Category: State Issues
October 20, 2014
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The evolution of the cellular phone has come a long way, so much so that what consumers use their phones for has become a crucial part of how many of us go about our daily lives. Unfortunately with that innovation and advancement in technology that has taken us from the flip phones of yesterday to the smartphones of today, comes a heavy tax burden from federal and state government. Regardless of what state someone resides in, they’re paying excessive taxes for something that has become commonplace in their life. On October 8, the Tax Foundation released a study that examines wireless tax rates for each of the fifty states. Joseph Henchman of The Tax Foundation and Economist Scott Mackey, authors of Wireless Taxation in the United States 2014, give plenty of information to sift through in this report.
June 30, 2014
The first of July marks the start of the fiscal year for many states, and as with many other years, it also brings the start of changes to the tax code for many individual states. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has kept a close eye on tax increases over the past year, including efforts to raise taxes on e-cigarettes in New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island. Last July TPA highlighted exactly what would change in several states across the country. Now, that time of year is once again upon us so here is a brief summary of how the tax code will change for taxpayers in selected states. Even though an increase in the minimum wage is not a tax increase, it is important to note exactly where minimum wages have been increased as Congress continues to debate the issue. Fortunately for taxpayers, not all the news is bad, there are some tax decreases.» Read More
Click 'read more' below to see the list of changes across the country.
August 14, 2013
Raising tobacco taxes is popular in the United States and abroad (see TPA’s work on international tax issues here and here). State and national governments think that they can raise revenue and discourage people from smoking with higher tobacco taxes. In reality what happens is that the revenue never materializes and consumers shift their smoking behavior from legal tobacco products to illegal products. As the title suggests, the promised revenue from increased tobacco taxes is nothing more than Fool’s Gold. The Minnesota State News pointed out that “Since 2003 there have been 57 cigarette tax increases across the nation and 68% of them have failed to meet projected revenues. In 2006, New Jersey raised cigarette taxes with the hope of pulling in $30 million in extra revenue each year. Not only did the tax hike fail to bring in extra revenue, but the state actually collected $20 million less in cigarette sales.” Yet, every year numerous states offer legislation to raise tobacco taxes. One of the highest profile states this past year was Minnesota. After a protracted battle Minnesota raised it’s tobacco tax by $1.60 per peck of cigarettes, which brings the total to $2.83 per pack, giving Minnesota the 6th highest tax on cigarettes. A new study by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) shows that Minnesota may have just made a big mistake.» Read More
July 5, 2013
Yesterday (the Fourth of July) was a day of partying, fireworks, and paying homage to ‘the land of the free and home of the brave.’ While TPA was certainly taking part in the festivities, we were also paying close attention to some very troubling news that accompanied the holiday week celebrations. This was the week that many states implemented tax increases in varying areas of their state tax codes and for many taxpayers, this was no reason for a party. Three states in particluar that stand out to TPA are Maryland, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. This week, as part of a transportation bill, Maryland increased their gasoline tax by 3.5 cents, bringing the total tax on gas in Maryland to 27 cents per gallon. Less than a year after voting a massive tax break to casinos. TPA fought the massive tax increases in Minnesota. Though the state rejected an increase in gas taxes earlier this year, they did see a spike in tobacco taxes this week including an increase on cigarette taxes as part of a way to pay for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The increase of $1.60 per pack is more than 100% and brings the grand total to $2.83 per pack. In Pennsylvania, A bill is working it’s way up that could spike the gas tax in the Keystone State to nearly 29 cents more per gallon… and could put make the state #1 in that department, a dubious distinction to be sure. In some good news, the Philadelphia City Council rejected a $2 per pack increase on cigarettes.
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March 1, 2013
Today (March 1) the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) sent a letter to members of the Tennessee House and Senate urging them to vote against a bill that according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press “would allow Tennessee's electric cooperatives and government-owned utilities to charge an exorbitant amount for cable and telecommunications companies to use electric companies' utility poles.” This legislation would stifle Internet and phone service deployment and ultimately hurt consumers. The Tennessee-based Freedom to Connect states that, “Attachment rates are sky rocketing. In fact, in Tennessee public power companies and co-ops charge rates that are among the highest in the entire nation – rates averaging $17 per pole attachment. Some Tennessee power companies are charging as much as $30 per attachment, nearly 300% higher than the national cooperative average of $10.38 and more than 400% higher than the rates charged by investor owned utilities. The House and Senate bills would force providers to pay millions in additional pole fees, which in turn would mean phone and Internet providers would have to raise rates. This is bad for the free market and bad for consumers.» Read More
August 30, 2012
The Corn Palace is one of South Dakota's most famous tourist attractions, and easily the corniest waste of tax dollars anywhere in America. Located just off I-90 in the town of Mitchell, the Corn Palace is a 43,000-square-foot exhibition hall that houses concerts, proms, basketball games, rodeos, craft shows, graduations and a polka festival. What draws tourists to the Corn Palace, however, is the massive corn mural covering the building that is decorated annually with 275,000 ears of corn and tons of other colorful grains. The mural is unveiled at an annual Corn Palace Festival. This year's festival wrapped up its five-day run on Aug. 26. Despite the Corn Palace's kitsch appeal, the city-owned facility never turns a profit. As a result, approximately a third of the Corn Palace's $1.7 million operating budget comes from the pockets of taxpayers every year -- whether they visit the facility or not. This year, taxpayers will chip in roughly half a million dollars just to underwrite the financial flop. Over the past five years, Mitchell shucked $3 million in taxpayer money from residents and visitors to subsidize the operation of the 90-year-old corn-covered convention hall.» Read More
July 27, 2012
Taxpayers expect a certain level of hypocrisy from their elected leaders. But, this week Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley may have taken the prize for the most blatant and shameless form of hypocrisy. Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Governor O’Malley signed legislation raising income taxes on workers making more than $100,000, families earning in excess of $150,000. The state increased the marriage penalty and shifted pension costs to localities, engaging in some creative accounting to hide its unfunded obligations. Maryland’s state-local income rate now stands at 8.95 percent -- the fourth-highest in the nation. At the same time, Governor O’Malley has been trying to convene a special session to work out a plan to give a tax break for casinos, particularly a casino at National Harbor. The plan calls for reducing the tax rate on gambling revenue from 67 percent to about 52 percent. This week, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) sent an email to their supporters praising the U.S. Senate’s passage of a bill that holds tax rates constant for families earning less than $250,000. It also accuses Republicans of opposing “middle-class tax cuts.” The incredible irony of this message is that it comes from the DGA, which is chaired by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, one of the biggest proponents of tax increases in the United States. (click here to view TPA’s television ad opposing the special session).» Read More
July 12, 2012
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The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will continue running state-wide radio ads in opposition to any plans to lower tax rates for casino operators. TPA is not opposed to gaming. TPA is opposed to is giving tax breaks to casino operators while increasing taxes on hard-working and hard-pressed Marylanders to pay for it. Despite Governor O'Malley's announcement that there will be no special session this week, he continues to leave the door open for future consideration of this measure. We will continue to keep highlighting the flaws of this proposal. Any future special sessions would not allow the legislature to act in "regular order" with appropriate committee hearings, allowing citizens a chance to weigh in, or allowing ample time for public comment in Prince George's county or elsewhere. It is inconceivable that the Governor felt this plan to build a casino was enough of an emergency to consider convening a special session of the state legislature. This will not help create jobs in Garrett or Wicomico counties. This special session will not come up with a comprehensive plan to help small businesses begin and grow. And, it will not deal with some natural disaster. Real solutions are needed to address Maryland's long-term problems and business climate that is driving people out of the state.
June 6, 2012
In politics, there are not a lot of issues that people agree on. The one area that there is such an agreement is for government to be transparent and accountable and California’s beleaguered $68 billion bullet train project may be bringing people together in a most unexpected way since people from both sides of the tracks on this project (pun intended) are concerned about the lack of transparency and shenanigans surrounding the train. Since the project’s beginnings, lawsuits and questionable dealings have surrounded the train. It’s risen to such a level that not only is a congressional committee concerned, but the Government Accountability Office has also started to investigate the expenditure of federal funds for the project. According to California Watch, these concerns have led to requests from lawyers and others suspicious of the bullet-train project to pore over “the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s trove of documents, looking for evidence.” The article also noted that “So it’s an unusual time to purge five years’ worth of bullet train project e-mails, critics say. Nevertheless, that’s what the agency is contemplating. In February, the rail authority filed papers with the state saying it intended to enact a new policy to destroy its e-mails after 90 days. Then, on May 1, in response to a request for information from a project critic, the rail authority said it could not produce e-mails that were older than 90 days, citing the new policy.”» Read More
March 30, 2012
(Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) This weekend (and Monday) is the culmination of one of the most exciting annual sports tournaments, The Final Four. The past three weeks was a showcase of the best of sports. Unfortunately this year’s installment of the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament has also featured some of the worst examples of wasteful government spending in America. Each of the 13 stadiums and arenas that hosted 2012 tournament games have ripped off taxpayers for millions of dollars. All told, the venues have burned through a combined $2.7 billion in tax money. Taxpayers have subsidized everything from the construction, to the renovation, to the operational expenses of these arenas in a variety of forms: state and local grants, land giveaways, favorable lease arrangements, federal disaster relief funding and every type of taxpayer-funded bond imaginable. » Read More
March 28, 2012
(Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) Most people who find themselves in Canton, Ohio, first wonder why they’re in Canton, then make a quick stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and finally get out of the wilting rustbelt town as quickly as possible. Few of the town’s visitors are aware that Canton is home to a dubious federally-funded tourist trap. They’re in good company. Many Canton residents don’t even know that the National Park Service-managed First Ladies National Historic Site sits right in the middle of the city’s downtown. Just because most Americans have never heard of the First Ladies National Historic Site doesn’t mean they’re not paying for it. Congress makes a habit of showering the failing museum with over $1 million in federal tax money every year. Since it opened in 2000, the museum has managed to burn through more than $10 million in taxpayers’ money while attracting fewer visitors than an Apple Store in Amish Country.» Read More
March 26, 2012
Elected officials at the state and federal level have two choices to balance budgets, spending cuts and/or tax increases. Maryland is no different as it faces a $1 billion debt and debates next year’s budget. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has talked about a number of tax increases to cover the shortfall including gas, tobacco, and alcohol. It is irresponsible for any state legislator or Governor to advocate for any tax increases. The only responsible way to balance any budget is through spending cuts. Tax increases excuse and encourage continued irresponsible spending by the state and weaken an already frail economy. Even state officials agree with avoiding tax increases. According to WMAL “Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot tells WMAL.com that the legislature's ‘focus [is on] on the state budget. They're not focused on the Maryland economy. The Maryland economy is in a very weak form of recovery.’ Franchot says to raise taxes now would damage the state's economic recovery. ‘My advice as chief fiscal officer is for them to not raise taxes. We're spending too much. We're taxing too much. We're borrowing too much. My goodness, we're almost over whatever maximum limits we had on borrowing,’ he said.”» Read More
March 15, 2012
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance today announced a review of taxpayer-funded stadium subsidies by Drew Johnson, a Senior Fellow at TPA. In the exposé, TPA uncovered that all 13 venues hosting games during the 2012 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament have received millions of dollars in tax money. In total, the arenas used in this year's NCAA Tournament have cost local, federal and state taxpayers a combined $2.7 billion. "While taxpayers shell out millions subsidizing arenas, there are plenty of folks who are raking it in. Professional team owners who use the facilities regularly, media outlets broadcasting tournament games and the NCAA itself are all making millions on the backs of hard working taxpayers," Johnson said. "We all love a Cinderella story, but stadium subsidies are one game where the little guy never wins."
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March 9, 2012
Many people may not know it but this week (March 4 through March 10) is National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). According to the official website, NCPW “is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.” There is no better to protect consumers than to safeguard them from the deluge of new and confusing taxes that confront consumers every single day. With many states mandated to balance their budgets and many state legislatures reluctant to cut wasteful government spending, states and localities have recently begun going after the popular and fast-growing digital goods industry ("apps", song and movie downloads, and eBooks) as a source of new tax-revenue for their coffers.» Read More
February 21, 2012
A battle has been brewing in Seattle, Washington and it doesn’t involve over-priced coffee or lattes. This lawsuit involves a fee that is being charged to Yellow Page companies. Yes, that’s right, the Yellow Pages. According to a February 1, 2012 story in the Seattle Times, “Despite a federal lawsuit, the Seattle City Council on Monday voted to stick with a 14-cent fee it plans to charge Yellow Pages distributors for every book that lands on Seattle residents' doorsteps.” While most people thought the Yellow Pages were a relic of the past, it is still a popular way for people to find businesses. Beneath the surface of Seattle’s fee (read: tax) is the claim of helping the citizens of Seattle. Across the country consumers have seen plastic bag taxes as cities and municipalities mask these fees as a way to serve their communities. The reality is that these money raised by these “fees” just goes to serve bloated inefficient governments. » Read More
February 14, 2012
On February 14, 2012 (the 83rd anniversary of the St. Valentines Day Massacre), the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as "The Mob Museum" -- opened its doors in Las Vegas. The museum will function as a shrine to two of the most shameful blemishes on America: organized crime and government waste. The museum's focus on the mafia and law enforcement agencies that brought them down is obvious. What isn't evident at the glitzy new museum is the fact that hard-working taxpayers were shaken down to fund the tourist trap. In total, politicians devoured $42 million in local, state and federal tax money to build The Mob Museum. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) held a press conference with the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) at 11:00 am PT to question the more than $40 million in taxpayer funds used to create the Museum (see full press release here).
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January 11, 2012
Montgomery County, Maryland ushered in its new 5 cent bag tax on January 1, 2012. The goal is to change consumer behavior and raise money for the county. Montgomery County follows the neighboring District of Columbia who instituted a bag tax in 2010 in trying to squeeze more money out of an already tax-weary public. D.C.’s experience has been a complete failure. According to a report by Americans for Tax Reform and the Beacon Hill Institute, “the bag tax will result in the elimination of more than 100 local jobs and precipitate a $5.64 million decline in aggregate disposable income for 2011. The majority of this income would have been spent in the District and, as a result of the bag tax, D.C. will now needlessly forgo an additional $108,340 in sales tax revenue and will see investment drop by $602,000, with the bulk of the loss occurring in the retail sector.” The obvious scenario is that people will shift their purchasing behavior to patronize stores that are outside the geographical area of the tax. The bag tax should come as no surprise to folks around the country who have been bombarded with all types of taxes to justify the expansion of government. Taxes are also a way to avoid cutting spending to balance state and local budgets. Besides the growing popularity of bag taxes, federal, state, and local governments are obsessed with usage and consumption taxes on telecommunications, tobacco, and alcohol.» Read More
November 29, 2011
Besides the occasional goofball complaining about a non-delivered pizza or somebody asking how to work his iPhone, most of the time when somebody calls 9-1-1 they are experiencing a dire emergency and need the system to work quickly and efficiently. While some telecommunications taxes and fees may be controversial, mobile (and landline) customers understand the need for an efficient 9-1-1 system and are willing to pay for that system. The number of 9-1-1 calls and the amount collected is staggering. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association®, “Every day, 396,000 9-1-1 calls are made on wireless devices. With almost 30 percent of wireless-only Americans, mobile consumers pay more than $2 billion a year for their states’ 9-1-1 funds to ensure our nation’s first responders are properly equipped to handle wireless distress calls.” A report earlier this month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shows that not all money being collected from the fund is being used for the proper purposes.» Read More
November 1, 2011
It’s not very frequently that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reports on a victory, but this evening (November 1) was a banner moment for everyone that owns a cell phone. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1002, the Wireless Tax Fairness Act. This bi-partisan bill, with 236 co-sponsors, freezes all new state and local taxes and fees on wireless for 5 years. The official scoring entity of Congress, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), scored it as no additional cost to any level of government. A true win! Mobile devices are becoming a popular way to purchase books, music, or just download any content via the Internet. The Wireless Tax Fairness Act stops states and local governments from imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on these items.» Read More
October 31, 2011
Halloween is a fun occasion for kids to dress up and go door-to-door looking for handouts of candy and other goodies. What taxpayers don’t realize is that all levels of government celebrate Trick or Treat all year long by handing out tax dollars to unnecessary programs and projects. The scary part is that taxpayers almost always end up tricked. As the Taxpayers Protection Alliance wraps up a week-long celebration of Halloween (read previous blog postings here, here, and here), today’s offering of Trick or Treats features five frightening examples of Halloween-themed tricks on taxpayers, featuring a jack-o’-lantern carve out, subsidies for scary movies, a high-priced Halloween party, a punkin’ chuckin’ pork project and a government-subsidized corn maze. WARNING!! We repeat, we advise strong parental guidance because some material may not be suitable for children since they are the ones that will ultimately be paying for these tricks.» Read More