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The Late Edition: October 16, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 10/16/13

Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 16

Toll hunt: The Texas Department of Transportation is releasing the names of almost 28,000 violators of the state’s highway tolls. The move comes as the state attempts to gain back nearly $27 million in lost revenue.  Read more at KWTX.

Insurance overpay: Fluctuations have been found in the insurance plans for Memphis city and county government employees. Memphis city council chair Edmund Ford, Jr. reported that due to the area’s multiple insurers, the cost of employee insurance is $58 million. If all government employees were on a single plan, the cost would be significantly less. More at WMCTV.

Quadruple contracts: The Government Accountability Office recently reported the Department of Health and Human Services had four “potentially duplicative investments” in enterprise security systems costing taxpayers over $256 million.  The department has said they will look into the matter. Read more at FedScoop.

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Infographic: New Jersey Senate Candidate Proposals
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 10/14/13

Today, NTU Foundation released its analysis of the two frontrunners' proposals in the New Jersey Senate race. Highlighting how Cory Booker and Steve Lonegan would change the federal budget, NTUF offers a wealth of information:

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Top 10 Reasons the Sequester is a Success
Posted By: Nan Swift - 10/14/13

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) was a law passed by Congress and President Obama during tense negotiations over the “debt ceiling.”  The intent of the law was to provide fiscal discipline and reduce the long-term debt.  One of the most important things the BCA did was to create discretionary spending caps to reduce the amount of money Congress can expend.  When Congress can’t meet these caps, a mechanism called the “sequester” automatically reduces discretionary spending in an across-the-board fashion. While far from perfect policy, the BCA and sequester are important tools to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Spending is falling: Spending is on track to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of FY13. This is the first time, since the end of the Korean War, federal expenditures have fallen two years in a row. 
 
2. The deficit is shrinking: The deficit is expected to continue to drop through 2015 and is already down from a high of 10.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 to 4 percent this year.
 
3. The sequester was NOT the crisis its critics predicted:  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood feared chaos at airports due to Federal Aviation Administration cuts, but post-sequester, the agency’s budget is still larger than it was in 2008. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the sequester would result in mass layoffs of teachers, which has proven false.
 
4. The sequester does NOT put our national security at risk: The reduction in defense spending under the BCA is roughly 10 percent, which brings spending to about the same level it was under President George W. Bush in 2006.
 
5. Spending restraint can get our debt under control:  According to the Congressional Budget Office, if we could hold federal spending steady at $3.5 trillion we should be able to balance the budget by 2016.
 

6. The sequester helped to put the brakes on Washington’s out of control spending: In 2009, total federal spending reached over a quarter of GDP; in 2013 that fell to 21.5 percent. “Discretionary”(i.e., annually appropriated non-entitlement )spending, which sequestration primarily affects has shrunk by 10 percent since 2011 – and the sky hasn’t fallen.
 
7. The sequester is helping to eliminate wasteful spending: When forced to reexamine their budgets, many agencies found savings after all. The Department of Defense (DOD) found $1 billion in savings from reduced transportation costs and saved another $9.6 billion in reprogramming requests, delayed contracts, and reduced costs in another 200 programs. And there’s still overcapacity that costs taxpayers billions.
 
8. In the long run, the sequester can help the economy: The CBO states that “if the spending reductions under current law were reversed, that policy would lead to greater federal debt, which would eventually reduce the nation’s output and income below what would occur under current law.”
 
9. The sequester may be helping the stock market: Though many predicted stocks would tumble when the sequester took effect, the stock market has hit record highs this year. Though this is the result of a combination of factors, one major factor is that markets recognize that the U.S. is dealing with our outsized debt problem, making us an attractive investment.
 
10. The sequester does what Washington can’t:  The BCA’s sequester was intended to be a line in the sand that Congress would never dream of crossing. However, all other attempts to get spending under control failed. For decades, Washington has repeatedly given in to its worst instincts to increase spending and grown the size of government. Without the  sequester the overspending would never stop.

It’s important to remember though, that the sequester is only the first step toward getting our fiscal house in order. Larger bills loom on the horizon in the form of mandatory entitlement spending that threatens to bury our nation in debt. That’s why it’s so essential that we make the tough choices now, before the debt becomes unmanageable. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we must start by urging Washington to “Keep the Caps!”

To learn more about this important issue and take action, visit KeeptheCaps.com.

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NJ Senate Race: Booker, Lonegan Separated by $101 Billion
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 10/14/13

Tab Insert

On Wednesday, New Jerseyans will vote in a special election to decide who will replace outgoing U.S. Senator Jeffrey Chiesa, a Republican and former state attorney general who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to fill the seat vacated after Frank Lautenberg's death in June. Ahead of the election, National Taxpayers Union Foundation has released its line-by-line analysis of the proposals made by the leading candidates: former Newark mayor Cory Booker, who won the Democratic nomination in August, and his Republican challenger Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota.

During any election cycle, candidates propose and debate a variety of policies, which can give voters some insight into how they would spend (or save) the tax dollars they send to Washington. Unfortunately for taxpayers, it can be difficult to translate these proposals into specific dollar figures. Using data and methodology from the BillTally project, NTUF has analyzed the campaign promises of would-be Senators and Representatives since 2000 in order to make the budgetary implications of their agendas clearer for interested voters.

For the New Jersey election, NTUF sifted through each candidate's official campaign materials, public statements, and media appearances in order to determine which of their proposals could affect federal spending.

  • Lonegan's agenda included two items that would decrease federal spending and ten that carried unknown costs. Mayor Booker has offered more in the way of both detail and volume of proposals: of the 58 that NTUF determined would have some budgetary effect, 20 would increase federal spending.
  • On net, Booker's proposals could increase federal spending by $33 billion per year, while Lonegan's could save almost $68.2 billion per year.
  • That difference amounts to nearly $101 billion per year, roughly 2.8% of the Congressional Budget Office's projected federal outlays for Fiscal Year 2014.

For links to analyses of each candidate's proposals, as well as a number of summary graphs and other information on the studies, check out today's special edition of the Taxpayer's Tab online here.

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Keep the Caps: New Orleans – Thursday, October 17
Posted By: Lee Schalk - 10/11/13

That’s right, NTU is headed to New Orleans for another Keep the Caps event!

TICKETS HERE.

After a successful luncheon and protest in Little Rock, Arkansas, we’re excited to be partnering with our Louisiana friends from The Hayride blog and American Voice PAC next week to spread the word about Washington’s spending problem.

Here’s the plan:

We will gather outside Ernst Cafe at 3:30pm and walk four blocks toward Senator Landrieu's New Orleans office for a rally and protest. Shortly after, we will head back to Ernst Cafe for free food, beverages, giveaways, and more.

Our message? It’s past time to get a grip on out-of-control national debt and spending.

Just two years after creating common-sense, bipartisan caps on federal spending, some politicians in Washington, including Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, are trying to change the law and undo these sensible, bipartisan caps so they can continue to play games with your tax dollars. 

The modest spending restraint of 3 cents on the dollar, imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, is an important step in reining in our nation's out of control spending. So far, the sequester has been a success, with federal expenditures falling two years in a row – the first time since the end of the Korean War. 

On October 17, Louisianans have an opportunity to make their voices heard. Let's tell Senator Landrieu, President Obama, and the rest of Washington to Keep the Caps!

Be sure to grab your free ticket and RSVP by clicking HERE. Tell your friends, and we’ll see you Thursday!

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The Late Edition: October 10, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 10/10/13

Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 10

Website waste: The now infamous and floundering government website for Obamacare cost taxpayers over $634 million to create.  Despite knowing the October 1st deadline was coming for months, the site has been marred by poorly written code, glitches, and crashes.  Read more at Digital Trends.

Overbuilt Courts: A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that most federal courthouses built from 2000-2010 were built larger than Congress authorized.  The GAO found 3.56 million square feet of unneeded space costing taxpayers $835 million.  More details at USA Today.

Extravagant charges: The director of a Washington state educational group for low income children has been using taxpayer money to buy “expensive meals, unnecessary flights and a hotel stay in a presidential suite.”  To this day, Loueta Johnson remains on the job. KIMA TV has more details.

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Vikings’ New Taxpayer Funded Stadium Already Hitting Fiscal Snags
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 10/10/13

It’s the same old story, but taxpayers can’t seem to duck sports owners pining for new stadiums for their teams. Wealthy owners continue to use questionable tactics to extract tax money from fans for funding their “palaces.”

Their argument is always that a new stadium will increase tourism, which will increase sales, which will make everyone the requisite profit needed to pay back in spades the tax money spent up front. Unfortunately for the countless cities who have tried it, the bargain quickly turns into a boondoggle.

The state of Minnesota is the latest state to to push taxpayers into the publicly funded stadium trap. The state and the city of Minneapolis have thrown in almost $500 million, which is over 50 percent of the total cost of a stadium, for the Minnesota Vikings.

A previous NTUF study concluded that when public contributions represented over 50 percent of the costs, as is the case with the Vikings, the stadiums will be $65 million more expensive on average. Recently, the Vikings, the city, and their fans are finding NTUF’s finding to be all too real. 

Now, Team officials say they will have to cut out certain amenities from the proposed stadium just weeks before the groundbreaking. “We only have $975 million in the budget, and there’s only so many things you can get under that number,” said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley. Among the casualties of the soaring costs is a parking garage and escalators. The team is also imposing $2,500 personal seat licenses for three fourths of the stadium’s seats. Is this an attempt to get more taxpayer money, or just part of accessing contingency funds? We’ll have to wait and see. Surely taxpayers who are shelling out more than half the stadium’s cost will not shed a tear over this “problem.”

As was the case in Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington; taxpayer funded sports stadiums don’t solve local woes. Owners and politicians pitch these stadiums as a ‘short term cost, long term profit’ venture for fans. But for taxpayers there’s ‘short term cost, long term debt’.

Sources: Deadspin.com, Minneapolis Star Tribune, National Taxpayers Union Foundation

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The Late Edition: October 9, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 10/09/13

Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 9

‘Shutdown’ Theater: Fox News compiled a list of seven operations that were halted over the last nine days that saved practically no taxpayer funds. The list includes scenic spots on the sides of roads to jogging paths that happen to be on public land.

Obamacare phones: The state of Tennessee’s healthcare co-op is offering new enrollees in the healthcare exchanges free smart phones if they enroll. The plan originally received a federal grant of $73 million.  Read more at the Daily Caller.

Failure to report: One in five companies that received taxpayer assistance from the state of Wisconsin have not filed a report detailing where the money went. The reporting system was created in response to the revelation of $12 million of overdue loans from previous years.  Find out more details from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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In Memoriam: William L. Fey, 1941-2013
Posted By: Pete Sepp - 10/08/13

Given the work that National Taxpayers Union and NTU Foundation pursue every day, it becomes all too easy to focus on the public faces of the organizations: those who are representing the taxpayers’ cause in the media, on Capitol Hill, or with the policy community.

Yet, we should also acknowledge and value the contributions of those who aren’t in front of Congress, or a camera. It is with much sadness but much more fondness that we do so now, by pausing to remember our Director of Finance and Accounting Bill Fey, who passed away Sunday peacefully after a brief illness.

Bill had served NTU and NTU Foundation since 2006, bringing with him decades of experience in the intricacies of for-profit and nonprofit financial operations, including stints with a leasing company, a law firm, and two associations prior to joining us. He also had a top-notch education in his field through a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.B.A. (finance) from American University.

Though he could have deployed his talents toward more lucrative pursuits, Bill chose to give his steady hand to our operations, ranging from standard accounting to the task of interacting with outside auditors. These obligations are vital enough at organizations like ours that espouse (and pride themselves on) financial accountability, but Bill was more than a bookkeeper. He brought with him other skills that we came to rely on, including personnel policy development, property management, investment strategy, and conference planning.  In short, he helped to provide some of the vital infrastructure that enabled NTU’s and NTU Foundation’s activities to proceed full speed ahead.

Bill was also a true compatriot in our endless struggles on behalf of limited government. He offered useful anecdotes from his past interactions with bureaucracies, and pointed out interesting news developments that might be useful in our outreach to taxpayers. He also never failed to maintain a wry sense of humor that reminded us to take our daily travails in stride and have confidence in the course our movement was charting.

Bill’s devotion to NTU and NTU Foundation was evident in his insistence upon imparting as much of his knowledge as possible to those who had to carry on his duties. His wife, son, daughter, and others who knew him can be proud of this dedication. Perhaps also they can take some comfort in the words of Walt Whitman, which seem appropriate as we reflect on the passing of a former Naval Academy man:

“O we can wait no longer

We too take ship O soul,

Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,

Fearless for unknown shores …”

We wish Bill’s loved ones less difficult days ahead. Though we will miss him, we know he has joyously, fearlessly reached another shore.

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(Audio) Speaking of Taxpayers: Is Debt Ceiling Debate Going to Crash the “Shutdown” Party? – Oct. 4, 2013
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 10/07/13

Subscribe to NTU's podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!

NTUF's Demian Brady joins the podcast to talk Debt Ceiling and the federal budget, and the Outrage of the Week! hammers one government so-called "shutdown" casualty that should concern taxpayers. 

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