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Senators Oppose Higher Ethanol Blending Requirements
Posted By:  - 01/07/11

The Hill's E2 Wire is reporting that "A bipartisan coalition of senators are mounting increased opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow some vehicles to fuel up with higher blends of ethanol in their gasoline." 

Ethanol has been hanging around Washington for decades, but perhaps there's a sense now that it's time to put an end to it.

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Conservation Corps Scored at $16 Billion in Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 12/14/10

Tab Insert

This week’s Taxpayer’s Tab covers a variety of legislation introduced during the 111th Congress, ranging from improving America’s small town infrastructure to eliminating sex-based pay-discrimination.

The 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act -- this week’s Most Expensive Bill -- would reestablish the Depression-era program at a cost of $16 billion each year. The Corps is intended to employ people, especially out-of-work veterans and people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, by improving America’s parks and forests.

Be sure to check out the WildCard -- a bill to get kids and families outdoors through community program grants. You might be interested how much it costs…

The bills highlighted in Issue 23 of The Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 6456/HR4318, 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act
  • HR 6246, Rural Energy Communities Development Act of 2010
  • S 3772, Paycheck Fairness Act
  • HR 6426, Moving Outdoors in Nature Act of 2010
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Drilling Ban Reimposed
Posted By:  - 12/03/10

Back in October, I wrote about the Obama Administration’s move to lift its 6-month ban on deepwater drilling. While we were cautiously pleased with their decision, we had concerns surrounding the timeline and when oil rigs would actually be able to resume drilling. Operations were told that they would be subject to a permit review process, but the Interior Department has yet to approve a new permit.

Now, however…you ready for this?...the Obama Administration has implemented a 7-year drilling moratorium for the entire East Coast as well as the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. This plan comes in spite of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s October announcement that safety risks had been significantly reduced.

This moratorium will inevitably lead to fewer jobs in an industry that employs or supports 9 million Americans and a trillion dollars of economic activity annually. Given today’s reports that unemployment rose to 9.8% in November, it is unfathomable for the President to authorize this devastating ban. How can Obama be serious about making jobs his number one priority when he’s acting to destroy them in a region that’s already suffered immensely throughout this economic crisis?

My other fear surrounding October’s so-called moratorium lift was that it would amount to nothing more than a political tactic to help vulnerable Gulf Coast Members of Congress in the mid-term elections. Was it? I’ll let you be the judge. But I think it’s certainly safe to say that we were right to be skeptical. We’ve seen these types of games played before.

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Muck Soil Conservation Bill Scored in Latest Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/30/10

Tab Insert

NTU Foundation continues its research efforts with four new scored bills ranging the legislative spectrum. The Taxpayer’s Tab’s 21st installment also gives taxpayers a broad range of legislators from across the nation, from coast to coast and a few Midwest states.

One bill that got our attention this week was HR 6180, which would establish a muck soil conservation program. Muck soil is a top soil that is used in producing many agricultural products, from onions to celery. The legislation calls for $50 million to be spent in the first year in the form of state grants. Farmers who perform five requirements (mentioned in the Tab) would be paid up to $500 per acre to use the muck soil.

The latest Taxpayer’s Tab includes the following bills:

  • HR 6229/S 3595, Developing Innovative Partnerships and Learning Opportunities that Motivate Achievement (DIPLOMA) Act
  • HR 5780, Reduce and End our Deficits Using Commonsense Eliminations (REDUCE) in the Energy Program Act
  • HR 5893, Investing in American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010
  • HR 6180/S 3809, a bill to amend the conservation provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985 to promote the conservation and improvement of the soil, water, and wildlife resources of lands containing muck soils, and for other purposes

Throughout the week, NTUF will tweet summaries, spending report links, and updates concerning the latest Congressional research.

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Al Gore Comes Clean on Ethanol
Posted By:  - 11/22/10

Not certain why Al Gore chose a conference on green energy to come clean about corn-based ethanol, but better late than never.  He doesn't think that it's all that energy-efficient.  And, are you sitting down for this one?  He says that his support was driven, in part, by the desire to get the farm vote!  Shocking.  I am almost at a loss for words -- almost.

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NASA and Haiti Reforestation Acts Covered in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/17/10

Tab Insert

As legislators head into the Lame Duck session and taxpayers begin to make holiday plans, NTUF continues its efforts in bringing officials and citizens the most up-to-date potential spending picture.  

The latest edition of The Taxpayer’s Tab covers a wide range of topics and policy goals. One bill already signed into law is the NASA Authorization bill. Many have voiced their positions on whether space travel should remain in the realm of the government agency or privatized to let NASA focus on science and traveling to other planets. Budget hawks have cited the large bureaucracy and lack of direction shows NASA needs to be reformed. S. 3729 provides more money to NASA, on average $1.1 billion in the next three years, for more science, more encouragement of private rocket competition, and another shuttle mission.

Legislation covered in the new Taxpayer’s Tab includes:

  • S 3729/HR 5781, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010
  • S 3742/HR 2221, Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2010
  • HR 2103/S 987, International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009
  • S1183/HR 4206, Haiti Reforestation Act of 2010
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Los Angeles should bag the bag ban
Posted By:  - 11/12/10

Here we go again.

 

A little less than three months after California’s State Senate rejected an ill-advised plastic bag ban and paper bag tax out of a concern about the effect such a policy would have on jobs when unemployment is above 12%, Los Angeles County is set to pick up where the state’s politicians in Sacramento left off. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal that would ban plastic bags and require a fee on paper bags countywide.

 

But since the State Senate rejected the policy, Californians approved Proposition 26, a measure that requires a 2/3 supermajority vote in the state legislature or a local popular vote to raise certain fees. Los Angeles County and the bag ban’s proponents don’t seem to mind the new requirement; they argue that it does not apply simply because the grocers, not the government, gets to keep the fee. This appears to be an attempt to tiptoe around the vote requirement and, unfortunately, a disregard for the will of the voters who are fed up with stealth taxation through rising fees.

 

Plastic bag bans, taxes, and fees are only the latest fad in questionable public policy. Proponents claim that these will help reduce litter in the environment. But the fact of the matter is that as the price of a good increases or becomes less readily available, consumers either buy less of the good or, more likely, seek the good from another, cheaper source. Ironically, the less costly good may be of lower quality and more damaging to the environment. Bag bans and taxes in other metropolitan areas, such as Seattle and Washington, D.C. have not demonstrated much success.

 

Hopefully, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors will come to their senses and reject this measure on Tuesday. If you live in Los Angeles County, you should can let the Board know by clicking here that disregarding popular opinion on requiring votes on fees to enact a questionable public policy is a terrible idea, and should be bagged.

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$572 Million Net Federal Spending in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/09/10

Tab Insert

The NTU Foundation’s Taxpayer’s Tab is back to its regular schedule and format, highlighting four newly scored Congressional bills.

Covering veterans educational benefits, the Most Expensive Bill of the Week would allow certain service members to transfer benefits to their dependents. The Least Expensive Bill of the Week would establish a comprehensive energy plan, including more domestic oil exploration, alternative technology development, and a natural gas vehicle demonstration project provision. The House version of the Prevention First Act was found to increase federal spending by $417 million in the first year.

Bills covered in the latest Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 3577, Education Assistance to Realign New Eligibilities for Dependents (EARNED) Act of 2009
  • HR 3505, American Energy Production and Price Reduction Act
  • HR 463/S 21, Prevention First Act
  • S 3078/HR 4757, health Insurance Rate Authority Act of 2010
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More Big Ethanol
Posted By:  - 11/08/10

In today's Examiner, Tim Carney argues that ending Big Ethanol's subsidies is an early test of their commitment to free markets and smaller government.  With the subsidies set to expire at the end of this year, you can never say never.  However, ethanol has hung around Washington for more than 30 years.  During the 1970s, ethanol was billed as the answer to America's energy crisis. During the 1980s, it was expected to save the family farm from financial ruin. During the 1990s, ethanol was touted for its environmental benefits.  Whatever problem Washington seems to be facing, ethanol seems to be the answer.  And, as Carney rightly points out, the industry has a lot of friends on Capitol Hill.  If Republicans can end subsidies to Big Ethanol, it would be an important accomplishment and demonstrate their commitment to reforming Washington.

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Election 2010: What a night
Posted By:  - 11/03/10

Oh what a night!

 

As of this morning, Republicans won 60 additional seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, Republicans expanded the size of their caucus by six in the Senate. These two changes that will have serious implications for a host of economic policies at the national level, including energy production, taxes, entitlements, and the debt. My colleague Jordan Forbes will have more to say about the federal results soon.

 

But for all of the dramatic change at the federal level, what happened in Congress pales in comparison to the changes that voters made at the state level. Republicans picked up nine governorships, including several in the economically important Midwestern states, and won control of 18 state legislative bodies, including chambers in North Carolina and Alabama; today marks the first time since Reconstruction the GOP has controlled those chambers. The larger number of fiscal conservatives in state legislative chambers will have a significant impact on the next round of budget negotiations, when states will have to face no easy choices to balance the budget in the midst of uncertain economic times.

 

Voters also weighed in on hundreds of state and local ballot measures that affect tax and budget policies. There were several setbacks for taxpayers yesterday. It appears as though voters rejected efforts to reduce taxes income and property taxes in Colorado and sales taxes in Massachusetts. Additionally, California passed a measure that would allow the legislature to enact a budget with a simple majority vote, which will likely open the door to more tax hikes. Unfortunately, Californians also rejected an effort to repeal a costly cap-and-trade emissions program in the state. However, at the same time, Californians voted to require supermajority votes on fees and to prevent the state from raiding funds for local government.

 

But taxpayers did score several important victories. Despite rejecting a broad reduction in the sales tax, Massachusetts approved a cut in the sales tax on alcoholic beverages. Washington voters resoundingly rejected an effort to enact a new state income tax and approved a measure rolling back a tax on soda, candy, and bottled water. Washingtonians also voted for a measure to require a supermajority in the legislature for any tax increase. Missourians voted overwhelmingly to require votes on local earnings taxes. Meanwhile, Indiana approved a measure to enshrine caps on property tax increases in the state’s constitution.

 

Elsewhere, Arizona and Oklahoma approved measures that projected the right to choose a health care plan from the individual insurance mandate in Obamacare. Several states, including Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia approved measures to increase the size of their rainy day funds to weather bad economic times. Other states also approved measures that would provide property tax exemptions, impose term limits, and improve government accountability.

 

Of course, these are just a sample of the hundreds of measures that NTU is analyzing for its report showing how taxpayers fared at the ballot box yesterday. Stay tuned.

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