Kelly Clarkson, big crowd highlight opening ceremonies of Warrior Games in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Patriotic music, parades of athletes, celebrity appearances and a free concert were part of the entertainment Saturday in Colorado Springs for the opening ceremonies of the annual Warrior Games. Organizers estimated a crowd of …

Read more from Kelly Clarkson…

The Cronyism Grown Into U.S. Food Aid

America is a generous country. Taxpayers can take pride in the fact that, under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, they will send more than $2 billion worth of food to needy countries this year. Thanks to these aid programs, more than 50 million people in 51 countries will be fed by U.S. foreign aid. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that these programs are rife with cronyism that make them more expensive and less effective than they should be.

Just how much cronyism is there? Enough that another 8 to 10 million people could be fed at no added cost just by removing two unnecessary regulations.

What do these regulations do? The first requires that nearly all U.S. food aid be sourced from American farmers. The logic is that American food aid can combine generosity with national self-interest, stabilizing U.S. agricultural markets while providing aid.

But that self-interest has a cost, and a significant one. Namely, there is often more than enough food nearby that could be purchased and transported at a far lower cost and with far less waste than by shipping American food across the ocean. Even Africa, the continent most commonly associated with hunger crises, produces more than enough food to feed itself — as does the world as a whole, for that matter. In light of this fact, requiring that food aid be sourced in the United States no longer makes sense.

It’s a bizarre case where the costs of cronyism so outweigh the benefits that even one of the primary beneficiaries, the American Farm Bureau Federation, supports reform. The problem is that this regulation is a relic of a different era, one in which food aid was a meaningful portion of American agricultural exports and in which local food production in hunger-stricken areas was rarely sufficient to meet local demand. That is no longer the case — food aid today accounts for less than 1 percent of agricultural exports and less than 0.1 percent of food production in the country. The times have changed, but our rules have not.

The other regulation mandates that at least half of all U.S. food aid be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, known as the Cargo Preference for Food Aid (CPFA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the effects of the CPFA, and found that the costs were significant. Overall, the GAO estimated that the CFPA increased costs of shipping by 23 percent between 2011 and 2014, making up over $107 million of the total $456 million cost.

This time, the original intent behind the rule was based on national security concerns rather than economic ones. Lawmakers intended to use the food aid program to subsidize a merchant marine that could be called upon in times of war. Yet again, the organization that the regulation is intended to benefit, the Department of Defense, supports reform. The vast majority of U.S. vessels carrying food aid do not meet minimum standards for reform, and the DoD has stated that elimination of the regulation would not impact America’s maritime readiness in the case of war.

It is an unfortunate fact that as much as 60 percent of the food aid budget is spent on items that have nothing to do with food — such as transportation costs for the American food that we’re sending halfway around the world on more expensive American ships. And it’s why simple reform, such as the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2018, would free up nearly $300 million simply by reducing the requirement for U.S.-sourced food to 25 percent.

It’s rare that cronyism is so egregious and outdated that its beneficiaries support reform. When they do, lawmakers should take the hint, and support reform as well.

The post The Cronyism Grown Into U.S. Food Aid appeared first on The American Spectator.

Read more from The American Spectator…

Animal Rights Activists Endanger Chickens in Massive ‘Rescue’

Animal rights activists forcibly broke into a farm supplying Whole Foods with eggs and stole chickens in broad daylight last week. Local farmers worry that in their zeal to save chickens the activists actually endangered them.

The Direct Action Everywhere “rescue,” which involved hundreds of activists transported to Petaluma, California, on seven buses on May 29, comes as the latest action targeting Whole Foods or businesses connected with the supermarket giant.

“They were bused in,” Toni Brooks, a neighbor of the targeted Sunrise Farms property, told The American Spectator of the estimated 300 to 400 activists descending on the city about an hour north of San Francisco. “They marched up the street with signs saying, ‘Funeral Procession.’”

Brooks’s husband Phil, also a local farmer, found the rhetoric confusing given that the poultry on the targeted farm produce eggs and not meat.

“All of them are for eggs,” Brooks told The American Spectator. “There are no meat birds here. They were yelling at us that we were ‘baby eaters’ because we eat eggs.”

The protesters came from Animal Liberation Conference 2018, an event hosted by the Save Movement and Direct Action Everywhere at the University of California, Berkeley. Wayne Hsiung, the cofounder of Direct Action Everywhere, laid out the group’s purpose to activists immediately before the event, cryptically labeled “Action #4” on the conference schedule. He told them that they traveled to Petaluma to rescue sick birds before leading a march up a road. The action resulted in 40 arrests.

“They got down into the chickens before the police got there,” Phil Brooks, who confronted the activists, explained to The American Spectator. “They pried the door open using crowbars. This is a steel building — brand new, million-dollar building. The employees inside tried to hold the doors closed.

“They barged their way in and there were women who were employees — they were grabbing the women and throwing them down, out of the way. The women tried to hold them back but they just kept pushing the women out of the way and they went right on in.”

In another building, the activists absconded with a dozen to several dozen chickens. They draped white cloths around the chickens they labeled sick or injured and black cloths around dead ones.

The farm houses several hundred thousand chickens. By entering the farm without a foot bath or other standard precautions, the activists, critics say, threatened with sickness the very birds they claimed to save from sickness.

“All farms in today’s world are very high biosecurity,” fifth-generation farmer Trent Loos explains to The American Spectator. “You cannot afford to let anybody to come on your farm. People can put the entire population of chickens in jeopardy.”

As they ignored farm-specific customs to protect animals, the activists dismissed civilizational ones to protect people, as well.

“The women and the guys were going in between these vans and using it as a bathroom,” Phil Brooks explains of the makeshift, open-air bathroom on the farmer’s property. “Oh, yeah. One guy, I yelled at him. I said, ‘Hey, what are you wiping yourself with?’ It was totally unsanitary and uncalled for. There was garbage all over, plastic bottles from water, and whatever they were eating.”

Brooks concedes that, after prodding from him and other locals, the protesters thoroughly policed their trash. But they drew a line, and flashed a “peace” sign, when asked to remove their excrement.

Apart from livestreaming the event, the protesters invited the local media and dispatched drones to document from the skies. But farmers say that, despite the extensive preparations to chronicle the action, the demonstrators never bothered to educate themselves on the proper hygienic protocols for close encounters with farm animals.

“In the United States and in California, cows, hogs, and chickens have received viruses from immigrants, where the people passed a virus to the animals,” Loos points out. “H1N1, for instance, was passed from the people to the animals.”

Local farmers find out in the coming weeks that if an action taken to save animals results instead in widespread animal deaths.

The post Animal Rights Activists Endanger Chickens in Massive ‘Rescue’ appeared first on The American Spectator.

Read more from The American Spectator…

Reigniting The Meaning Of Citizenship Through National Service

It’s been a long time since a common rite of passage among our nation’s men was to put on a uniform and defend your nation, community, and family. Yet at a time of increasing hyperpolarization in our country, as well as the deteriorating state of our nation’s youth in mind, body, and soul, national military service may be an idea worth considering once again.

National service has been ever-present in our country’s history. From militias in the Revolutionary War era to the wartime drafts in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, to peacetime drafts through various parts of our nation’s past.

The legacy from those eras of conscription still remain in the form of the Selective Service system, which many of us remember being notified that we needed to register for upon reaching age 18.

The Selective Service system also has been the subject of debate in recent years, as many persons have considered whether women should register for it as well – such as during the 2016 Presidential election when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called for such.

Among other republics and democracies in the world national service is relatively common, from the nations of Europe to Africa, from the Middle East to Asia to South America. Conscription began falling out of favor since the end of the Cold War, as the general state of worry over military conflict faded.

Yet in recent years conscription has made a comeback. French President Macron has been trying to reintroduce military conscription in order to “foster patriotism and heal social divisions.” Norway recently expanded its military conscription in 2016 to include women, as Sweden has now re-introduced conscription as well.

Perhaps the most noted military conscription program is that of Israel, which requires all men and women to serve about two years in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with few exceptions. While brought about by military necessity, it has also cultivated an Israeli citizenry that has the character, grit, and sense of duty to keep their nation thriving.

It used to be that way in America, as serving in the military was a relatively common experience. In 1980, veterans totaled 18% of adults in the United States. In contrast, by 2016 that number had fallen to 7%.

At a time when our nation is reeling from divisions along seemingly every line possible, it is worth considering a common and shared experience as national service to reconnect our country together. The benefits are very clear in other nations, as despite often no overt military conflict conscription still provides a variety of security and social benefits to the country.

Undoubtedly the implementation of a conscription program, not seen in our nation for almost half a century, would be difficult initially. Not only have the times and culture changed, but so has the very nature of our armed forces.

Our military nowadays is an extremely high-tech organization and finding how to best utilize the massive manpower from our almost 330 million person nation would require careful delineation.

Furthermore, many of our nation’s youth, estimated currently at 71% of those between the ages of 17 and 24, are grossly unfit for military service. Creating a new conscript category and integrating them usefully into the nation’s military would be challenging, but given how seemingly every other nation is able to do it effectively we undoubtedly can find a way to as well.

The idea of national service would undoubtedly require a significant period of pilot programs and testing. The idea has been proposed frequently in the national discourse throughout the years and particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It is a big, nation-changing policy that certainly, if it gets further traction and consideration, would be a serious national debate.

National service is a very realistic program that could do a lot in solving many of our nation’s otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems, as well as reigniting reflection on the meaning of citizenry in a republic.

I think it is worth considering at our present time, as, although it seems a big change, nonetheless could revive our American spirit and heal our nation in an extraordinary way.

 

The post Reigniting The Meaning Of Citizenship Through National Service appeared first on The American Spectator.

Read more from The American Spectator…

Why Surf Culture Desperately Needs More Diversity

A friend of mine who owns a surf brand recently received an absolutely bonkers series of racist emails. The sender purchased my friend’s product online, then somehow figured out his ethnicity after the fact. Before the order arrived, the customer sent an email canceling his purchase, citing my friend’s ethnicity as the reason. {snip}

{snip}

{snip} But my friend’s run-in with at least one surfer’s ethnic phobias did force me to realize how much I, a white guy from a mostly-white Californian beach town, have overestimated the shared experience of all surfers. All part of the same tribe, right? Clearly, that’s also not remotely true.

It’s clear that surf culture does have a problem, and that problem stems from a lack of diversity within our ranks. “History of Surfing” author Matt Warshaw pointed out in a 2015 essay published on Surfer.com that, as a pastime developed largely by brown-skinned Polynesians (as well as Africans in some places and Peruvians in others), surfing has always been multi-cultural.

After all, it was whites who were forced to “break surfing’s glass ceiling in terms of race, a hundred-plus years ago, in Hawaii,” says Warshaw. For surfers, “Hawaii is always there in the back of our minds. Play the race card, in other words, and you answer to Duke Kahanamoku.”

That historical aspect may very well be true, but it doesn’t at all address the issue that surfing today, at least in the world’s two most globally influential surfing nations — the USA and Australia — is overwhelmingly white and upper middle class. This is true in countless lineups, where you’re likely to paddle out and find a mostly homogenous pack of white people surfing on expensive boards, wearing expensive gear in areas with a high cost of living. If you can’t afford it, you ain’t surfing.

I called Jeff Williams, co-president of the Black Surfer’s Collective (an organization that brings inner-city black kids in L.A. to the beach) to talk to him about diversity in surfing. “I’ve never really had problems with actual racism in surfing,” Williams said. “I’ve surfed all over the world, and everywhere I’ve ever been, most surfers are pretty cool.” But he does see the lack of minorities in the surf in the U.S. as problematic. “Look, anytime you try to talk about diversity in surfing, it all boils down to access,” he said. {snip}

Williams thinks {snip} it would take something like a “surfing Tiger Woods” to get inner-city kids to start paying attention to surf culture in a real way. But if we did gain more diverse surf stars bringing different voices and experiences to the table, the mainstream surf culture could only change for the better. Think about The Brazilian Storm: the South American vanguard brought fiery competitiveness and legions of exuberant fans to the World Tour, giving professional surfing a much-needed injection of passion.

But tease that out to include more people of color and more people coming from communities not typically associated with surfing. What styles would emerge and what influences would inform them? What might surf art look like with if it was inspired by a surf experience that differed from the easygoing, middle-class beach life? How might board design evolve if more diverse voices were able to participate in the conversation?

I don’t have the answers, but you don’t have to look very far to find parallels in other sports. Skate culture is far more dynamic because of the cacophony of viewpoints, with universally-acclaimed skaters of diverse races and socioeconomic backgrounds adding to the melting pot. Surfing can only gain from more perspectives adding to our own understanding of what it means to be a surfer, and from embracing those who didn’t come to the beach easily, but made their way nonetheless.

{snip}

The post Why Surf Culture Desperately Needs More Diversity appeared first on American Renaissance.

Read more from American Renaissance…

Yes, there really is a tax break for upper-income graduate students and Congress won’t let it expire – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

In an earlier Evidence Speaks post this year, Susan Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton summarized important research showing that federal tax benefits for college tuition have had no measurable impact on increasing college-going behavior.[1] Moreover, they note that the benefits are numerous, overlapping and complicated. Yet for all their flaws, these tax breaks enjoy such strong support from lawmakers that even the oddest one, which quietly expires each year, is always revived in a last-minute bill just in time for the tax filing season. The tuition and fees deduction (“the deduction”) was recently extended for a seventh time in an omnibus budget bill in February.[2] Out of all the tuition tax benefits the government offers, this one should be relatively easy to let go because of whom it unintentionally targets.

@brybree via Twenty20

Here is how the deduction works. Tax filers can deduct up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid for higher education in the tax year. It is an “above-the-line” deduction, meaning filers can claim it without having to itemize deductions. As a deduction, filers earn a benefit equal to their marginal tax rate. The maximum benefit any filer could extract from the deduction is $880, the top marginal tax rate of those who are eligible (22 percent) times $4,000. There is no limit to the number of times a filer can claim the deduction, so long as he has incurred tuition expenses, and it does not matter what type of credential he pursues. There is, however, an income limit. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) cannot claim it.

There is nothing odd about those terms per se, but they interact with other tax benefits the government offers for tuition such that only upper-income graduate students benefit from the deduction. First, undergraduates, while eligible for the deduction, don’t claim it because a different tax credit only for undergraduates is more beneficial: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,500 in tax relief for filers earning up to $90,000 ($180,000 for joint filers).[3] Tax filers can claim only one tuition tax benefit although they usually qualify for more than one. Second, graduate students with lower and middle incomes are also eligible for the deduction, but they can claim the $2,000 Lifetime Learning Credit, which almost always delivers a bigger tax break than the tuition and fees deduction.[4] But the Lifetime Learning credit has a lower income cut-off than the deduction. Those earning over $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers) in 2017 cannot claim it.[5]

That’s how the deduction ends up targeting upper-income graduate students. While graduate students would always obtain a larger benefit from the Lifetime Learning Credit, they cannot claim it if they earn more than $66,000 ($132,000 for joint filers). They can, however, claim the deduction until their earnings exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). Thus a narrow band of graduate students, those earning between the income limits for the two benefits, are the only students who would claim the deduction. At those levels, their incomes are higher than the incomes of about 80 percent of U.S. households.[6] Of course, tax filers can unintentionally claim a less generous benefit if they are eligible for more than one, such as an undergraduate claiming the deduction when she was eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which does happen.[7]

What the data say about eligible students

Using a representative sample of graduate students in 2011-12, Kim Dancy of New America and I estimated that just 8 percent of graduate students would benefit from the deduction. Meanwhile, 64 percent of graduate students would benefit most from the Lifetime Learning Credit. The rest of graduate students (28 percent) were ineligible for any tax benefit because they have no taxable income, their tuition was fully covered by grants and scholarships, or their earnings were too high.[8] The analysis assumes that tax filers claim the benefit that provides them with the largest tax reduction if they qualify for more than one. These numbers have likely shifted in recent years, with even fewer students benefiting from the deduction, because Congress has increased the earnings cap for the Lifetime Learning Credit to account for inflation but left the limits for the deduction unchanged.

We also estimated the average benefit graduate students would claim through the deduction for the 2011-12 academic year. At $621, it was smaller than the $859 average benefit that filers eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit could claim.[9] Due to small sample sizes, however, we were unable to reliably assess important characteristics of filers eligible for the deduction, such as field of study.

The deduction didn’t start out as a graduate school tax break

As is often the case in public policy, lawmakers did not set out explicitly to provide a tax break to upper-income graduate students. In fact, graduate students were never the target group for the tuition tax breaks; undergraduates were always the focus. Although graduate students have been eligible for the tax benefits since their inception, changes to the policies over the years have left the deduction benefiting upper-income graduate students alone.

Prior to mid-1990s, the federal government did not offer widely-available tax breaks for college tuition. The idea first gained prominence when President Clinton proposed a $10,000 deduction for college tuition as part of his “Middle-Class Bill of Rights” reelection platform.[10] After critics noted that a deduction would provide more help to families in higher tax brackets, Clinton added a separate tax credit for the first two years of college to his proposal to provide more even benefits.[11] Congress adopted the president’s idea for the credit in 1997, naming it the Hope Tax Credit, but rejected the additional proposal for a $10,000 deduction. They instead replaced that proposal with a separate credit for “lifelong learning” (i.e., the Lifetime Learning Credit) that families could claim for education after the first two years of college, including graduate school.[12]

Thus, President Clinton’s original idea for a deduction and a credit was replaced with two credits, the Hope Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. In keeping with their original purpose to provide middle-class tax relief, Congress capped income eligibility for both benefits at $55,000 ($100,000 for joint filers) in 1997.[13]

With these two tax credits on the books, the idea of a deduction for tuition would be unnecessary and redundant, yet Congress later decided to add one anyway. Seemingly out of nowhere, lawmakers included a $4,000 deduction for tuition and fees in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the sweeping bill that included President Bush’s campaign proposal to cut marginal tax rates.[14]

The deduction differed from the two initial tax credits in a key way, which partially explains why lawmakers added it. Families earning up to $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers) would be eligible as of 2004. That was significantly higher than the income cutoff for the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits at the time and would therefore offer tax benefits to families with incomes arguably well above middle class. But why not just raise the income limits on the existing credits then? Because creating the new deduction was a way to restrict costs relative to expanding the existing Lifetime Learning Credit in terms of forgone revenue to the government. Recall that the value of the deduction is worth the amount deducted times the marginal tax rate, which at the time it was created would have been $1,120 at the most.[15] That is about half the maximum value of the Lifetime Learning credit.[16]

In other words, the deduction was a way to let upper-income families into the college tax benefit club on the cheap. It also ensured their benefits would be smaller than those of the middle-class families, who were eligible for the credits.

At the time it was created, the deduction was as much an undergraduate benefit as a graduate one. Upper-income families would claim it for tuition paid in pursuit of either degree. According to my analysis referenced earlier, about the same share of graduate students as undergraduates qualified for it prior to 2009.[17] But in 2009, Congress would make it pointless for almost any undergraduate to claim the deduction. That year, lawmakers replaced the Hope Credit with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provided larger benefits than the deduction with an income cutoff even higher than the deduction. With upper-income undergraduates now qualifying for American Opportunity Tax Credit, graduate students became the only group left who could benefit from the original tuition and fees deduction.

Conclusion

While Congress never decided to directly create a special tax break for upper-income graduate students alone, opting to extend the deduction year after year is effectively the same thing. The latest one-year extension, which made the deduction available for the 2017 tax year, cost the government over $200 million in forgone revenue.[18]

At a time when an undergraduate education feels financially out of reach for so many families, it’s fair to ask why Congress continues to spend these resources on students who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Moreover, these students earn a median household income of $102,000, according to my analysis.[19] There does not appear to be a good answer to that question other than inertia. Lawmakers have always extended the benefit so they continue to extend it. They may not realize, however, that it no longer benefits undergraduate students.

All of the tax benefits may be a policy failure for not increasing enrollment or being overly complex, but at least those for undergraduates put more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income families working toward their first degree. Today, the deduction does neither. It helps those who already have an undergraduate degree and earn high incomes to boot. While its cost in terms of forgone revenue are relatively modest, those resources would be better spent on aid that encourages students to enroll in and complete an undergraduate degree.

Footnotes

[1] Sue Dynarski and Judith Scott-Clayton, “The Tax Benefits for Education Don’t Increase Education,” Brookings Institution, April 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-tax-benefits-for-education-dont-increase-education/.
[2] Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Public Law 115–123, § 40203 (2018).
[3] Internal Revenue Service, “Instructions for Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits) (2017),” https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8863.pdf.
[4] There are some circumstances when the deduction might produce a larger benefit than the Lifetime Learning Credit if a filer paid tuition and fees below $4,000 and he is in the highest tax bracket of those eligible for the deduction. For example, a filer in the 22% tax bracket who deducts $3,000 in expenses receives a $660 tax reduction; under the Lifetime Learning credit his benefit would be $600.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Author’s calculation using the American Community Survey, 2016.
[7] Government Accountability Office, “Improved Tax Information Could Help Families Pay for College,” May 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590970.pdf
[8] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[9] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.
[10] William J. Clinton, “Address to the Nation on the Middle Class Bill of Rights,” December 15, 1997, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=49591.
[11] Douglas Lederman, “The Politicking and Policy Making Behind a $40-Billion Windfall: How Clinton, Congress, and Colleges Battled to Shape Hope Scholarships,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 1997.
[12] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 201 (1997).
[13] Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105–34 § 101 (1997).
[14] Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, Public Law 107–16 § 431 (2001).
[15] The top marginal tax rate for filers eligible for the deduction was 28 percent in the mid 2000s.
[16] See endnote 4. for an explanation of how sometimes when tuition and fees are below $4,000, tax filers can qualify for a larger tax reduction through the deduction than if the Lifetime Learning Credit.
[17] Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “A New Look at Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, November 2015, https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/10416-a-new-look-at-tuition-tax-benefits/TaxCredits11.2.277d3f7daa014d5a8632090f97641cee.pdf; and Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015, 6–7, https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/graduate-students-and-tuition-tax-benefits.pdf.
[18] Joint Committee on Taxation, “Federal Tax Provisions Expired in 2017” (JCX-5-18), March 9, 2018.
[19] Author’s calculation using the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011–12. See also Jason Delisle and Kim Dancy, “Graduate Students and Tuition Tax Benefits,” New America, December 2015.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

Floridians Really Want Politicians to Expand Medicaid, Data Shows

Remember when Florida activist Cara Jennings confronted Florida governor and Arctic-dwelling trickster demon Rick Scott inside a Starbucks, called him “an asshole” to his face, and asked how he could live with himself after he refused to expand Medicaid in Florida and give more people health care? a whole lot of Floridians agree with Jennings these days. According to new data from the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress, an estimated 65 percent of Florida voters support expanding Medicaid across the state – and, amazingly, voters in every legislative or congressional district from the Keys all the way up to the Panhandle support the idea.

Read more from State Budget Cuts…

Arizona Senate Puts Coal Tax Relief Bill on Hold

A bill to provide tax relief for Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station (NGS) by exempting income derived from coal mining from the state’s transaction privilege tax (TPT) was held up in the Arizona Senate’s Finance Committee with the legislation falling one vote short of passage.

The bill’s sponsors are working to gain additional support before bringing it up for reconsideration in the wake of the March 14 setback.

Native-American Workforce

NGS, a 2,250-megawatt coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Nation reservation near Page, Arizona, is the largest electricity power generator in the state. NGS operates under a lease agreement with the Navajo Nation, supplying electricity to customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada. It also provides the power needed to pump water for agriculture and municipal uses from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson through the Central Arizona Project.

The plant is jointly owned by the Salt River Project and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, who own the largest percentages of the installation, and the Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy, and Tucson Electric Power, who have smaller shares. NGS employs more than 400 full-time staff, 90 percent of whom are Navajo.

NGS uses coal from the Kayenta Mine, operated by Peabody Western Coal Company under lease agreements with the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. The coal is delivered to NGS by a 75-mile electric railroad owned and operated by the plant. Ninety-nine percent of the mine’s 340 employees are Native American.

‘A Tax Elimination’

Arizona’s TPT taxes companies’ gross receipts in 16 separate business classifications, including mining, retail, telecommunications, and utilities. Arizona also allows municipalities to levy local TPTs.

HB 2003 would exempt coal from the retail and mining classifications under the state TPT and any municipal TPT and sales taxes. A Fiscal Note prepared for HB 2003 estimated although the proposed exemptions would reduce Arizona’s General Fund by $9.1 million in Fiscal Year 2019, the ongoing revenue loss from a closed NGS would be $12.2 million.

State Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Tucson), HB 2003’s sponsor, says TPT never should have been imposed on coal mining.

“This is … a tax elimination,” said Finchem. “The state does not collect a [TPT] on the wind, the sun, or the water, nor does it collect the tax on natural gas and nuclear fuels, … [so the TPT on coal] never should have been laid.”

Fails Tax Tests

John Nothdurft, director of government relations at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, testified HB 2003 would improve energy markets in the state, during a hearing before Arizona House Ways and Means Committee on February 14.

“Arizona’s transaction privilege tax … [is] dissimilar to how other states tax raw materials used to produce energy, such as coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels,” Nothdurft testified. “Sound tax policy generally abides by four basic principles: It is applied to a broad base; kept at a competitive, low rate; it is non-distorting; and rate-setting and the regulatory process are completely transparent to the state’s citizens.

“Arizona’s transaction privilege tax fails on at least three, if not all four, of these principles,” Nothdurft said.

High Closing Costs

Nothdurft also testified failure to implement the proposed tax reform might cause NGS to close, which would increase energy prices in Arizona.

“Thirty-one percent of Arizona’s electricity generation comes from coal, but this would significantly decrease if NGS is closed,” said Nothdurft. “This is a significant problem, since the cost of coal electricity is much cheaper than other forms of electricity—especially wind and solar, which are heavily subsidized and yet remain more expensive.”

Severe Power Disruptions Forecast

Fred Palmer, a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, says ending TPT for coal mining would benefit all of Arizona.

“HB 2003 is designed to help extend the commercial life of NGS, a crucial resource for the economic future of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, as well as water users, electric consumers, and agricultural interests in Arizona,” Palmer said. “Since a closed NGS will produce no mining tax revenues, opposition to the bill can only be construed as anti-Native, anti-fossil fuels, and anti-growth.”

A recent study by utility consulting firm Quanta Technology confirms NGS is critical to the power supply in the Southwest.

The report states closing NGS in 2019 would result in “power deficiencies which could evolve into potential voltage collapse and outages, load shedding triggers, potential rotating brownouts, failing transformers or transmission lines and equipment damage” affecting Phoenix, Flagstaff, other large Arizona cities, and California cities such as Lugo and Shandon.

Confident in Bill’s Prospects

Although HB 2003 stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, Carlyle Begay, a Navajo and former Arizona state senator for the district where NGS is located, says he is confident HB 2003 will eventually pass.

Finance Committee member Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), who initially withheld support for the bill, which kept it from moving out of the committee, now supports the proposal, Begay says.

In addition, “we will have enough Democrat votes to pass the bill through the Senate,” Begay said. “The commitment will be in place in case we need it.”

Editor’s Note: This article was published in cooperation with The Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News.

PHOTO: The Arizona Capitol Museum building in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The post Arizona Senate Puts Coal Tax Relief Bill on Hold appeared first on New Revere Daily Press.

Read more from The New Revere Daily Press…

Children of Austerity documentary: “Pale and listless” struggling in breadline Britain

“Pale and listless” children are the real-life victims of Tory welfare cuts, the president of the National Union of Teachers says in a newly released Redfish documentary. Under the Tories, who have been in power for eight years, it’s now estimated that 30 percent of children – 4.1 million minors – are now growing up in poverty. A UK teachers union reported earlier this year that nearly 90 percent of teachers find it “all but impossible for them to teach,” and often have to provide their pupils with basic necessities such as food, clothes and sanitary items.

Read more from Signs of the Times…