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New EPA Regulations Would Hurt State Economies
Posted By: Melodie Bowler - 07/11/14

In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released 645 pages of new regulations of carbon emissions for fossil-fuel-fired power plants in every state. The overall goal is to reduce total emissions from these plants by 30 percent in 2030, compared to measurements of emissions in 2005. Unfortunately, these regulations could have a devastating effect on taxpayers and state economies.

The EPA determined a different reduction goal for each state based on its ability for further reductions, since total emissions have already decreased since 2005. For some states, such as California, which currently has stricter emissions targets than the EPA, the transition will be easier. For states that rely heavily on coal for energy and jobs, particularly Kentucky and West Virginia, compliance with the reductions may prove extremely difficult.

The percentage reduction goals for each state vary from 10.6 percent in North Dakota to 71.6 percent in Washington. These numbers are deceiving, however. Washington has only one coal-powered plant left and gets the majority of its energy from hydroelectric power. The state legislature has decided to close that one plant in 2025, which will sufficiently reduce emissions to meet their target. Kentucky sits on the opposite end of the spectrum, with a goal to reduce emissions by 18.3 percent. While this might seem like an easily attainable goal, the state receives over 90 percent of its power from coal plants meaning it will be hard pressed to comply. Kentucky state officials, and many of their counterparts in states south of the Great Lakes, could be forced to close plants, which would immediately result in serious economic disruptions.

In response to the EPA’s unprecedented regulatory overreach and unattainable mandates, several cases were filed against the agency and combined to be heard at once by the Supreme Court. The main case was led by the Utility Air Regulatory Group, but other challengers included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several states. Unfortunately, the 5-4 ruling upheld the agency’s ability to force power plants to adhere to its regulations. There was one small win for proponents of free markets buried in the decision, which negated the EPA’s rule forcing power plants to request permission before expanding their operations. With the new targets now supported by the courts, states must submit their plans for reduction by June 2016, but if states refuse or their plans are deemed inadequate, the EPA will create plans for them.

Opponents of the regulations have spoken up at the state and federal level from both sides of the aisle. Kentucky Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, pinned blamed on President Obama, stating, "It's clear that the president is trying to impose this national energy tax via executive order because he knows the representatives of the people would never vote for it." Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia worries, "If these rules are put into place, our manufacturers may be forced to look overseas for more reasonable energy costs, taking good paying jobs with them and leaving hardworking West Virginians without jobs to support their families.”

Senator McConnell, among others, rightly calls the new regulations a national energy tax, since the likely result is higher costs for individuals and businesses as cheaper sources of energy are forced out of the not-so-free market. When energy prices rise, so will the costs of goods and services. Equally alarming is the possibility of state-level carbon taxes, which the EPA implicitly allows in the new regulations. While legislators may see a carbon tax as an easy way to comply with the rules and pad state coffers, such a tax might result in the phenomenon called “carbon leakage.” Because states have different reduction goals, their carbon taxes would be different as well. Coal plants and industries which rely heavily on energy consumption will relocate to states with lower taxes, ultimately exporting power and goods back to the states with higher taxes. In this scenario, some states may be marginal winners and others will most definitely be losers.

Despite the ruling by the Supreme Court, some congressmen have yet to concede this battle. The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, approved legislation on Tuesday that would curb the EPA’s funding and ability to enforce the emissions regulations. Attached to an appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, the riders would specifically cut EPA funding by 9 percent and reduce the staff to 15,000, its smallest since 1989. The bill would also bar the EPA from using its funding to implement the new regulations. While it is unlikely to pass, especially in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Rep. Rogers emphasized the importance of his committee’s action, stating, “The Congress must exercise its prerogative to prevent this kind of bureaucratic overreach that would be crippling for the U.S. economy.”

In order to keep this conversation alive on Capitol Hill, taxpayers should quickly contact their elected officials, expressing their concerns. In our sputtering economy, the last thing Americans need is a stack of costly regulations from unelected EPA officials. Stay tuned to NTU.org for more as this story unfolds.

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NTUF Toasts Milton Friedman
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 07/11/14

On Thursday, July 29, National Taxpayers Union Foundation is joining with the Tax Foundation and the Washington D.C. chapter of Liberty on the Rocks to toast the legacy of economist Milton Friedman.

If you’re in the D.C. area, join us at the Laughing Man Tavern for happy hour, where we’ll be playing Friedman-themed games, collecting school supplies for Perry Street Preparatory School, and enjoying complementary drinks to celebrate the famous economist’s life and work.

Can’t join us in person? We’ll also be hosting a special online version of the game attendees will be playing in D.C., Cards Against Liberty. More details will be coming soon about how you can get involved!

You can keep up with all of the latest NTUF news and events by following us on Twitter (@ntuf), on Facebook, and by subscribing to The Taxpayer’s Tab.

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New BillTally Report: Congress's Trillion Dollar Agenda
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 07/10/14

Today, National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) released our latest BillTally report, which analyzed the legislation introduced during the first session of the 113th Congress. NTUF researchers found that legislators introduced 680 spending increase proposals and 119 savings measures; had all of these bills been enacted, federal spending would have increased by nearly $1.1 trillion on net.

BillTally is a comprehensive accounting project that tracks the budgetary costs or savings associated with every bill introduced in Congress. By cross-indexing each Senator's and Representative's sponsorship records with our database of cost estimates, NTUF is able to compile each Member’s net spending agenda, which reflects the total fiscal impact of the bills they supported. The data offers taxpayers a unique look at how their elected officials would change federal spending if they had the "keys to the budget."

The first session of the 113th Congress marked a move towards more moderate fiscal proposals, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle proposed, on average, lower spending hikes and fewer budget cuts.

  • Representatives authored 496 spending bills and 112 savings bills, while Senators drafted 332 increase bills and 56 savings bills. The number of increases was the lowest seen since the 105th Congress, but this was also the first time in several years that there were fewer cut bills introduced compared to the previous Congress.
  • The number of Representatives and Senators who proposed net cutting agendas rose in each Congress since the 108th in the House, and the 107th in the Senate, reaching a total of 297 in the 112th Congress for both chambers combined. The trend reversed in the 113th Congress, falling to 249.
  • The trend of fewer Members from year to year with agendas greater than $100 billion continued, falling to 68 in the House (down from 128 in the 111th) and just one in the Senate, down from 128 and 24, respectively in the 111th Congress.

While the enthusiasm for major spending increases or budget cuts seems to have (at least temporarily) waned, the 113th Congress continues to propose new legislation that could impact taxpayers in many ways.

Read the latest BillTally report here, and find out what sort of budgetary changes your Senators and Representatives have proposed in Congress.

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Fixing Tax Code is a Priority For Paul Ryan; House Republicans Unveil Plan to Keep the Highway Trust Fund Going; NYT Blames IRS Scandals on Budget – Late Edition July 9
Posted By: Jihun Han - 07/09/14

Today's Taxpayer News!

If Congressman Paul Ryan could fix just one issue in Congress, it would be the tax code. Simplifying the tax code will bring jobs back to the United States, according to Rep. Ryan. Read what the congressman wrote!

Republicans in the House have proposed a $10 billion infusion to the Highway Trust Fund before it expires in September. The House would offset the revenue costs by delaying contributions to employee pension plans. Read here for more!

A New York Times editorial looks to blame budget reductions for the IRS’ foibles. Yet, the agency's role in Obamacare enforcement would seem far more resource consuming...

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Profiles in Liberty: Alex Eblen
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 07/08/14

NTUF provides interns with not only a policy education but a practical application of that policy as well. By attending the lunch discussion series, interns learn about broad spending categories such as defense, entitlements, and health care. They then apply the new knowledge to their daily assignments, ranging from researching individual proposals to simplifying complex issues through blog posts. At the end of the summer, these students and recent graduates will sum up what they’ve learned by giving a policy presentation to NTU and Foundation staff. Through this ongoing process, our interns will continue to develop skills such as teamwork, project planning and management, and a broader understanding of how policy interacts with taxpayers and current law.

NTUF Research Intern Alex Eblen

Alex Eblen, one of NTUF’s Research Interns, grew up in Jackson, Tennessee and recently graduated from Rhodes College, where he earned a BA in Political Science and International Studies. In previous summers, Alex was a counselor at the PGA Junior Golf Academy in Franklin, Tennessee. He found this experience, where he was able to work with children and teach a sport that he loves, to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things he has done. Last summer he had his first internship in the policy field, when he worked at a small non-profit in Memphis, Tennessee which focused on urban planning and sustainability issues.

What has been your favorite part of living and working in the DC area?

AE: There’s a certain feeling and atmosphere that comes with being in the Nation’s Capital. Seeing the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the Arlington National Cemetery on my way to and from work gives my experience here a very surreal feeling. The city seems to constantly remind you that important and interesting things have happened and continue to happen here.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

AE: I’m fortunate, because a good friend of mine from college lives in the area. He, his brother, and I spend a lot of time playing golf, tennis, and basketball with some of their friends. I’ve also been frequently taking tennis lessons from another friend; it’s been fun, but I’m still learning how to serve the ball.

Who is your political hero?

AE: I wouldn’t call him a political hero, but I’ve made a concerted effort to become more familiar with the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson over the past few months. As a Tennessee resident and the namesake of my hometown, I thought that it was only fitting that I should have a better understanding of such a significant and controversial figure in American history. As a reading subject, Jackson’s life and political career has not disappointed and has provided a seemingly endless amount of fascinating, and sometimes strange, stories.

What projects have you been working on while at NTUF?

AE: I have contributed to NTUF’s BillTally project. The information I find during my research on bills goes to this report. Recently, I’ve been given the chance to help put together some state-by-state research that NTUF will send to various state-based organizations. These reports offer insight and analysis of states’ congressional delegations and the possible budgetary effects of their sponsored legislation.

What have you enjoyed most about your work at NTUF?

AE: Actually getting to sift through real policy and see the nuts and bolts of what is getting proposed by our representatives here in Washington, D.C. The legislation I go through ranges across the political spectrum and touches on any number of issues and government goals, and this daily variety has given me an invaluable new understanding of Congress and legislation alike.

What challenges do you feel that you’ve overcome so far at NTUF?

AE: At first, I was overwhelmed by the legislative language and the amount of legislation that I was encountering. With each passing week, however, I’ve become more comfortable with the text I’m analyzing, and I’m developing my ability to efficiently sort through these bills every day. Having this experience in reading legislation is definitely invaluable as I look towards the future and potential jobs.

What made you choose NTUF for your summer internship?

AE: NTUF gave me an incredible opportunity to continue to develop my analytical skills, specifically in regards to policy. NTUF has also made it very clear that they are committed to giving all their interns a holistic experience that touches on many aspects of non-profit work, fiscal policy, and professional development. I was very interested in this approach to an internship program, and I feel like I’ve greatly benefited from it.

What advice do you have for future interns?

AE: Washington, D.C. is absolutely filled with young people. Every weekend you can go to a different neighborhood or suburb and find new, interesting, and fun stuff to do and people to meet; the city is electric. So come to Washington, D.C. ready to take advantage of all that the city has to offer and get ready for an awesome adventure!

Be sure to read our last interview with Kelly Hastings, and stay tuned to Government Bytes for an upcoming interview with Government Affairs Intern Melodie Bowler.

How can you help? NTU Foundation appreciates every contribution we receive. Your donations are tax-deductible and help further NTUF research and taxpayer education.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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Only in California: Berkeley Seeks Soda Tax while Desert Hot Springs Considers Marijuana Tax – Late Edition, July 7
Posted By: Jihun Han - 07/07/14

Today's Taxpayer News!

The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a tax on soda and other sugary drinks. Berkeley Residents will have a chance in November on whether to approve the tax measure or not. Reuters has the latest!

Desert Hot Springs is considering legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries to fund the police department after a recent bankruptcy. The proposal would put a sales tax on medical marijuana. Read here for more!

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Presidential Perks
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 07/06/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

Last year, NTUF offered an analysis of the benefits that former Presidents are entitled to under the Former Presidents Act, which was signed into law in 1958. Presidents are entitled to a $200,000 pension, lifetime Secret Service protection, and reimbursement for travel, office space, administrative staff, and office supplies once they leave office in order to keep up with the public's requests and inquiries.

In this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, we take a look at the latest estimate of how much those perks cost taxpayers, and which Presidents have received the most in benefits since 2000.

We also continue our "Profiles in Liberty" series, highlighting the background and work of the interns who are helping us research legislation this summer. This week we interviewed Paul Bartow and John Ridley.

For more, check out The Tab online.

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Profiles in Liberty: Kelly Hastings
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 07/05/14

NTUF picks the best and brightest young professionals to intern in our Alexandria, Virginia Headquarters. Many of our research interns have served as research assistants to either a professor or a department at their undergraduate schools; both of our communications interns have had experience in public speaking, either in front of large crowds or through radio; and our creative content intern has made several online educational tools. At NTUF, they are able to develop the skills to get taxpayers the most relevant information on government spending.

NTUF Research Intern Kelly Hastings

Kelly Hastings is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee who recently graduated from Berry College in Georgia. She has a BS in Economics, and participated in a research study with one of her professors, which resulted in her presenting a paper at the Southern Economic Association’s 83rd Annual Conference. Her interest in writing this paper was sparked by a summer spent interning as an economic analyst at the Tennessee Valley Authority. She has devoted some of her time at school to working as a research assistant for professors and as a Journal Reviewer for the Campbell School of Business’ Undergraduate Business and Economics Research Journal.

What have you enjoyed most about living in the DC area?

KH: Getting to see the national monuments and war memorials. I had never visited Washington, D.C. until this past summer, so I had only read about the monuments and memorials in textbooks. I was especially excited to see the Lincoln Memorial. I also love working in Old Town Alexandria because of its quaint, laid-back feel.

When you’re not at the office, what do you like to do for fun?

KH: I love exploring the cities in the area. It’s easy to get to Arlington, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, and there are so many fun and interesting things to do. I’m also an avid reader- I’ve been through John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden so far this summer.

How did you become interested in politics?

KH: My interest in politics came after my interest in economics. As an economics major, I was particularly influenced by the philosophical ideas of the economist Adam Smith. I see politics as an avenue to promote these ideas.

What are you hoping to learn while researching for NTUF this summer?

KH: I’m hoping to get a better grasp of how our political system works, but I’m especially interested in how legislation is drafted and how it moves through Congress. I feel that this will be very beneficial to me, as I’m considering a career in law. I’m also hoping to gain an understanding for how non-profit organizations work.

On that note, what have you learned so far at NTUF which has most interested you?

KH: I have learned about Steve Forbes’ monetary policy ideas. I had the fortune of hearing Forbes speak at Berry College during my Freshman year, but I didn’t realize that he was on the Board of Directors for NTU. Forbes’ discussion was on how a fiat monetary system leads to a debased currency, which erodes trust between lenders and borrowers. He pointed out that this eventually leads to a debased society.

What does a standard day at NTUF look like for you?

KH:  I research bills and make calls to congressional offices. I’m also in charge of taking the pictures for NTUF’s Instagram account, and sometimes I have the chance to write.

What is the most interesting bill you’ve researched?

KH: I researched a bill which places certain reporting requirements on the utility industry in order to ensure that the infrastructure is secure in the event of a security threat. This was particularly interesting to me since I spent a summer at the TVA. Though, in this bill, the TVA and the Bonneville Power Administration were exempted.

Be sure to read our previous interview with JR Ridley, and keep checking Government Bytes daily, as we’ll be interviewing Alex Eblan next week.

How can you help? NTU Foundation appreciates every contribution we receive. Your donations are tax-deductible and help further NTUF research and taxpayer education.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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Ohio Budget Surplus Will be Used as Tax Cuts; Tim Pawlenty Urges Corporate Tax Reform – Late Edition, July 3
Posted By: Jihun Han - 07/03/14

Today's Taxpayer News! 

Ohio finished the fiscal year with an $800 million surplus. Governor Kasich says that the money will be used to give tax credits and tax cuts to Ohioans. It will also fund Medicaid costs. Fox Business has the latest! 

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is urging corporate tax reform after it was announced that Medtronic would move its headquarters to Ireland to pay less in taxes. Read his op-ed here!

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