey: Veazey is what the Center for Public Integrity calls a “hired gun” — a former legislator who was quickly snapped up to be a lobbyist soon after he left office. He has lobbied on behalf of the Georgia Industrial Loan Association and Kraft Foods, among other corporate clients.

- Rob Leebern: Despite the fact that Deal spent much of his campaign attacking Washington, D.C., he has hired a D.C.-based lobbyist to work on his transition team. Leebern, like Robinson, does lobbying work for Troutman Sanders Strategies.

- Dan Lee: Lee, like Veazey, is a “hired gun.” Shortly after leaving office, he lobbied for such clients as the Corrections Corporation of America, United Healthcare, Goldman Sachs, and New South Energy.

The Deal campaign maintains that none of the transition team members will engage in lobbying activities while they are working for the Governor-elect. Yet the fact remains that Deal has chosen some of the state’s most well-connected conduits for corporate influence in government to staff the team that will be moving him into the Governor’s mansion. If anything, it appears that Deal is signaling to the state’s special interests that pay-for-play is well and alive in the state’s capitol.


Winning the clean energy and climate trifecta - Boxer and Brown sweep to victory, while Prop 23 fails resoundingly in a “decisive and historic victory for the state’s clean energy economy, clean air and climate policy”

November 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

California is the only place in the country where climate and clean energy activists aggressively pushed their message across the board in the face of strong, well-funded opposition by Big Oil.  The Golden State hints at what might have happened had President Obama embraced action on climate and clean energy — and backed it up with aggressive and consistent messaging as Boxer, Brown, and the No-On-Prop-23 coalition did.

Proposition 23 — “the first and largest public referendum in history on clean energy policy” — brought together an amazing bipartisan coalition to beat back Texas oil companies’ effort to kill California’s landmark climate bill, AB32.

Carly Fiorina tried to beat climate hawk Barbara Boxer in the Senate race by flip-flopping on climate action and clean energy (see Politico on CA Senate debate: “Fiorina’s major stumble came on the issue of Proposition 23” and “The dumbing down of Carly Fiorina).  Meg Whitman said she would suspend AB32 for a year, but even after she broke records by spending more than $ 160 million, Jerry Brown beat her handily with a campaign built around an aggressive clean energy policy.

Here’s the bottom line message on Prop 23:

This should send a message that opposition to clean energy and pollution reductions can be politically costly — if it is met with unabashed messaging by climate hawks.  Here is a news release posted on Time.com on Prop 23:

Proposition 23 Fails in Resounding Victory for California Economy and Clean Energy Future

SAN FRANCISCO – Voters in California soundly defeated Proposition 23 today, delivering a decisive and historic victory for the state’s clean energy economy, clean air and climate policy.

The defeat of the Dirty Energy Proposition signifies the first and largest public referendum in history on clean energy policy. With today’s election, California voters cemented their state’s role as a trailblazer for clean energy policy across the country and worldwide. Today’s results also signal an important triumph for the broad coalition that stood up to out-of-state oil refiners who sought to unravel California’s groundbreaking clean air law to protect their own profits.

“In the midst of a major economic downturn, and with a barrage of fear mongering and scare tactics, voters still said they want a clean energy future,” said Tom Steyer, co-chairman of the No on 23 campaign.

The campaign brought together leaders from the environmental, health, labor, business, clean technology and national security sectors, along with community groups, faith-based organizations and more. The co-chairmen of the Stop Dirty Energy Proposition effort, Steyer and former Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz, are leaders within their parties and are emblematic of the unlikely allies that banded together to defeat Proposition 23.

Shultz said this sweeping coalition must continue to work together to urge California’s newly elected officials to carry out voters’ wishes to continue to invest in the clean energy economy. “This is the new face of the clean energy economy. This broad coalition will continue to push for California to be on the cutting edge in building the new energy economy,” Shultz said.

Economists say California’s leadership in curbing pollution already has attracted jobs to the state and will lead to hundreds of thousands more in the clean energy sector, one of the few growing areas of the sputtering economy.

“Voters understand clean energy jobs already exist and offer the best promise for economic growth. They recognize that we can have a clean environment and a healthy economy,” Steyer said.

A line must be drawn here. This far — and no further!

Climate Progress

NV GOP Minority Leader Suggests Placing A Two Percent Tax On Food To Close His State’s Budget Deficit

August 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Nevada is currently “facing a projected $ 3 billion deficit for the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1.” State legislators are wrangling with different ways to deal with the deficit, and efforts have been complicated by conservative leaders signing pledges to not raise taxes under any circumstances.

Appearing on KRNV-TV’s Nevada Newsmakers Monday, Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, (R-Eureka), broke with many of his conservative colleagues and admitted that the state is “going to have to have some revenues increased.”

However, instead of calling for taxes on the wealthiest Nevadans who can afford it, Goicoechea took aim at all Nevadans by advocating taxing food. “I believe that we should have had a 2 percent sales tax on food on the ballot this fall,” he told Newsmakers’ hosts. Local news station MY4News filed a report about Goicoechea’s comments. Watch it:

The minority leader’s suggestion comes at a time when food stamp usage in the stage has nearly doubled since 2008 and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans are relying on federal assistance just to be able to afford to eat.

As the Associated Press notes, taxing “food not intended for immediate consumption is banned by the Nevada Constitution.” Amending the constitution to allow for the food tax would “passage by voters in two successive general elections,” making it unlikely that Goicoechea’s plan would ever make it into law.

Think Progress

Rossi Inflates His State’s Wealthy Population By 24 Times To Push For Extending Bush Tax Cuts

August 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Last night, Dino Rossi officially became the Republican Senate candidate in Washington. Earlier this week, he tried to portray his desire to repeal the estate tax as a measure that will help small businesses, when in fact, the overwhelming majority of the benefits from repeal would go to the ultra-wealthy. And that’s not the only way in which Rossi is going to bat for the rich.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has embraced the Obama administration’s proposal to allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans to expire, while renewing those for the lower- and middle-class. Rossi, though, wants to extend all of the cuts, saying that allowing those for the rich to expire is a “class warfare program”:

Rossi argued that 2 1/2 million people in Washington benefit from the 2001 Bush tax cuts, the extension of which will be a major issue in Congress this fall. Rossi described as “this class warfare program” the Obama administration’s plan to extend the cuts enjoyed by middle-income taxpayers, while repealing tax cuts for high-income households.

Rossi is very confused about the numbers here or is entirely unclear about what the administration’s proposal is. There are about 6.7 million people in Washington state, so for Rossi’s number to be accurate, he’s either claiming that Obama and Murray want to raise taxes on people that they don’t, or he is claiming that more than one-third of the state’s population is making more than $ 200,000 per year.

Back in reality, the median income in Washington is about $ 52,000, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 105,209 households in the state that would be affected by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (or about 1.6 percent of the total population). So Rossi inflated his state’s wealthy population by 24 times.

Washington State (where Rossi formerly served in the state senate) also has one of the country’s most regressive tax systems, as it relies very heavily on sales and excise taxes and has no state income tax. The poorest 20 percent of Washington taxpayers pay more than 17 percent of their income in state taxes, while the richest one percent pay less than three percent.

Rossi himself made somewhere between $ 380,000 and $ 1.5 million last year, and has investments worth between $ 4 million and $ 15 million. So his taxes most certainly would go up if the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. But the same can’t be said for the vast majority of Washington’s residents.

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