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Meeting Without Media
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Meeting Without Media

BY T. Keung Hui, John Zebrowski, Aisling Swift

Wake County commissioners and school board members were so excited about having lunch together Thursday to discuss the school system's new education goal that they forgot to notify the media as the law requires. Neither elected board apparently followed the state Open Meetings Law's requirement that they give at least 48 hours notice for the session, stating the time, place and purpose of the meeting. Notice must be posted on a board's principal bulletin board or the door of the board's usual meeting place and also must be made to all media that submit written requests for notice. School officials said Friday they didn't have to notify the media because the lunch was set up by a panel (whose co-chairman is Orage Quarles III, president and publisher of The News & Observer) formed by the Wake Education Partnership to help come up with the goal. School officials also noted that commissioner Joe Bryan publicly announced the meeting at the Wake Education Summit on Thursday morning. During the get-together, the groups agreed over roast-beef sandwiches to work together on the new goal. The meeting drew five of the seven commissioners, seven of the nine school board members, County Manager David Cooke, Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal and other senior staffers. FAILING GRADE: Durham City Council member Tamra Edwards received an F on the local Police Benevolent Association's new political report card. It says she "misled" the chapter about her support for an independent grievance board for law enforcement officers to appeal disciplinary actions. Once she received the 588-member PBA chapter's endorsement and was elected in 1999, it says, she opposed the PBA on that issue. Despite her opposition, the grievance board was approved in March after City Manager Marcia Conner compromised. Other elected officials fared better. County Commission Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow received a C-, despite her support of the grievance board, after she opposed a version of the county budget that included raises for sheriff's deputies. Mayor Bill Bell and council member Lewis Cheek earned Bs. Council members John Best, Howard Clement and Cora Cole-McFadden got As. NEW POST: The Wake County Mayors' Association tapped Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly to serve on the Centennial Authority, which owns the RBC Center. Weatherly's four-year term on the authority will begin July 1. Wendell Mayor Lucius Jones is the other authority member selected by the mayors group. NEW OFFICERS: The N.C. Republican Party's 2nd Congressional District Convention elected these new officers: Chairman Dan Mansell of Selma, Vice Chairman Duane Royal of Clinton, Secretary Joey Powell of Dunn and Treasurer Janet Maynard of Lillington. POLITICAL TRAIL - WILLIAM SANDERS AND JUNE RIVERS of the SAS Institute will discuss the federal "No Child Left Behind" law at a $ 15 per person luncheon sponsored by the John Locke Foundation at noon Tuesday at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center, 1101 Gorman St. in Raleigh. - RUTH EASTERLING, a former state representative from Charlotte, will be honored by Lillian's List of North Carolina at its 2004 campaign kickoff from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the home of Sally Wood Creech, 1514 St. Mary's St. in Raleigh. - MICHAEL WALDEN, an N.C. State University economist, will speak to the Wake County chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy at 7 p.m. Thursday at the McKimmon Center.

05/03/2003
Dividend Tax Down, but Not Out
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Dividend Tax Down, but Not Out

BY Janet Hook

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's prized effort to abolish taxes on dividend income was dealt a fresh setback in Congress on Thursday, as House Republicans unveiled a $550-billion tax cut bill that would fall short of that goal. The bill, backed by GOP leaders who are usually Bush's staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, would cut, but not eliminate, taxes on dividends. It would diverge from Bush's priorities by including a cut in capital gains taxes -- an aim long sought by congressional Republicans but omitted from the Bush tax program.

05/02/2003
Coalition Urges Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee to Support Choice and Competition Act
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Coalition Urges Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee to Support Choice and Competition Act

The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition is urging the Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee to favorably release the "New Jersey Automobile Insurance Choice and Competition Act," scheduled for consideration May 5, 2003. The New Jersey Automobile Insurance Choice and Competition Act (S-63/A-2625) would reform current law by giving more choices to consumers and encouraging competition among New Jersey's automobile insurance carriers. "This bill's enactment would mark a first step toward reform," said John Friedman, the Coalition's chairman. "This plan is the foundation upon which a competitive market can be built." The Coalition believes the state's excessive regulation of auto insurance is the culprit behind the lack of auto insurance choice and competition in New Jersey. In the last decade, more than 20 auto insurance companies have left the Garden State, and currently four of the six largest insurers do not write any business in the state. New Jersey has 47 percent fewer companies selling auto insurance than Illinois and more than a third fewer than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. "Having to operate under the state's restrictive and difficult regulatory regime, where insurers are told what products to sell, to whom they must sell and how much to charge, companies will lack an incentive to remain and invest in New Jersey," said Friedman. "Drivers need a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers." Senator Ronald L. Rice (R-Newark) sponsors S-63, and Assemblymen Louis D. Greenwald, (D-Cherry Hill) and Christopher Bateman, (R-Branchburg) are prime sponsors to the companion bill, A-2625. Co-sponsors to A-2625 are Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Assemblyman Gary L. Guear, Assemblyman Matt Ahearn, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, Assemblyman Willis Edwards, Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi, Assemblyman Robert J. Smith, Assemblyman Jack Connors, Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, Assemblyman David W. Wolfe, Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, and Assemblyman Joseph Penacchio. The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition includes the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS(R), Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development) Latino Chamber of Commerce of Mercer County, and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

05/02/2003
Tax Down, but Not Out, in House's $550-Billion Plan
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Tax Down, but Not Out, in House's $550-Billion Plan

BY Janet Hook

President Bush's prized effort to abolish taxes on dividend income was dealt a fresh setback in Congress on Thursday, as House Republicans unveiled a $550-billion tax cut bill that would fall short of that goal. The bill, backed by GOP leaders who are usually Bush's staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, would cut, but not eliminate, taxes on dividends. It would diverge from Bush's priorities by including a cut in capital gains taxes -- an aim long sought by congressional Republicans but omitted from the Bush tax program. Also, some of Bush's most popular tax breaks -- for small businesses, married couples and families with children -- would take effect for only three years under the bill; the president wants them on the books until 2013. The three-year limit is one way of keeping the bill's cost at $550 billion; the president's entire package would cost about $725 billion. Administration officials said the bill, expected to be approved by the House next week, is a step in the right direction. But they would not concede defeat in their efforts to entirely eliminate taxes on dividend income. "We are going to continue to fight for all the elements of the president's plan, which includes 100% abolition of the tax on dividends," said Commerce Secretary Don Evans. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield), principal author of the House bill, said the administration and its allies needed to accept the fact that the budget resolution approved by Congress last month was too tight to accommodate the $396-billion plan to eliminate dividend taxes. "They can't have their old plan," Thomas said. Under the budget resolution, the House is writing a bill to cut taxes by $550 billion through 2013, in deference to lawmakers' concerns about the growing federal budget deficit. In the Senate, where anti-deficit sentiment is even stronger, the tax cut is limited to $350 billion. The White House is hoping that at the least, final congressional negotiations will produce the $550-billion cut. The House tax bill includes all the major elements of Bush's plan -- albeit truncated in some instances -- as well as some additional business tax breaks favored by congressional Republicans. Major provisions of the bill would: * Speed up the scheduled reduction in income tax rates that were approved in 2001 but, under that law, are phased in over many years. Rates that were to take effect in 2006 would now kick in for 2003. * Increase from $600 to $1,000 the tax credit that families could take for each child. * Speed up to 2003 scheduled tax relief for married couples. Under the 2001 law, provisions to ease the so-called marriage penalty would not begin providing such relief until 2005, and would not be fully in effect until 2009. * Provide expanded tax relief for small businesses and new tax incentives to invest in computers and other equipment. To curb the cost of the tax cut, the bill resorts to a bookkeeping maneuver: The provisions on the child-credit, marriage-penalty and business tax relief all would apply only for 2003-2005, while other provisions -- including the dividend and capital gains cuts -- would apply to the full 11-year term of the bill. Critics denounced the maneuver as gimmickry. "The so-called increase in the child credit is a hoax," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. "Like a magic trick, it's there and then it's gone again." Thomas acknowledged that the three-year limit on the politically popular family tax breaks was not intended to stand as policy. "No one believes there will be any difficulty in extending them," he said. Most of the controversy about Bush's proposal has centered on the dividend tax cut. He believes that plan would give a boost to the stock market and stimulate economic growth. He also promotes it as matter of principle on which it is hard to compromise: He wants to get rid of what he calls the "double taxation" of dividends -- the fact that taxes on profits are often paid twice, first by the corporation and then by shareholders when they receive dividends. But because the price tag of eliminating dividend taxes is so high, Republicans have been looking for ways to trim its cost to leave room for other priorities. The idea initially got a cool reception from Republicans in Congress in part because it was a relatively new idea without a strong constituency in Congress -- unlike, for example, tax relief for married couples, an issue long pushed by conservative family groups. The compromise endorsed by House Republican leaders would reduce and simplify taxes on investment income. Under current law, dividends are taxed as ordinary income, while taxes on capital gains are 20% for most taxpayers and 10% for lower-income people. Under the House bill, taxes on both dividends and capital gains would be 15% for most people and 5% for lower-income people. It is a compromise that pleased the many House Republicans who long have championed a reduction in capital gains taxes -- and had privately expressed disappointment that it was not part of the president's plan. The House bill also was good news for high-technology companies, which were lukewarm about the president's dividend tax cut because many of them do not offer dividends. But it was criticized by die-hard proponents of eliminating all dividend taxes. "The dividend tax repeal is the main engine of growth in the president's jobs and growth package," said Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "I say to the administration and Congress: Don't stunt the growth in the growth package."

05/02/2003
This Week on Capitol Hill
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Press Release

This Week on Capitol Hill

Congress has reconvened from the Easter recess and tax cuts are first and foremost on the legislative agenda. A budget resolution has been approved that directs tax-writing committees to mark up tax cut legislation of $550 billion and $350 billion in the House and Senate respectively.

05/02/2003
A Nation of Owners and Savers
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Press Release

A Nation of Owners and Savers

This U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee paper was written by the acclaimed former CSE staff economist Jason M. Thomas. In his latest work, Mr. Thomas examines the case for including personal retirement accounts in Social Security in the context of the nation's wealth distribution. The paper argues that personal retirement accounts would remove the features of the current system that discourage saving and limit flexibility, allow all Americans to accumulate financial wealth, and, most significantly, narrow the wealth gap. View the entire report as a PDF

05/01/2003
AWOL Members Thwart Democracy; Waste Taxpayers Dollars
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Press Release

AWOL Members Thwart Democracy; Waste Taxpayers Dollars

Organizations representing over 500,000 Texas citizens gathered in front of the Capitol today to discuss legislation which will likely be killed if the House does not have a quorum by Thursday.

05/01/2003
CSE tells Congress, White House to 'Stick with the Plan'
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Press Release

CSE tells Congress, White House to 'Stick with the Plan'

Various press reports today indicate that the Administration may be considering a deal with Congress that would remove the dividend tax repeal from the President’s jobs and growth plan. The 280,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) strongly urge the Administration to stand by its commitment to a full repeal of the double tax on dividends. CSE President and CEO Paul Beckner had these comments:

05/01/2003
CSE Supports Rep. DeMint’s Amendment to H.R. 1350
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Press Release

CSE Supports Rep. DeMint’s Amendment to H.R. 1350

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate H.R. 1350, the “Improving Education Results for Children With Disabilities Act of 2003.” Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) supports and calls on all legislators to endorse Rep. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) amendment to H.R. 1350. The DeMint amendment would improve IDEA by providing sensible reforms that would give parents of children with disabilities more say on how education dollars should be spent to educate their child. Through parental choice in education, CSE believes that all children would receive the best education possible.

05/01/2003
AAA Clubs of New Jersey Support Choice and Competition Bill
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AAA Clubs of New Jersey Support Choice and Competition Bill

The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition today announced that the AAA Clubs of New Jersey has joined the effort to bring choice and competition to New Jersey's auto insurance market. "The AAA Clubs of New Jersey recognize the need for a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance in New Jersey, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers," said John Friedman, the Coalition's chairman. The Coalition supports The New Jersey Automobile Insurance Competition and Choice Act, which passed the State Senate. The New Jersey General Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee is expected to consider the bill (S-63/A-2625) in May. The legislation has the backing of Governor James McGreevey and a bipartisan group of legislators in both houses. The AAA Clubs of New Jersey - AAA North Jersey, New Jersey Automobile Club, AAA Mid-Atlantic and AAA South Jersey - provide automotive, travel, financial, insurance, legislative and educational services to 1.9 million members through 27 offices in the Garden State. The Coalition is calling for reforms that will attract more auto insurers to New Jersey, spurring competition and increasing consumer choice. These reforms include permitting companies to use industry-accepted standard underwriting methods already used in nearly every state and adjusting the low ceiling on company profits to permit a reasonable rate of return. "It's only natural to expect that consumers will shop around for the best deal if they have more choices. Competition and choice benefit consumers and when companies compete, consumers win, " said Friedman. The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition includes the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS(R), Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development) Latino Chamber of Commerce of Mercer County, and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

04/30/2003

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