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On Mining Investment, the United States is Dead Last
While environmental protection is an important concern in the development of our nation’s natural resources, excessive regulations have suppressed expansion of our critical minerals industry and sent jobs overseas. In a study of the 25 leading mining countries, the United States has tied with Papua New Guinea for last place in terms of delays involved in obtaining a mining permit:
Permitting delays are the most significant risk to mining projects in the United States. A few mining friendly states (Nevada, Utah, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona) are an exception to this rule but are negatively impacted by federal rules that they are bound to enforce resulting in a 7- to 10-year waiting period before mine development can begin.
This red tape essentially offers energy business on a platter to other countries, namely China. Many of these elements which America is forced to import could be provided through domestic mining if redundant regulations didn’t discourage development. The Natural Resources Committee in the house began looking into this issue in 2011 when it referred to a U.S. Geological Survey which reported that:
The U.S. is 100% dependent on foreign sources for rare earth elements (REE), 97% of which are provided by China... the USGS released a report revealing 13 million metric tons of REEs exist within known deposits in 14 U.S. states.
In February 2013, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV), along with 57 cosponsors, proposed H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, in order to address this issue.
Although many of these minerals are necessary for the president’s green energy goals, Obama still refuses to allow efficient development of domestic minerals and asks legislators to strongly oppose H.R. 761 in the name of environmental protection.
A similar scenario is playing out on the Outer Continental Shelf and across many federal lands where onerous regulations and permitting processes keep our natural resources tied up in red tape. Whether those resources are essential minerals or equally essential energy, the solution is still the same, as NTU’s Executive Vice President Pete Sepp explained:
Instead of picking winners and losers in the industry, we believe officials should pursue a policy that applies low, simple taxes … avoids government subsidies, and eases regulations that stand in the way of developing new resources.
With employment numbers still stubbornly low, Washington should be easing the path for economic development and job growth, not throwing up roadblocks for job creators. Let’s hope the House moves H.R. 761 forward quickly to help get vital investments out of permitting purgatory.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
North Carolina Tax Reform Saga Continues: Compromise Tax Plan Unveiled
Today was a historic day for the Tar Heel State. After months of debate, Governor Pat McCrory, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, and House Speaker Thom Tillis announced their compromise tax reform package. Under their plan, the current 3-tiered personal income tax system (rates of 7.75, 7, and 6 percent) would be replaced by a flat rate of 5.8 percent in 2014 and 5.75 percent in 2015. The corporate income tax would fall from 6.9 to 6 percent in 2014 and then to 5 percent in 2015. If revenue goals are met, that rate would drop to 4 percent in 2016 and then to 3 percent in 2017. Additionally, the death tax would be eliminated and the gas tax would be capped at 37.5 cents.
While not quite as impressive as previous plans introduced in the North Carolina Senate, the Tax Simplification and Reduction Act would undoubtedly be the nation’s largest state-level taxpayer victory of 2013 – a $500 million cut over two years and a $2 billion cut over five years if revenue goals are met.
As I’ve stated in recent letters to state leaders, North Carolinians need pro-growth tax reform now more than ever. The state’s top individual income tax rate is higher than that of any state in the South, and a move to a flat rate of 5.75 percent would provide taxpayers much-needed relief while improving the state’s economy and creating jobs. The corporate income tax cuts would also send a clear message that North Carolina is open for business. In fact, the State would jump from 44th to 17th in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index.
By implementing the boldest state tax reform plan of 2013, North Carolinians would be given some much-deserved financial relief, which is especially important in light of rising federal tax rates and soaring health care costs.
Stay tuned to NTU.org for the latest on tax reform in North Carolina.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today's Taxpayer News!
NTU has signed on to a letter in conjunction with a collection of other conservative groups, advocating for a reduction in the size of the D.C. district court, to bring it in line with the court’s workload.
House Republicans may have succeeded in separating food stamps from agricultural policy with the passage of the most recent farm bill, but there’s still work to be done. The current bill offers “more in spending than the President asked for,” according to NTU’s Pete Sepp.
In light of the current Congressional debate over student loans, check out this YouTube video on the rising cost of college, produced by LearnLiberty.org.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
(AUDIO) Speaking of Taxpayers: State Silver Linings, Obama Travel Costs
Subscribe to NTU's podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!
NTU State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk updates listeners on some positive action in the states, including tax reform in North Carolina; Farm Bill follies in the House; How much is Air Force One costing you? And the Outrage of the Week!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Congress is back from its Fourth of July recess and high on its “to-do” list are the annual appropriations bills, which are the legislative vehicles Congress uses to spend your money. Back in 2011, taxpayers scored a small, but important victory when the Budget Control Act (BCA) was enacted. This law established spending caps for ten years and created an enforcement mechanism known as the “sequester” to try to impose budget discipline on recalcitrant lawmakers. Unfortunately, the victory could be short-lived as big-spenders are fighting back trying to eviscerate the BCA.
At the center of the budget battle is Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who along with other big-government proponents on the Committee, recently approved an appropriations blueprint that would allow for $1.06 trillion in discretionary spending. This figure is a whopping 9.4 percent increase over the $967 billion cap established by the BCA.
The House, meanwhile, has so far agreed to stick to the 2014 BCA cap, but this task will be much tougher because of Mikulski, who is actively recruiting Republicans to help her “find a solution to sequester.” To some, it seems, modest fiscal restraint is a serious national problem.
Congress should embrace the reasonable caps set forth by BCA, not reject them. While doing so would not come close to fixing our serious fiscal problems, it would show a modicum of discipline on the part of Congress. Then, it can focus attention on mandatory spending, which is the primary cause of our long term debt. Mandatory spending – mostly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – is projected to be approximately $2.21 trillion in 2014 and will increase rapidly in successive years unless reined in by Congress.
Reforming entitlement programs will be no easy task, but before Congress can run it must first demonstrate it knows how to walk. It should hold the line on the discretionary spending cap and then begin a serious conversation about the staggering impending debt associated with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If it can’t even stick to the discretionary budget caps already established by law, taxpayers ought to be very, very worried about the long-term fiscal health of the nation.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Confirming Ex-Im Bank Head Would Send Wrong Message on Reform
During the life of any government-sponsored program, elected officials are presented with ideal opportunities where circumstances align to change direction for the better … or at least, to avoid the worst. This seems especially true with federally-backed financial institutions. What if, for example, politicians had not rushed to expand deposit insurance – a move which, according to a Congressionally chartered blue-ribbon panel, was “at the heart” of the billions in taxpayer liabilities incurred from cleaning up the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s? Or, what if NTU’s warnings to Congress for roughly two decades about the dire need to untangle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from federal purse strings were heeded instead of ignored?
So it is with the Senate’s impending July 20 “deadline” to decide on whether to confirm for another term Export-Import Bank President and CEO Fred Hochberg. According to news accounts, the Senate’s failure to act on this as well as the expiring terms of two other Ex-Im officials would deprive the institution of the quorum needed to issue more loans and guarantees. Now the Ex-Im posts are part of a larger controversy over whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will exercise the so-called nuclear option on several pending confirmations.
From a practical standpoint, taxpayers must be wondering why Washington can only seem to get worked up when one of its creations might be prevented from doling out more rather than less money. Where is the sense of urgency, for instance, in permanently filling the positions of Inspectors General at major agencies, some of which have remained in limbo for years?
But as we have argued before, even from a pure policy perspective it would be a mistake for the full Senate to green-light Hochberg’s reconfirmation the way the Senate Banking Committee already has. For one, important warnings about Ex-Im’s risk management have been coming in a steady stream from Ex-Im’s Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and other entities. And that could mean trouble down the road for taxpayers.
Beyond safety and soundness considerations, however, there’s the enduring question of Ex-Im’s crony capitalist behavior. Aside from making bad bets on companies like Solyndra, Ex-Im’s “safer” wagers on big businesses like General Electric and Boeing ought to raise eyebrows as well. The collateral damage caused to other parts of the economy from this game of picking winners and losers is considerable. For example, the Bank’s largesse allows Boeing to sell its planes at cut-throat rates and with preferable terms to foreign carriers, which creates a severe disadvantage for U.S. airlines.
Hochberg has not done a great deal to address these legitimate concerns, despite the fact that Congress raised them just recently when it reauthorized the Bank. As The Wall Street Journal put it in a June 27 editorial (subscription required):
Ex-Im promised stress testing but has produced no results. Mr. Hochberg resisted a chief risk officer until this month—and only under pressure from a House hearing. He has rejected portfolio limits that are de rigeur at serious financial institutions, as well as calls to empower his board. Ex-Im is also quick-marching toward its new cap, adding $10 billion in new lending in the last year.
Nor do the conditions attached to last year’s Ex-Im reauthorization – i.e., that the Treasury engage in more efforts to reduce export subsidies with trading partners – appear to be significantly slowing that “quick march.”
In essence, the few positive steps to which Hochberg has acceded, and the near-begrudging manner his leadership has conveyed in taking them, do not bode well for the imperative changes that Ex-Im reformers seek. Indeed, NTU has argued that the wisest possible course would be an orderly wind-down of the entire operation, such as that provided in the Export-Import Bank Termination Act.
Nomination fights are not normally the best venue for effecting an urgently-needed overhaul (or termination) of a program, but the federal government has inched itself further into a corner by passing up other opportunities to meaningfully hold Hochberg and Ex-Im accountable. A prudent pause in this reconfirmation process may therefore be the best hope for getting out of that corner and putting Ex-Im’s problems back into the center of the public square, where they can be properly debated.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
U.S. News and World Report published this editorial, penned by NTU’s Pete Sepp, on the importance of allowing industries and businesses (especially timber) to set their own environmental standards.
The DC City Council yesterday passed a bill forcing large retailers in the District (including Walmart, Home Depot, and Macy’s) to pay a significantly higher minimum wage than other retailers. NTU opposed the measure, the costs of which caused Walmart to publicly abandon plans for new stores within DC boundaries.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU has joined eight other groups representing a wide range of interests in urging the House to cut $48 million in subsidies intended for the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), which provides enriched uranium fuel to power plants. Click here to read the letter in full.
Karl Rove’s recent comments on Rep. Justin Amash’s voting record have raised some eyebrows across the fiscal-responsibility movement. Rep. Amash received a 91% score from NTU in 2011.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The DC Council is expected to adopt new regulations that would force Wal-Mart to play by different rules than other retailers in the District. The measure would require corporations with $1 billion in sales that operate stores with at least 75,000 square feet of retail space to pay their workers $12.50 per hour -- 52 percent more than the District’s $8.25 per hour minimum wage.
What does this mean? Quite a few things. First off, Wal-Mart will reconsider development plans for at least two, if not three, of its stores that are set to open in DC. The stores were a result of years of negotiations between the DC government and Wal-Mart. Now, DC might remain Wal-Mart-free and the avoidable results could be stark. Without the new stores, DC risks losing out on at least 900 jobs and $7 million in annual revenue for crucial items like school repair, community revitalization, or road construction.
There are also the reactions of other big box stores to consider. While Lowe’s doesn’t have a store in DC, Home Depot and Target each have one location. These corporations would be affected, while other popular retailers, such as Starbucks and Apple, would not be.
I am usually examining the unintended consequences of government action but this is wholly intended and understood by lawmakers. Although the law is not explicitly directed at Wal-Mart, the requirements were developed as a result of political tension between the retailer and labor groups within DC. By requiring Wal-Mart to pay wages beyond what is already required by District and federal laws, the Council has all but forced the company to avoid operating in an area with rules that are detrimental to its business. The Council could claim that Wal-Mart is only looking out for its bottom line (like all businesses do), but it would be ignoring the fact that other smaller businesses in DC are paying their workers at lower wages.
Supporters of the Large Retailer Accountability Act cite:
Some large retailers pay very low wages and do not provide their workers affordable health benefits. Without safeguards, large retailers threaten to erode both living standards for working families in the District, especially given the cost of living in the District. By adopting living wage standards for large retailers, The District can ensure that economic development better meets the community’s need for family-supporting jobs.
Supporters also believe that Wal-Mart’s threat of pulling out of DC is a bluff to avoid paying the higher wages.
[The Act] means most shopping dollars will stay in the suburbs, unemployment will remain in the double-digits in some neighborhoods and underserved communities will continue to have disproportionate access to affordable groceries.
According to Slate’s Matt Yglasias:
… I do think councilmembers should consider starting over again. If they think a higher minimum wage would be good for the city, then they should raise the minimum wage. If they think a $12.50 minimum wage would crate a lot of unemployment, then they should raise the minimum wage but raise it to something less than $12.50—there's a big gap between that and the generally applicable $8.25 wage. A special minimum wage that applies to retail workers but not janitors or restaurant workers and to Walmart but not the Gap doesn't make a ton of sense.
We will see how this drama of jobs and wages plays out.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
As the economy continues to falter, Congress has an excellent opportunity to provide economic relief to families and businesses. Recently, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) reintroduced the Wireless Tax Fairness Act in the Senate. This occurred just weeks after Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the same bill in the House. This legislation, an earlier version of which was approved by the House in 2011, would ensure that taxes on wireless communications will not increase in any jurisdiction for at least five years. As a recent study indicated, wireless services currently face a higher aggregate tax burden than nearly every other industry. These high taxes stifle job growth in a sector of the economy with proven potential as an engine of prosperity.
Wireless taxes are inherently regressive, which should also concern policymakers. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that young people as well as those with less financial means shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden of taxes on telecommunications. Some rely on their wireless device as their sole phone line and means of Internet access, making higher taxes even more disconcerting. In an era when legislators continue to dial in more spending and higher taxes, lawmakers should hang up on all calls for higher taxes and instead pass the Wireless Tax Fairness Act.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts