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(AUDIO) “Common Ground” Report Finds $500 Billion in Savings Everyone Should Support - Speaking of Taxpayers, Dec. 5
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 12/11/13

NTU and USPIRG have released a new "Toward Common Ground" report with over $500 billion in savings proposals people from both sides of the aisle can support. Plus, a special chat with our fall interns, Tara Riggs and Curtis Kalin, and the Outrage of the Week! 

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: The $109 Billion Question
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 12/07/13

Tab Insert

In the latest edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF explores the fiscal ramifications of repealing or altering sequester cuts in 2014, as both parties have said they're open to doing if it means reaching a deal in the ongoing budget negotiations. It turns out that repealing the $109 billion in 2014 sequester cuts could increase federal spending by over $26 billion annually over the next four years.

Also featured in the newest issue:

  • Most Expensive: Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced H.R. 3546/S. 1747, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2013, to extend eligibility for emergency unemployment benefits for another year. It would increase spending by $25.7 billion over five years, or $12.8 billion annually.
  • Least Expensive: Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) sponsored H.R. 3486/S. 1702, the Transportation Empowerment Act, in an effort to transfer authority over certain federally-managed roads and highways to the states. It would also gradually reduce the federal gas tax over the next five years. The bill would decrease spending by $17.8 billion annually from 2015-2018.
  • Wildcard: Thanks to a new EPA regulation stipulating the amount of lead allowed in plumbing devices, some cities may have to scrap their current supplies of replacement fire hydrants. Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH) introduced H.R. 3588, The Community Fire Safety Act of 2013, to address the law and exempt fire hydrants from the lead requirements. It would not significantly affect federal spending.

For more on these bills and their sponsors, check out the latest edition of the Tab online here. You can also sign up to recieve future updates in your inbox.

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'Tis The Season... For More Taxes
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 12/06/13

Holiday shoppers will already be hit with a number of taxes on the presents they put under the tree this Christmas season. But if Congress has its way, they could be facing an additional tax on the tree itself.

A provision in the latest farm bill would institute a 15 cent tax on the sale of Christmas trees, which would fund a Christmas Tree Promotion Board, dedicated to encouraging tree sales and "enhanc[ing] the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States." The proposal is not a new one; in fact, NTUF has covered it twice before: once in 2011, and again earlier this year.

Although many were under the impression that the tax originated within the Obama administration, the Christmas tree industry itself pursued the fee through a regulatory process established by Congressional Republicans. The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 enacted "checkoff" programs, which support within the agricultural industry functions similar to those seen in traditional labor unions. Checkoff funds for beef, dairy, eggs, and other products are funded by producers of those goods; the money is then used to promote and market their products, as well as conduct research on the industry's behalf. There are currently 19 different "checkoff" funds, for products as varied as processed raspberries, hass avocados, popcorn, and even softwood lumber.

Legislation was introduced earlier in the 113th Congress to establish a new "checkoff" fund for concrete masonry, as covered in the Taxpayer's Tab.

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The Late Edition: December 5, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 12/05/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Mismanagement of foreign funds:  A federal watchdog agency is accusing the military of faulty risk assessment and negligent accounting of funds assigned for military aid in Afghanistan. The LA Times has more.

Costly Calendars: State Representatives in Texas are spending thousands on the printing of select few calendars to be sent as gifts. One representative’s calendars cost $11,000. More at details at KENS5.

Scammer sentenced: The head of a U.S. Navy contractor that scammed the department out of $18 million was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the scheme. NBC10 has more information.

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The Late Edition: December 4, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 12/04/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

IT fail: The IRS update of the 140 million taxpayer master file to a high tech date hub has been fraught with overspending and missed deadlines costing $83 million. This system was previously heralded as “a rare federal IT success story.” More from the Fiscal Times.

Too much cheer: The city of El Paso spent $25,000 of taxpayer money on a giant holiday light display. One resident admitted, "We thought it was going to be really big but it just wasn't what we thought it was." KeyeTV has more details.

Health records waste: After the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs abandoned their efforts to build an electronic medical records system, a new report now shows that the deserted project cost taxpayers $1.1 billion. The Fiscal Times has the costly story.

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Spotlight On Sequestration
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 12/04/13

In addition to three new and notable bills we've recently scored, NTUF is dedicating a portion of this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab to an issue that could play a pivotal role in the ongoing budget discussions: sequestration.

The automatic, across-the-board cuts went into effect earlier this year, and have impacted a wide range of government agencies and programs. The budget committee that's been tasked with finding common ground between House and Senate budget proposals is already facing pushback from lawmakers who want the sequester repealed or replaced.

There have been several attempts in the 113th Congress to repeal the cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in 2014. For reference, a brief outline of those bills:

  • H.R. 505: Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-MI) Balancing Act would repeal the sequester cuts in their entirety and replace them with tax increases for corporations and individuals. It would also increase investment in infrastructure projects and job training, and restrict certain types of military spending.
  • H.R. 699: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Stop the Sequester Job Loss Now Act in February. In addition to repealing the 2013 cuts and modifying several provisions in the tax code, Rep. Van Hollen's bill sought to reduce 2014 budget cuts by $27.5 billion.
  • H.R. 849: Under Adam Smith's (D-WA) Sequestration Relief Act of 2013, sequester cuts would be repealed and partially offset by a reduction in discretionary spending caps.
  • H.R. 857: The Protect Troops at War Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA), would eliminate 2013 and 2014 sequester cuts to the Department of Defense.
  • H.R. 900: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013, which, as the name implies, would outright repeal all scheduled sequester cuts.
  • H.R. 2060: Rep. Van Hollen also introduced this bill, which would repeal (rather than reduce) the 2014 sequester and lower discretionary defense spending limits.
  • S. 388: Senator Barbara Mikulski's (D-MD) American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013 would reduce 2014 sequestration cuts, adjust tax rates for wealthy individuals, and eliminate certain direct payments to agricultural producers.

Most of the legislation discussed above varies significantly in scope and specificity, which makes a blanket cost estimate for any attempt at 2014 sequester repeal difficult to formulate. However, NTUF arrived at a score using the $109.3 billion total 2014 sequester level and the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of how outlays would be affected in the case of a 2013 repeal. By analyzing CBO's projected yearly outlay effects as a percentage of that year's total authorizations, we estimated that if the 2014 sequester were repealed entirely, federal spending would increase by $105.6 billion over four years, or $26.4 billion annually. Note that our estimate is preliminary and subject to revision should new information become available.

Whether sequester cuts are maintained, repealed, reduced, or replaced by some combination of tax hikes and other spending reductions, the implications for taxpayers could be significant.

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The Late Edition: December 3, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 12/03/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Security Fail: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spent $900 million during the past five years on behavior screening at airports. The GAO has now reported that the program has flagged 0.59% of passengers and of those, zero were arrested for terrorism. More at CNS News.

Drummer grants: The Department of Energy’s Inspector General is investigating the expenditure of $630,000 of stimulus funds for African drummers and a DC media firm with close ties to top DOE officials. The Free Beacon has more.

Federal IT flaws: The Obamacare website isn’t the first government website to have major IT malfunctions. Websites for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the FBI, and IRS have all faced significant tech hurdles in launching sites. The Fiscal Times has a full list.

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Taxpayer Money for Anti-Taxpayer Propaganda
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 12/03/13

Should the federal government waste your tax dollars on biased research?  You know the answer. And, recent work by a pair of free-market organizations shows Washington’s doing just that … again.

See for instance this article by Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. She notes that National Institutes of Health have issued a five-year grant totaling over $3 million to an organization to examine the effect of the recent privatization of alcohol sales in Washington State. While at first blush, this might seem like a legitimate examination of an important subject, Michelle uncovers the truth:

The organization that received the grant and its scientists have a long history of producing anti-alcohol-biased research. Dr. William Kerr, the lead on the project, has written and spoken many times in the past about his firm stance against the privatization of alcohol sales which he believes directly results in increased drinking and costs to the state. He received funding from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, an organization with the sole purpose of defending control state systems, to produce a study warning states of the dangers of privatization. In all likelihood, the conclusion of this forthcoming study will communicate a similar attitude.

 This is particularly troubling given that several other states, most notably Pennsylvania, are examining changes to their alcohol laws. Such efforts to expand consumer choice and create jobs could very well be blocked by flawed, taxpayer-funded “research.” That would mean taxpayers would be shortchanged both by the inappropriate expenditure of funds to pay for the grant, but even more significantly by stymieing pro-consumer changes to outdated laws.

Perhaps just as troubling is a study funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to tout an Internet sales tax bill, which has garnered much attention on Capitol Hill this year. Big retailers have spent millions of dollars on lobbying and PR efforts in support of the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act;” however, as Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute points out:

In service of the PR campaign for President Obama’s and Senator Dick Durbin’s favorite Internet sales tax law, the SBA decided to fork over $80,000 of taxpayer money to…(drumroll please)…the very people who have been writing studies in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA)!

Here again, the use of taxpayer dollars is offensive in its own right, but even worse is the fact that public funds are being used to promote blatantly anti-taxpayer legislation. My colleagues, Pete Sepp and Doug Kellogg accurately dubbed the SBA study the “Outrage of the Week” in a recent podcast.  The federal government should stop funding biased research. Doing so would represent a small step toward deficit reduction and a  much bigger one toward fairer, more responsible governance.

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NTUF Interns Meet with Congressman Justin Amash!
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 12/03/13

Today, NTU Foundation interns had the distinct honor of meeting with Congressman Justin Amash, who represents Michigan's Third District. The Foundation's Associate Policy Analyst Tara Riggs and Communications Associate Curtis Kalin learned about the development of the Congressman's Liberty Caucus, how Congress might go about reforming the nation's entitlement programs, and the changing directions of the American electorate. This rare opportunity to speak to one of the most prominent movers in the liberty movement was the highlight of our interns' time working with NTUF researchers and staff to gain valued experience and policy knowledge.

The interns thank Justin Amash for his time and insights!

A special thank you goes to Hayley Alexander for making this meeting possible.

Intereseted in doing research, communications, or development work at NTU's education organization? Check out the details and help us keep a tab on Congress!

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The Late Edition: December 2, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 12/02/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

A bug’s light: The National Science Foundation awarded more than $82,000 of taxpayer money to study the self defense methods of “bioluminescent millipedes”. More enlightening details at CNS News.

Missed it by that much: The city of Bremerton, WA will need to spend more than $15,000 to fix a handicap access ramp that was built four inches short of the state requirement. KOMO News has more.

Joy rides: The New York state corrections department improperly gave state car permits to 80 staff members for daily commuting, a new Inspector General report shows. Proof the vehicles were being used for a legitimate state purpose was “scant”. The full story from AP.

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