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The Taxpayer’s Tab, Plus Americans on ObamaCare and Excise Taxes - Speaking of Taxpayers, May 3
Posted By:  - 05/06/13

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NTUF's Dan Barrett joins Pete and Doug to discuss the latest Taxpayer's Tab issues, plus new polls reveal Americans' lukewarm reaction to ObamaCare and excise taxes for junk foods.
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The Late Edition: May 6, 2013
Posted By:  - 05/06/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

The Reason Foundation weighs in on the federally funded municipal broadband program, and includes NTU’s analysis of Utah’s costly UTOPIA initiative.  

The New York Times takes a look at ever-increasing airline taxes, and possibilities on the table for the future of air travel.

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The Late Edition: May 2, 2013
Posted By:  - 05/02/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTUF’s Dan Barrett weighs in on the spending records of four U.S. House members from New Jersey who may run for the Senate in 2014. 

Fiscally conservative groups are warning Congress that any attempt to raise the debt-ceiling will need to include a balanced budget amendment, according to The Hill.

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The Late Edition: April 23, 2013
Posted By:  - 04/23/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Obama's 2014 budget contains damaging energy policy goals, says NTU’s Pete Sepp in this US News  piece.  

Gas prices are high enough without adding additional state taxes onto them, say 66% of the public. Read the full story from CNN.

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President Obama’s 2014 Budget, Plus State Cigarette Tax Plans - Speaking of Taxpayers April, 12
Posted By:  - 04/17/13

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Pete and Doug are joined by NTUF's Director of Research, Demian Brady, to discuss the President's 2014 budget proposals. Plus, NTU's State Affairs Manager, Lee Schalk, has an update on cigarette tax schemes.

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The Late Edition: April 11, 2013
Posted By:  - 04/11/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTU joins a broad coalition of activists in support of a bipartisan effort to reform ineffective and costly fuel mandates.

NTUF did a thorough analysis of what President Obama’s 2014 budget means for taxpayers.

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NTU Foundation's FY 2014 Budget Breakdown
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 04/11/13

Recycling policies is a common practice in Washington DC. In conducting NTU Foundation's BillTally research, we find many pieces of legislation that are exact matches to the previous Congress' version. Many Hill offices say the bills are placeholder legislation to show that Members care about a specific issue or see their ideas as the best solution to a local, state, or national problem. However, when it comes to the federal budget, Americans have at least seen some variance in what the President would like to do with your tax dollars. It's not the case for the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.

One of the most startling facts about the Budget is the rosy economic projections made for taxes and other sources of government revenue. While the FY 2010 Budget projected a $512 billion deficit for FY 2013, the latest Budget predicts a $973 billion shortfall. Such billion-dollar deviations (90 percent higher) are not only cause for alarm but puts into question just how optimistic the President should be when putting together his trillion-dollar agenda.

On the spending side, which is the focus of the BillTally project, NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady and Policy Analyst Michael Tasselmyer found some peculiar proposals that might or might not add up. Overall discretionary spending falls by three percent up until FY 2016 BUT, when taking mandatory spending into account (the real source of federal spending), spending never decreases. How much? If this Budget was passed, taxpayers would be on the hook for $3.7 trillion this year and continue to grow to $5 trillion by 2021.

How does the Administration expect pay for more government? Increase taxes and expect the next President to cut spending. The estate tax, airline security fees, and the so-called "Buffett Rule" are just a few of the new costs imposed on Americans. Yet, it's hard to tell if all those new (and old) taxes would equal the projections outlined in the Budget. If deficit estimates were so off over the course of four years, how can more market distortions and public spending be accurately predicted for the future? Details and answers on NTUF's FY 2014 Budget analysis can be found here.

NTUF staff will also be highlighting other parts of the Budget in the following days here on Government Bytes, on Twitter (@NTUF), and in The Taxpayer’s Tab.

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Obama's FY 2014 Budget on Medicare
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 04/09/13

In part two of three, I take a look at the predictions of the President's FY 2014 Budget in how it might affect Medicare. Note: Figures are in ten-year windows (not the usual five-year increments under the BillTally project).

Current status: Via the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), health care costs for disabled and senior Americans will continue to rise, so much so that the program could be insolvent by 2027. From 3.7 percent of GDP in 2011, the Medicare Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds will continue to grow in obligations to approximately 6.7 percent of GDP by 2086 (73 years from now). We're talking trillions of dollars in projected obligations that traditional funding methods, a mix of payroll taxes and regular government spending.

Possibilities for FY 2014:

  • Combine Medicare Parts A and B (Unknown). By putting many Medicare services under one category, beneficiaries would apply to a single entity, creating something of a unified deductible, and potentially decrease administrative costs. However, there does not seem to be hard figures and, like other reforms, transitioning to a new system might erase potential savings. Also, Parts A and B are funded in different ways, with A receiving payroll taxes whereas B is mostly funded by Federal general tax revenue. Hopefully the Administration will provide details on merging A and B, if such a proposal is included in the Budget.
  • "Rebates" from Drug Companies ($100 billion). In the previous Budget, President Obama called for drug rebates from companies, which would require makers to give a portion of their sales to the government. Some would argue this is a new tax on businesses, the rebates have been classified as "offsetting receipts" and so count as decreases in public spending.
  • Cut Hospital Payments ($23.6 billion). The government will cut hospital reimbursements for uncollected "bad debt" from patients. The intention is to make hospitals be more aggressive in collected unpaid bills from patients instead of relying on government compensation. While the Fiscal Times credited the measure as a $36 billion ten-year savings, the Congressional Budget Office scored the payment reduction as a $23.6 billion cut.
  • Encourage Efficient Care (Unknown). Depending on this proposal’s intention, the government aims to have fewer hospital readmissions (patients who are re-emitted soon after they are released). However, this measure is already in progress via the Affordable Care Act.
  • More Means-Testing ($35 billion). Many higher-income patients would be required to pay higher premiums and deductibles for the same medical care as average or below-average income patients.
  • The FY 2013 Budget continued the costly "doc-fix" measure but also made cuts to graduate medical education credits, quality care requirements for rural hospitals, and changed a number of specialized medical procedures that would have resulted in savings, totaling a potential $302.4 billion.

Bottom line: Even if all of the savings realized, the structural problems of Medicare outweigh many proposals, even ambitious ones. Though streamlining payment processes and taking more money away from drug companies could help to offset some current deficits, taxpayers need trillion-dollar solutions to the economy’s biggest single expense program. On the other hand, by requiring drug companies to pay more to the government, prescription prices may increase.

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Obama's FY 2014 Budget on Social Security
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 04/09/13

With budget fever gripping the Beltway policy world and state government inner circles, there are plenty of questions and skepticism on what President Obama's FY 2014 Budget will plan for the country's biggest expenses: government-subsidized health care and retirement entitlement programs. Though the budget is due to be released on tomorrow, some details have already come out on what taxpayers can expect and what this all means for the nation's bottom line. In an analysis by the Fiscal Times, many experts predict few surprises and many repeat proposals from the Obama 2013 Budget. I examine Social Security in the first of three posts. Note: Figures are in ten-year windows (not the usual five-year increments under the BillTally project).

Where it's at: According to the Social Security Administration, the regular retiree program has run a deficit (i.e. its expenditures are higher than the Trust Fund's non-interest receipts from withholding taxes) for the past two years and will continue upwards at an annual average of $66 billion between 2012 and 2018. The budgetary outlook could worsen. Deficits will likely increase sharply as the Baby Boomer generation enters retirement and the pool of workers expected to shrink, relative to reitrees. Jagadeesh Gokhale of the Cato Institute says that the disability portion of Social Security is the real worry because more people have been applying, which has mounted budgetary pressure, so much so that the program may default on benefits by as early as 2016.

What the budget might do:

  • Institute Chained CPI ($130 billion):  By changing how cost-of-living adjustments is calculated for retirees, future payments would likely not be as high as projected as compared to traditional determinations. The change could also push taxpayers into higher tax brackets earlier than expected (a revenue boom for the program but a bust for workers). The concept does have some opponents including the AARP, many Congressional Democrats, and experts who support other options.
  • The FY 2013 Budget also listed a few smaller efforts that could result in a net $3 billion savings, though most of that is improving collections of information on state and local pensions, which may end up costing more than it saves.

For better or worse? Much of the focus is not on Social Security but on the other two big programs. This is likely a timely issue where Social Security is seen as at least momentarily solvent and will stay that way long after Medicare is expected to default. Chained CPI and the already proposed measures may temporarily help guarantee retirees benefits for a longer period of time but the program will eventually need serious reform and, like all of these programs, the sooner sustainable reforms occur, the less it will cost taxpayers. However, none of this addresses the disability portion of Social Security, which would need a bailout in a very short amount of time.

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The Late Edition: April 9, 2013
Posted By:  - 04/09/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTU recently joined Citizens Against Government Waste and a host of GOP senators in supporting Senator Marco Rubio’s REFUND Act. Read the full story from The Shark Tank.

This National Review article looks at the Senate’s budget proposal, and concludes the numbers just don’t add up.

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