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A Lottery You Don’t Want to Win
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Press Release

A Lottery You Don’t Want to Win

Taxpayers are receiving mixed signals from Washington, D.C. Recently, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill announced his distaste for the complexities of the current tax code, sparking hope that there will be serious discussions of fundamental tax reform once the dust from November’s elections settles. Streamlining the tax code can reduce the burden as well as the administrative and compliance costs of the current tax code. At the same time, however, the Internal Revenue Service is moving forward with a project referred to simply as the “National Research Project.” This nondescript title masks the burden that will befall taxpayers selected to “participate” in the program, with the grand prize being an excruciating line-by-line audit.

10/22/2002
Off to the Races
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Press Release

Off to the Races

America goes to the polls in less than two weeks. With the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans with just a six-seat margin and Democrats running the United States Senate with just a one-seat spread, control over the legislative branch of government is truly up for grabs. As one observer, James Thurber of American University put it, “I cannot think of a time in modern politics, since FDR, where we have had such consequential issues in terms of the outcome of an election.”

10/21/2002
Worst Time to Increase Labor Costs
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Press Release

Worst Time to Increase Labor Costs

Chad Moutray is chief economist in the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. This article originally ran in the Chicago Sun-Times.

10/19/2002
Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1
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Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1

BY Rob Shapard

CHAPEL HILL - Calling it the "pass-the-buck" sales tax, county officials have agreed to start collecting a new half-cent sales tax starting the first of December. On Dec. 1, the overall sales tax rate in Orange County and counties across the state will go to 7 cents on the dollar, but it may drop back to 6.5 cents in July, when another half-cent tax is set to expire. That tax generates money strictly for the state. The new half-cent tax, which will be on purchased items except for unprepared food, could generate about $ 1.8 million for Orange County in the seven months between Dec. 1 and the end of the fiscal year, according to projections from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. In addition, the projected revenues for the towns over the seven months include about $ 781,000 for Chapel Hill, $ 261,000 for Carrboro and $ 85,000 for Hillsborough. The half-cent sales tax comes in the context of the state's budget crisis and its impact on local governments. With the state moving to hold back reimbursements and other revenues due to the cities and counties, the General Assembly authorized the local governments to enact a new half-cent sales tax, starting in July 2003. And the Legislature agreed last month to move up the date to December. The Orange commissioners and others have complained that state officials are forcing the local governments to enact a new tax, rather than doing so at the state level - hence the "pass the buck" description. But the commissioners unanimously agreed this week to enact the half-cent tax, saying they didn't see other options for recouping money the local governments no longer will get from the state. In the current fiscal year, Orange would have expected about $ 3.1 million in reimbursements from the state. If the new half-cent tax does generate about $ 1.8 million between December and July 2003, then the county still will be out $ 1.3 million. Starting with the 2003-04 fiscal year, the tax likely will bring in more money for Orange than the county once received through reimbursements. "Over the course of three-plus years, we will probably recover what we lost," Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said Friday. "We just won't get it all back at once. "It's money due to the citizens of Orange County, and we were given one tool to recover it," he said. "Thank goodness we didn't sign a no-tax increase pledge," Jacobs said, referring to a pledge circulated by the Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The citizens of Orange County would be stuck. That's the kind of irresponsible decision-making that's gotten the state in the mess it's in. I certainly don't think raising taxes is always a good answer, but there are times when you are forced to make a decision you don't want to make." The numbers look better in the current fiscal year for the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but not for Hillsborough. For Chapel Hill, the projected revenue of $ 781,000 from the half-cent tax between December and July is about $ 51,000 more than the town would have expected this year in reimbursements. For Carrboro, the projected $ 261,000 is about $ 10,000 more than the expected reimbursements. But Hillsborough will get about $ 30,000 less from the sales tax this fiscal year than it would have from reimbursements and other state revenues, if the $ 85,000 projection holds true. Town Manager Eric Peterson said Friday it's a good-news-bad-news situation. "It depends on how you look at it," Peterson said. "We'll end up losing another $ 30,000 in addition to what we lost last year." In the 2001-02 fiscal year, the state withheld roughly $ 250,000 from Hillsborough in various revenues, primarily from franchise taxes. But in the budget the Town Board adopted for 2002-03, the town took a conservative approach and didn't count on any of the state revenues. The fact that the town will get approximately $ 85,000 will be a big help, Peterson said. "From a long-term standpoint, I think the half-cent sales tax is a win-win situation for the state and local governments," he said. "They get to keep the reimbursement monies, and we end up getting a revenue source that isn't subject to withholding by the state, which has made it very difficult for local governments to budget. "Another advantage will be that the sales tax, in most places, will have a growth factor to it. In the long-term, it's a good solution."

10/19/2002
Parents or Politics?
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Press Release

Parents or Politics?

As published in World Magazine, 10/18/2002 It was a mid-Summer showdown at the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Republicans were pushing a bill to provide scholarships to low-income students in the District of Columbia, and committee Democrats knew exactly who to turn to for testimony against parental choice in education: an organization ostensibly for parents, the National PTA. It was the second time this year that a PTA representative had testified against parental choice before the committee.

10/18/2002
Peeling the Orange
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Peeling the Orange

Chapel Hill's three historic districts will be designated at prominent entry points with signs designed by the Historic District Commission. They'll be at the boundaries of the East Franklin-Rosemary, Cameron-McCauley and Gimghoul districts. The wording is on a "historic brown" background in an arch template like the state's sightseeing signs on highways. The idea, according to a commission spokesperson, is to emphasize to residents that they live in historic areas and generally to promote the districts. When the green street signs at corners within these districts need replacing, they'll also be reinstalled in the same brown hue to denote the historic district locale. *** Orange Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs, who's running for re-election this fall, took a moment during a recent commissioners' meeting to publicly tear up a "no tax increase" pledge that the Citizens for a Sound Economy has mailed to candidates. Jacobs said one factor in the financial "mess" in Raleigh is that many state legislators have signed similar pledges and passed the problem of raising revenue down to local governments. *** Hometown amateur ornithologists expect the recent spate of chilly weather will quickly bring on the winter migratory birds hereabouts. Watch for the white-throat sparrow, junco, kinglet and the colorful and colorfully named yellow-bellied sapsucker. And don't worry about attracting hummingbirds to their detriment. Leave the nectar feeders up. A hummingbird savant here admonishes: "These birds are unrequited. They know what they're doing and will head south when they want to." *** Retired U.S. Rep. L.H. Fountain, who died quietly at 89 last week, represented Orange County for most of his 30 years in Congress. A son of the soil from down east in Tarboro, he candidly admitted he received more mail from Chapel Hill than the rest of his 10-county district combined. L.H. (his only given name) was an unusual combination: courtly but easygoing; party-line Democrat but a dedicated fiscal conservative; and a Carolina football/basketball fan without peer. His alma mater gave its '36 law grad an honorary doctorate of laws in 1981. *** New downtown sidewalk installations are to be completed after the traditional Halloween celebrations on East Franklin Street. The project will include a couple of sturdier four-board poster kiosks and planting of new oaks in the brick-sided flowerboxes. The long-awaited custom-built "Chapel Hilly" metal sculpture benches are to be installed on the new streetscape next week. A refinement at the post office will be a new recycling bin that will match the sidewalk trash bins. *** As of last week, the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau has for the first time a true sidewalk location - in the very attractive former Chapel Hill Weekly building at 501 W. Franklin St. Despite its low-key location in the basement of the downtown post office, the Downtown Commission will continue to function as a welcome center. *** More than 100 visitors from Raleigh and Durham had a whirlwind windshield bus tour of Chapel Hill/Carrboro on Thursday during an all-day program sponsored by Leadership Triangle. Former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Evans and Downtown Commission Director Robert Humphreys narrated the gospel of this "Southern Part of Heaven" to the domestic foreigners.

10/18/2002
Group Commends Miller for Congressional Votes
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Group Commends Miller for Congressional Votes

Citizens for a Sound Economy presented the Jefferson Award to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, for supporting limited government and more freedom. The Jefferson Award is given to those legislators who have proven through their voting records they believe lower taxes, less government and more freedom is the way to help American families, workers and businesses. "Jefferson Award winners represent a handful of elected officials from around the country who have proven through their voting record that they believe in limited government and protecting individual liberties,'' said CSE President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Beckner.

10/17/2002
CSE Activists Run for Office in Washington State
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Press Release

CSE Activists Run for Office in Washington State

Two Washington CSE activists are taking another step in their activism and are running for the State Legislature this year. They are Erv Hoglund in the 38th district and Elizabeth Bookspan in the 45th district. Both of these activists are committed to CSE’s principles of lower taxes, less government and more freedom. Erv and Elizabeth were activists on economic issues long before they considered running for public office. They have proven their passion for CSE’s issues and have committed to continuing their focus on these issues should they win their respective races. CSE is committed to training and educating activists to serve in the public arena and we’re proud that Erv and Elizabeth have taken the challenge of running for public office.

10/16/2002
Gephardt’s Ploy to Grow Government, Not the Economy
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Press Release

Gephardt’s Ploy to Grow Government, Not the Economy

The Democrats are finally trying to present an agenda to improve America’s economic growth. It’s about time. While we welcome the debate, the early signs are that, when it comes to the economy, the Democratic leadership—- some of the biggest tax-and-spenders in Congress—- still doesn’t get it.

10/16/2002
Rethinking Economic Policy
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Press Release

Rethinking Economic Policy

Economic policy moved to the fore last week as Democrats accused the Bush administration of mismanaging the economy. With elections less than a month away, both parties are trying to distinguish themselves with a domestic agenda that addresses the weakened economy. The renewed emphasis on economic policy is a welcome addition to the political debates that hopefully will spark a serious discussion about economic growth. Moving beyond election year sloganeering and political accusations, policymakers must address the fundamentals—simplifying the tax code and removing government impediments to economic growth.

10/16/2002

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