Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2016 by a vote of 269-151. TPA continues to be encouraged by the open process the House uses in markup and on amendments because it is important for taxpayers to see what Congress is doing when it comes to spending their hard earned money, while preserving the importance of national security concerns that come with the NDAA. While TPA has continued to praise the open process, there are still issues with spending, which were addressed in a recent coalition letter (below) from groups across the ideological spectrum. As the NDAA moves to the Senate, TPA is hopeful that concerns on spending can be addressed. Unfortunately, the concerns that groups have on transparency will not be satisfied, as Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has made clear that the committee will continue the long-standing tradition of keeping the process closed. As we start a new week just after the Memorial Day holiday, it is imortant to keep in mind the sacrifices made by those who have fought to defend our freedoms. TPA will continue to press for action on greater transparency and more responsible spending when it comes to defense, because spending taxpayer money wisely can be one of the most effective tools utilized not just by the Pentagon, but all federal agencies.
Click 'read more' below to see the coalition letter
This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on May 18, 2015
Two neighboring states with similar environmental challenges are forging wholly distinct approaches to the old supermarket question: "Paper or plastic?" One state government bought into junk science and suspect emotional appeals about plastic bags, while the second did what's best for the environment and economy. You might be surprised to learn which is which. In California last year, Gov. Jerry Brown green-lighted a first-in-the-nation statewide ban on lightweight plastic bags and a dime-a-bag fee on paper bags. But directly to the east, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a ban on municipal bans of plastic grocery totes into law last month. (Missouri, too, got in on the pre-emption act this month when its legislature also stripped cities of the regulatory ability to ban bags.) Soon, California voters will have an opportunity to bring the two states into alignment by overturning the plastic bag ban in a ballot referendum.
From May 14 to May 17, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) had the honor and pleasure to attend the European Resource Bank meeting. This year’s meeting was the 12th annual gathering of taxpayer and free market groups from around the world with the focus on Europe and the challenges Europe faces. Before the meeting officially started, taxpayer groups from around the world convened at the Taxpayers Leaders Forum and Coalition Leaders Forum (hosted by Americans for Tax Reform) to talk about progress that the groups are making in their respective countries. There were many presentations from representatives from Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Serbia, and Spain. The most striking presentation was from a woman who works for a Venezuelan taxpayer/free market group. She talked about her efforts to address government spending, property rights and transparency in a country that is hostile to freedom. The Venezuelans hold a monthly meeting of like-minded folks to talk about issues and what they can do to open up their government. They have to change the meeting location every month because of fear of government harassment. They also don’t have a physical office because of fear they will get raided by the government. All of their files are on hard drives that they carry with them. Despite these seemingly long odds they have 60,000 twitter followers and are growing their membership.
On May 12, Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed north of Philadelphia while en route to New York. In the aftermath of the damage done, eight individuals lost their lives, and more than 200 others were injured. The event immediately dominated the news on the internet, television, radio, and print with folks looking for answers and brave first responders doing what they could to get passengers away from the wreckage to safety. Unfortunately, amid the chaos and bravery in the aftermath of the accident there was a horrid display of selfish political cowardice from some who sought to use the tragedy as means to make a political point, as well as a play for taxpayer money.
This week the Senate will vote
on whether or not to approve Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a critical tool needed in order for the Obama Administration to finalize trade
agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Taxpayers Protection Alliance supports
TPA (yes, you read that right) and we are encouraged by recent developments in Congress as we near votes on this important legislation. However, there are still some things that are causing problems
for the U.S. with some of our potential trade partners and one of those is the wasteful and duplicative USDA catfish
inspection program, which TPA has continuously fought against. It has already had an impact on negotiations for the TPP as ten Asia/Pacific countries have written to the United States Trade Representative calling the program an obvious violation of international law. The program itself will cost taxpayers a minimum of $170 million dollars but the impact on bilateral trade could be almost incalculable. With that in mind, TPA joined with Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union, and Taxpayers for Common Sense to show our support
for efforts in the Senate, particularly those of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), to get rid of the program.Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
This article originally appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesdsay, May 6, 2015
Pennsylvania is not different from any other state where legislators are confronted with decisions on whether to raise taxes or cut spending to balance their books. The easiest (and laziest) option is to raise taxes. Gov. Wolf seems to be taking the lazy way out by proposing a $4.5 billion tax increase. Some Pennsylvania legislators are trying to help the governor by introducing a bill that would increase the state 911 fee on wireless service from $1 to $1.65 (a 65 percent increase). This would result in a $78 million annual fee increase on wireless consumers ($114 million annually when including the increase on home phone and VOIP services). Wolf's broader tax plan, which calls for increasing income and sales taxes while cutting property taxes, is getting a chilly reception.
There are several debates ongoing in Washington right now, and one of the more contentious areas of discussion in Congress is privacy. In the next few weeks the House and Senate will be debating what to do regarding certain aspects of the Patriot Act, which is up for renewal. However, there is another piece of legislation that is making it’s way through Congress that falls under the area of privacy that Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been looking at and that is the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS). The bill, from Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Conn.), would provide better tools for the United States government to obtain needed information abroad in criminal pursuits, but at the same ensure privacy protections for Americans while respecting the laws of other countries. TPA has already come out in support of the legislation earlier this year and just last week our organization signed a coalition letter with eight others expressing our support for the bill’s passage. The letter was sent to both the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairmen.
Click 'read more' below to read the full letter
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (right) with President Obama (left)
A few months ago The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) submitted joint comments with Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, and the National Taxpayers Union to the FCC calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into problems with the Designated Entity program and how some have taken advantage of it in spectrum auctions, at the expense of taxpayers. Senator John Thune recently began an investigation into this very issue, requesting documents from both the FCC and those involved in the auction using the DE program to get what amounts to a $3 billion subsidy for auctioned spectrum (read previous TPA blogs on spectrum here and here). Yesterday, TPA along with Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, Citizens Against Government Waste, Media Freedom, and the National Taxpayers Union continued this fight by submitting a joint Petition to the FCC to deny the subsidy so that taxpayers won’t be taken advantage of by this form of corporate welfare.
Click 'read more' below to read the petition
Another fiscal quarter for the United States Postal Service (USPS) has come and gone, and unsurprisingly, the outcome has proven more of the same. After maxing out their $15 billion line of credit with the U.S. Treasury and sustaining $50 billion in losses over the last eight years, there is no end in sight to USPS’s financial decline. The latest quarterly deficit totaled $1.5 billion, which means they are now more than $2.2 billion in the red for 2015 and yet are still continuing to operate beyond their means. With these figures, the U.S. Postal Service has run a deficit in 24 of the past 26 quarters. The agency was originally created to provide letter mail delivery service to everyone in the country, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate. Delivering letter mail represents the core function of the Postal Service. According to their most recent Annual Compliance Report, standard mail letters and first class mail both cover their costs by more than 200 percent. Instead of focusing on money-losing ventures like deliveries of flowers and groceries, the U.S. Postal Service needs to focus on their main responsibility – mail delivery.
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The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is set to run out of cash on May 31, 2015. Established nearly sixty years ago by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, the HTF is a federal fund for transportation projects and programs that derives money from the federal gas tax (18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline, 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, and other related excise taxes). As Congress prepares to replenish the trust fund, some members of Congress (from both parties) are looking at options to raise taxes to keep the fund solvent. A bad idea that would do little to solve America’s transportation problems. Last month, USA Today reported that Democrats in Congress and their union allies are fighting to pass a gas tax increase before the end of May. But it isn’t just Democrats, there is legislation in Congress introduced by Rep. James Renacci (R-Ohio) that, “would allow gas taxes to rise as high as necessary to cover funding shortfalls, unless Congress agrees to an alternative solution by the end of 2016.” Raising the federal gas tax is a copout. The truth is that Americans are not just paying 18.3 cents per gallon, there are also state taxes on gasoline that need to be taken into account.