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A 'Reformed Drunk' on Tax Relief
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Press Release

A 'Reformed Drunk' on Tax Relief

This op-ed originally ran in the The Wall Street Journal on April 18, 2003. Copyright The Wall Street Journal Our newspapers and television screens are filled with stories of combat and victory, images of empty torture chambers and cheering crowds, and concerns about what happens next, after all the statues and bullies have fallen into the Iraqi dust. This is understandable and proper. Issues of war and peace always come first. But very soon it will be time to emphasize our economy here at home.

04/18/2003
House's Tax Writers Choose to Resist Reductions
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House's Tax Writers Choose to Resist Reductions

BY Tim Simmons

Unwilling to increase state taxes on cigarettes, House lawmakers charged with assembling a balanced budget chose instead Tuesday to delay reductions in the sales tax and income taxes adding up to $ 384 million. The decision paves the way for the full House of Representatives to begin debate today on a $ 15 billion budget and greatly improves the chances of the bill reaching the Senate by the end of the week. The tax package crafted by the House Finance Committee would delay for two years a half-cent reduction in the sales tax, keeping it at 4.5 cents, and a half-percentage point reduction in the income tax rate -- from 8.25 percent to 7.75 percent -- for residents in the highest income tax bracket. Delaying the tax reductions was part of a plan put forward by Gov. Mike Easley in his recommended budget. The House panel, however, did not go along with other parts of Easley's plan. Those provisions would have delayed an increase in the child tax credit and delayed an increase in the standard deduction to eliminate the "marriage penalty" for couples who file tax returns jointly. During hours of debate Tuesday, members of the House tax-writing panel began arguing the merits of raising the cigarette tax by 45 cents and ended with an agreement to delay the planned tax reductions. As legislators debated the issue inside committee rooms, an antitax group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, rallied outside the Legislative Building. Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, said the key step in keeping the budget talks on schedule occurred Monday evening when Democratic House Speaker Jim Black invited several supporters of the tobacco tax into his office. At the meeting, Luebke told the speaker that at least a half-dozen members of the Finance Committee wanted a fair shot at winning approval for a cigarette rate hike before taking up other tax measures. Black agreed. Tuesday afternoon, supporters from health advocates to clergy lined up to support the bill, most saying a decrease in teen smoking that a tax increase would trigger made the proposal worthwhile regardless of budget implications. "This has nothing to do with being Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal," said Jim Goodmon, chief executive of Capitol Broadcasting, which owns area CBS and Fox affiliates. "This isn't about politics. Kids are dying over this. If you had a billion-dollar surplus, you should be doing this." Opponents said they feared an increase could actually decrease revenue by driving down purchases in border counties and eliminating sales to out-of-state visitors who stop along North Carolina's highways specifically because tobacco is cheap here. Others said it wasn't the job of the lawmakers to force others to make healthy choices. "I didn't hear anybody mention personal responsibility in this debate," said Rep. Billy Creech, a Republican from Clayton. "What's next? Obesity is a problem. Maybe we ought to think about a tax of 50 cents on a burger or a Big Mac." Lacking the votes to win, the sponsor of the cigarette tax, Rep. Jennifer Weiss, a Cary Democrat, withdrew her bill. "We wanted a fair debate before we would lend our support to any other options. We got that debate," Luebke said afterward. Luebke and Weiss were not happy with the outcome, but both felt they had made progress merely by persuading lawmakers to consider a cigarette tax hike. North Carolina's tax on a pack of cigarettes was last increased in 1991. Only Kentucky and Virginia have lower rates. An increase to 50 cents a pack would generate about $ 260 million a year. After a brief afternoon recess, the House tax panel voted 22-13 to delay the tax reductions. Children's advocates complained that the spending plan still leaves them as much as $ 800 million short in critical areas, but no lawmaker suggested a larger tax package. Republicans offered little serious opposition, with some suggesting openly that they knew there was little they could do to stop the proposal. Without the votes to defeat the proposal, opponents were reduced to questioning and criticizing a variety of smaller fees of less than $ 250. The fees cover such services as day-care licensing, emergency medical services licensing and oversight of health-care facility construction. Rep. Sam Ellis, a Raleigh Republican, offered the only seriously debated amendment, which would have relieved EMS providers of additional fees by increasing the proposed fees to 16 hospitals or clinics authorized to perform abortions. His proposal would have raised fees to clinics from $ 700 each to $ 4,562 each. Ellis' amendment failed 16-19. "There are some things in this bill that I don't like either," said Rep. Joe Hackney, a Democrat from Orange County. "But it's the time of year when you get a proposal that's reasonably acceptable to most everyone, and you go with it." Tuesday night, the Rules Committee merged the spending and revenue plans into a budget bill that the full House will debate today. But Black and Republican Speaker Richard Morgan did some tinkering with the spending plan. They restored $ 590,000 that had been cut from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. The center uses the money to train and assist private lawyers and public defenders representing poor people facing the death penalty. They also removed about $ 90,000 in cuts to economic development programs in the Commerce Department that assist minorities. Action on the state budget, which is about $ 700 million more than the current year's, is coming this legislative session much more quickly than in recent sessions. For those unaware of the typically glacial pace, Rep. David Miner, a Cary Republican, offered a history lesson before introducing the revenue package early in the evening. "It is April, and the House has a budget bill," he said. "This hasn't happened in 20 years." ### Staff writer Dan Kane contributed to this report. ### DELAY TAX CUTS? THEY WOULD A $ 15 billion spending plan expected to be voted on today by the state House proposes delaying tax cuts that would have taken place July 1. The plan would: - Delay a half cent reduction in the state's sales tax, keeping it at 4.5 cents for two years. Cost to taxpayers in the next fiscal year: $ 346.5 million. - Delay a half-percentage-point reduction in the state income tax rate -- from 8.25 percent to 7.75 percent -- for residents in the highest income tax bracket for two more years. The bracket covers individuals earning $ 120,000 or more and couples earning $ 200,000 or more. Cost to taxpayers in the next fiscal year: $ 37.5 million. ### Staff writer Dan Kane contributed to this report. ### PROPOSED FEE INCREASES Here are fee increases included in the state House of Representatives' spending plan. Except for the new ferry tolls, all fees would begin in the new fiscal year beginning July 1. - TOLLS FOR FERRIES. Four state ferries would begin charging tolls: Hatteras-Ocracoke, Bayview-Aurora, Cherry Branch-Minnesott and Currituck-Knotts Island. The tolls would be in the range of what three other ferries already charge, $ 1 for pedestrians to $ 45 for large vehicles. The new ferry tolls would start July 1, 2004. - LICENSING FEES for hospitals, nursing homes and group homes. The health-care facilities would pay license and regulatory fees between $ 250 and $ 950, and nearly all would pay an additional fee of $ 12.50 per bed. They also would face new construction fees, ranging from 10 to 20 cents per square foot. Family care homes and group homes would be assessed construction fees ranging from $ 100 to $ 275. - EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE FEES. EMS personnel would pay a $ 90 credentialing fee. EMS providers would pay an annual $ 50 license fee per vehicle. EMS dispatch programs would pay $ 185 annually. Volunteer providers and personnel would be exempted. - CHILD-CARE LICENSING FEES. Child-care centers would pay an annual licensing fee ranging from $ 35 for those with fewer than 13 children to $ 400 for those with more than 100 children. - PAP SMEAR FEES. Local health departments and other state facilities would pay an additional $ 7 to have pap smear analysis conducted by the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health. - OFF-ROAD DRIVING. People wanting to drive off-road vehicles at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area would pay a $ 40 annual fee.

04/16/2003
Measure WOuld Keep Sales-Tax Rate
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Measure WOuld Keep Sales-Tax Rate

BY Eric Dyer

North Carolinians would not see a promised drop in the sales tax this summer under a measure that a legislative panel approved Tuesday. The House Finance Committee endorsed a $384 million tax package that is needed to float a $15 billion budget plan sailing to the General Assembly. The revenue bill delays for two years a half-percent decrease in the levy on sales now planned to take effect July 1. It also keeps an 8.25 percent income-tax bracket for the wealthiest residents that had been scheduled to disappear after this year. Democratic Gov. Mike Easley recommended these changes in his budget proposal last month. He also wanted lawmakers to postpone a pair of tax breaks - increases in the credit per child and standard income-tax deduction for married couples - but the House committee has refused. "That will make sure we have the money to balance the budget, while at the same time providing tax relief for the working people of this state," said state Rep. David Miner, R-Wake, a House Finance Committee chairman who sponsored the bill. House members also are stepping away from Easley's proposal to cut about $20 million intended to help cover money that local governments lost when the legislature stopped reimbursing them for repealed inventory taxes. Some lawmakers wanted to jack up North Carolina's excise tax on cigarettes to 50 percent per pack. That bill got an airing in the finance committee, but it was pulled without a vote after facing hostile reaction. Proponents offered the hike as a way not only to raise revenue during a tight economy but also to erode the number of people - particularly teenagers - who take up the unhealthy habit. They cited statistics that show smoking declines when the cigarette price goes up. "We want to do something to protect our children," said Peg O'Connell of N.C. Alliance for Health. Legislatures across the nation have turned to stiffer taxes on cigarettes to bridge gapping budget deficits. While a politically safe move elsewhere, it has little traction in tobacco-dependent North Carolina. The state charges a 5 cent tax per pack, and only Virginia and Kentucky impose lower levies. Business interests and many lawmakers were scornful of an effort to target a homegrown industry that provides many well-paying jobs. Roger Bone, a lobbyist for Greensboro-based Lorillard Tobacco Co., said teenagers likely would shift to cheaper brands if the state imposed a higher levy, undercutting any effort to reduce youth smoking. A larger tax also could hurt the sale of cigarettes to tourists who stop in North Carolina for the less-costly smokes, said Rep. Bill Daughtridge Jr., R-Nash. He said that bargain attracts people to pull off the highway and spend money, much like they do to buy fireworks in South Carolina and oranges in Florida. "We have to have a reason for them to stop," Daughtridge said. Meanwhile, about 250 members of an anti-tax group gathered for a rally outside the Legislative Building. Jonathan Hill, state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, told the crowd that lawmakers are again hitting up the people to address their fiscal irresponsibility.

04/16/2003
Taxpayer Groups Encourage Legislature to Holding the Line on State Spending
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Press Release

Taxpayer Groups Encourage Legislature to Holding the Line on State Spending

Gathered around a makeshift kitchen table in a room overlooking the state Capitol, seven groups representing over 200,000 members and millions of taxpayers held a press conference to send a message to the Texas Legislature to hold the line on spending.

04/16/2003
Reed to Return to Radio April 15, 2003, Tuesday
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Reed to Return to Radio April 15, 2003, Tuesday

BY Fanny Seiler

After being fired six months ago as host of the "58 Live" talk show on WCHS radio, Stephen Reed is to return to the airwaves this morning with a call-in show on a competing station. The show will air from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday on WVTS-AM. Reed's talk show will air directly opposite the "Talk Line" program hosted by Hoppy Kercheval on WCHS. Reed used to do that show with Kercheval. Reed's severance package from the West Virginia Radio Corp., owned by Morgantown businessman John Raese, had a clause that prevented Reed from going to work for a competitor for six months. The six months expired Monday. Reed, a conservative, says he will talk about local, state and national events, and hopes to generate robust discussions and debate. One of his first guests will be Kanawha County school board member Pete Thaw, who was barred from WCHS after calling fellow board member John Luoni a "son of a bitch" at a board meeting. Thaw was a frequent caller on the WCHS show. Reed noted that some people may object to Thaw's language, but said the first hole on Raese's nine-hole golf course at Morgantown was named "old bastard." Reed said people who are interested in local, state and national events "will find our show more compelling" and will have to choose between him and Kercheval, whom he said he enjoyed working with at WCHS. "We have different styles," Reed said of him and Kercheval. WVTS is owned by Bristol Broadcasting, which owns several stations in the Charleston area. nnn Mason County resident and Republican activist Alice Click has started a West Virginia chapter of the large national group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which she said began fighting this year for certain causes. They include lower taxes, less government, more freedom for West Virginians and help for seniors needing medications. Click said the chapter is going to take its message to one city and one county at a time. While the group won't endorse political candidates, Click said CSE will put out scorecards to score candidates' philosophies and records on its issues. "We would encourage people to run who have like views," she said. CSE also will be doing key vote alerts on issues it's interested in to encourage legislators to vote a certain away. CSE opposed Gov. Bob Wise's "Canadian-style price controls on Medicaid drugs," and the national organization provided Canadian First Aid (disaster) kits to legislators, Click said recently. She also turned to the national group for help on model legislation on medical malpractice insurance and Workers' Compensation. Rob Capehart, who headed up a tax reform study for former Gov. Cecil Underwood and continues to advocate tax reform, spoke at the chapter's first town hall meeting in Point Pleasant on March 29. Capehart is running for governor on the Republican ticket. Click said if Underwood had been re-elected, he would have had an open mind to the kind of tax structure Capehart proposed. "The national people think he is very much in line with their thinking," she said. "If you give the government more money, they spend more and more money," Click said. CSE is a grass-roots organization, she said. Click is also active in Concerned Women, a national conservative Republican group, and served for a time as director of its West Virginia chapter. She has been vocal against gambling, and formed her own anti-abortion political action committee to help former Delegate Lisa Smith, R-Putnam, win election to the state Senate. Click expressed admiration for another woman in the Senate, Sen. Sarah Minear, R-Tucker, who is interested in running for governor next year. nnn Five Division of Highways employees who lost a grievance over their reassignment met for two hours recently with Charleston lawyer Mike Carey about other legal avenues, including a federal political discrimination lawsuit. After the Education and State Employees Grievance Board dismissed their grievance last year on grounds that the proper procedures were followed, they appealed in Wood County Circuit Court, where the case is still pending. Braxton County lawyer Elizabeth Farber is handling that appeal. The five employees - assistant administrators Carl Antolini, Jim Markle, Paul Reese and Anthony Marascio and District 7 administrator Bob DeVaul - were reassigned when Transportation Secretary Fred VanKirk put engineers in charge of the DOH's 10 districts again. His predecessor, Sam Beverage, had replaced the district engineers with administrators and created assistant administrators' positions in the districts. Carey is representing Tom Badgett, who was dismissed as assistant highways commissioner, a will-and-pleasure position, when Wise took office in January 2001. Janis Reynolds, the grievance board's administrative law judge, held a hearing on Jan. 14, but more testimony is scheduled for Wednesday before law judge Paul Marteney. Besides a change in judges, a new assistant attorney general will have to be assigned. Assistant Attorney General Barry Koerber, DOH's attorney in the case, has been laid off by the attorney general's office. nnn Employees in the Division of General Services are told money is tight, but when health and safety manager Paul Pendergast resigned to take a job in Baltimore, his office was enlarged and made into a conference room. The room is beside the office of Deputy Director Jim Burgess, who said he needed a conference room where he could review architect drawings for projects he oversees. New carpet was installed in the conference room, Burgess' office, the reception room and another area. Burgess said the total cost was about $ 2,500. The conference room was furnished with an old table, he said. The table was refinished and stored in another building for three weeks. One employee worked overtime on the project. Burgess said he didn't replace Pendergast and saved his salary, which was about $ 50,000. "We've made some major cuts," he said. General Services plans to have a consultant evaluate the cost of utilities and recommend an energy management control system. nnn Sources say employees at the Division of Workers' Compensation have been told they aren't to release any information, and to do their work or face dismissal irrespective of Civil Service procedures. nnn State Democratic Chairman Mike Callaghan said he has been contacted by most of the Democratic presidential candidates. Meanwhile, he has hired Steve McElroy to do communications and outreach work at the state Democratic Party's headquarters. McElroy has done political consulting work in prior years. nnn When Gov. Bob Wise and other state officials were in Daytona Beach, Fla., last February to talk with NASCAR officials about an economic development project, Bray Cary, co-owner of West Virginia Media Holding, hitched a ride back to Charleston with Wise on the state plane. Cary formerly was vice president of broadcasting for NASCAR. nnn U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has helped get a Young Democrats Club started at Hurricane High School, where a Teen Age Republican Club has made a national name for itself. Former Sen. Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, also reportedly is planning to help the Young Democrats Club.

04/15/2003
Time to Eliminate Double Taxation of Dividends
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Press Release

Time to Eliminate Double Taxation of Dividends

©2003 Copley News Service, 4/15/2003 It's been almost 40 years since Congress enacted President Kennedy's tax cuts and set off an economic boom. Still, only a handful of Democrats - Sens. John Breaux (Louisiana), Zell Miller (Georgia) and Ben Nelson (Nebraska) come to mind - have learned the profound lesson he taught: "It's a paradox that high tax rates cause less revenue," and "the purpose of cutting taxes is not to incur a deficit but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy that can bring a surplus."

04/15/2003
GOP Fractures Over Budget Resolution
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Press Release

GOP Fractures Over Budget Resolution

Medical dictionaries define a fracture as "…an injury, a break in a bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone." Fractures can occur in politics, too. In Washington, the steady injurious force is the Senate's desire to spend ever more money, and the result is a new break between House and Senate Republicans. When GOP leaders return to Washington they may face a difficult time repairing damaged relationships resulting from Senate Republicans' new budget deal.

04/15/2003
Florida Legislators Feel the Heat as Volunteer Leaders Storm Tallahassee!
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Press Release

Florida Legislators Feel the Heat as Volunteer Leaders Storm Tallahassee!

Grassroots leaders from around the state gathered in Tallahassee this month to lobby their legislators for less and to discuss strategy for starting volunteer CSE networks in their communities. Members of both the Florida House and Senate heard from these elite, volunteer activists about the core issues of the Florida Freedom Agenda, including: No Tax Increases, Medical Liability Reform, and Paycheck Protection Legislation.

04/15/2003
Paige's 'Values' Are America's Values
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Press Release

Paige's 'Values' Are America's Values

As published in The Washington Post, Sunday, April 13, 2003 In an editorial on Thursday titled "Preacher Paige," The Post joined a chorus of voices criticizing recent comments made by Secretary of Education Rod Paige on Christian values in education. Today it's called conflict resolution, anger management and school discipline. Not so long ago it was called loving your enemy, turning the other cheek and respecting your elders.

04/14/2003
Libertarians, Group to Rally Against Taxes
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Libertarians, Group to Rally Against Taxes

BY John Greiner, Carmel Perez Snyder and Jack Money

The Oklahoma Libertarian Party and the state chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy will rally at 5 p.m. Tuesday in opposition to the U.S. income tax. The rally will be at the post office at NW 5 and Harvey in Oklahoma City. The groups say taxes are too high. "The Libertarian Party wouldn't mind a flat tax, so long as the tax rate is zero," said Chris Powell, Libertarian party chairman. "Roughly 30 percent of your income goes to taxes, and the politicians still can't balance their budgets." Teaching children to save Gov. Brad Henry and state Treasurer Robert Butkin urged Oklahomans on Thursday to teach their children to save money during the statewide Teach Children to Save Day, part of a national effort by bankers' associations. "Bankers and educators throughout Oklahoma are focusing efforts on teaching children to save and be responsible with money," Butkin said. Butkin said parents can play a key role in teaching children the value and necessity of saving for the future. Henry said parents also can turn to the Internet for more information. Senate meeting The Oklahoma Senate will not meet Thursday, a practice senators have followed for many years in the week before Easter. Senators were told last week they could be working long hours on the first three days of this week. The Legislature normally is in session Monday through Thursday, except toward the end of the session when legislators sometimes are in session on Fridays as well. The House and Senate staff will be off on Good Friday because they worked on Presidents Day on Feb. 17, a state holiday.

04/13/2003

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