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Sunday, 25 October 2020 10:33

NATIONAL News Featured

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Two recent reports detail how much Joe Biden's tax plans will cost taxpayers if he is elected president. The Center Square reported that the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation concluded Biden's plans would cost nearly $4 trillion in increased taxes over the next 10 years, which “would be the highest in American history – indeed, in world history.” A separate analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation found that Biden’s tax plan would reduce the economy’s size by 1.47 percent, reduce wages by a little over 1 percent, and result in 518,000 full-time job losses.

A separate report, authored by the nonprofit Employment Policies Institute, found that implementation of a nationwide $15 minimum wage would result in the loss of more than 2 million jobs. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act that, if enacted, would create an incremental schedule to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2027. The bill also would increase the federal tipped wage incrementally to reach $12.60 by 2027, an increase of 491 percent. Both bills were blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Depending on election results, they could be revived in 2021.


After he ran for governor in 2014 and 2018 as an opponent of legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf changed his stance on the issue – now that he faces term limits and won’t have to go before voters again. Tracking his history on the issue involves cabinet officials who were staunch advocates for legalization and tangential family links, but Wolf’s office continues to insist that the governor has no personal stake in recreational marijuana legalization.


Small businesses in the Garden State may be finding it more difficult to weather both the coronavirus pandemic and their state’s restrictions than their peers in other states, according to the head of the New Jersey chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. “I love seeing, in the national survey, that improvements are happening across the country,” Eileen Kean told The Center Square. “But New Jersey is a different situation. We still have a lack of consumer confidence, in terms of people going out in stores.”


A recent report from the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute found the city of Columbus paid more tax dollars for city workers performing union work, rather than government work, than all but one other city in the nation.

In statewide news, Ohio’s unemployment rate fell from August to September, and the state added nearly 40,000 new private-sector jobs. But, in reality, according to an independent think tank, the picture isn’t as rosy as the numbers.


In Illinois, where voters face a constitutional amendment question seeking to change the state's flat income tax with a scaling progressive tax in which higher earners pay higher rates – if Biden wins and the amendment passes – the state's highest earners could be paying nearly 60% in combined federal and state marginal taxes.

With falling temperatures arriving this autumn, Illinois’ largest restaurant association said it can no longer support Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation plan that prohibits dine-in service. Pritzker has threatened to take liquor licenses away from small businesses that don’t comply. The Illinois Restaurant Association said the new restrictions could force 20% of bars and restaurants to close and result in an elimination of 120,000 jobs.

Taxing retirement income has become a political talking point in the argument over the progressive tax ballot initiative. A financial industry advocate warned about the hit to Illinois residents’ 401(k) plans that would stem from a different proposal. Taxing financial transactions has found its way back into the conversation in a number of cities and states as a way to shore up budgets battered by COVID-19 shutdowns. While the amounts are different, the premise of placing a fee on each trade conducted in a city or state remains the same. 


Owosso, Mich., barber Karl Manke, 77, garnered national attention and local rallies of support when he reopened his shop in May, against a since nullified executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – an action that sparked multiple law enforcement citations as well as administrative actions brought against him by state Attorney General Dana Nessel. This week, Manke learned all criminal charges were dropped against him. However, Nessel has yet to rescind her office’s administrative penalties against the barber and author, which may include revoking his state license. At least 30 other Michigan-based businesses are facing state department-issued fines that the government claims remain valid. However, some other businesses question if the citations should be thrown out. On Oct. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Whitmer’s attempt to extend her authority and thereby voided all COVID-19 executive orders issued by the governor since April 30. That Michigan Supreme Court ruling invalidated thousands of COVID-19 fines and criminal charges for violations of her executive orders. Among those orders was the threat of fines amid closures of salons and barbershops.


One piece of business finished during Virginia lawmakers' two-months-long special session was legislation to forgive residents' unpaid utility bills. If signed into law by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, all utility companies except Dominion Energy would be eligible to access $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to forgive utility debts for accounts that are at least 30 days behind on payments. Dominion Energy will be required to use about $127 million of its excess money to forgive accounts that are at least 30 days behind. In the past, excess money had been returned to customers. "All of the utilities, in effect, have been promised that they will eventually be made whole, and their unpaid and uncollectible bills will be covered by rate hikes on their remaining customers," said Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. "The utilities are the only businesses that the General Assembly protected from the financial damage of the COVID recession."


Nearly 70% of Georgians indicated the state needs better oversight of the tax incentives it offers companies to do business in the Peach State. A Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) poll showed 68.7% of Georgians support implementing a formal review process on the return on investment from incentives the state provides to companies each year. GBPI projected Georgia will grant $3.5 billion in tax exemptions to manufacturing companies this year. Government should avoid picking winners and losers, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation said. "Tax policy should not single out individuals, products, businesses or particular groups for preferential treatment," the GPPF said. "Taxes should be designed to raise revenue to fund necessary government programs, not to micromanage economic decisions in a complex economy."


As Colorado faces record wildfires, the state's largest public utility provider is asking for a monthly rate increase to residential bills that would total $17.2 million next year in order to recoup wildfire damages and improve mitigation.


Seattle Police Department officers are leaving the force in record numbers as the department faces pending budget cuts, data released by the Seattle mayor' s office showed. The city has seen 53 SPD officers turn in their badges this year. A typical September sees five to seven officers on average leave. In September 2020 alone, SPD saw the departure of 36 sworn officers and three officers in training, following a summer of racial strife and increased scrutiny of law enforcement around the country. After The Center Square sent an open records request to SPD, the agency said it might not be able to respond until "on or about" May 21, 2021, citing backlogs and staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While SPD later fulfilled the request, the Washington Coalition for Open Government told The Center Square, "There’s been a growing problem with agencies intentionally restricting the number of hours a month that their staff can spend on public records requests, with those limits being arbitrary and not based on their historical demand for public records."


Like other states facing potential tax increases at the ballot box on November 3, Arizona’s Proposition 208 shows that a combined marginal tax rate would increase significantly higher than what the state’s taxpayers owe currently. The Tax Foundation said Tuesday that, should the 3.5% income tax surcharge to high-earners succeed and Joe Biden’s marginal increases become a reality, Arizonans would pay a 57.34% top combined income tax rate. That’s less than 3% points from California, the nation’s highest. 

Chris Krug is publisher of The Center Square. Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, and regional editors J.D. Davidson, Derek Draplin, Brett Rowland, Jason Schaumburg and Bruce Walker contributed to the column.

Chris Krug 

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