Category Archives: News

Freedom From Taxation

According to the Tax Foundation, yesterday was national Tax Freedom Day.

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for [the] year.

Individual states experience tax freedom day differently, depending on their tax burden. Check out the Tax Foundation’s map and description here.

It’s a Corporate Welfare Mystery

Jack Spencer, an affairs specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential, details a mystery project that almost received $5.5 million from Michigan’s taxpayers, yet no one knows who would’ve owned the property. It’s a corporate welfare mystery:

What seems bizarre is the apparent secrecy surrounding the proposal,” said Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “In particular, who will become the proud new owner of a building used for the project for which taxpayers would have paid $5.5 million?

R.I. developer awarded $2.5 million in tax credits

The Providence Journal reports that a property developer was awarded $2.5 million in tax credits to redevelop an office structure.

In addition to the state historic tax credits, Chace is seeking a property tax stabilization agreement with the city.  A City Council committee will discuss a proposed 12-year  stabilization agreement for the Kinsley Building later this month.

 

Venezuela’s Downward Economic Spiral Continues?

USA Today reports on a series of worrying economic trends in Venezuela, including a shortage of vehicle parts, foodstuffs, and medicine.

International airlines are refusing to sell tickets in bolivars, or the local currency, saying the government owes them $3 billion from sales last year. Empresas Polar, the country’s largest food processor, has already warned that it may have to shut some operations as it owes its overseas suppliers nearly half a billion dollars.

Newspapers throughout the country are running out of newsprint, and there are shortages of foodstuffs and medicines

These shortages arrive on the heals of extensive price controls and heavy, ongoing inflation.

Cronyism?

The Star-Ledger reports that Sen. Menendez disclosed a flight that he received from a campaign donor, worth $11,250, that went two years without being disclosed or reimbursed.

“Due to an oversight, the campaign did not reimburse Dr. Melgen for the cost of that flight at the time,” Brubaker said. “When that oversight was discovered, at the end of 2013, Sen Menendez directed his campaign to immediately reimburse Dr. Melgen $11,250 for the cost of the flight.”

Menendez is reportedly also being investigated by a federal grand jury as to whether he did favors for Melgen’s business interests.

Regulations & Permits

Regulatory agencies can exercise complete control over an industry through permits – or more accurately, by not granting permits. Consider New York: for the last five years the state has been studying the health effects of fracking, and is offering no permits until the study is complete. From the Albany Business Review:

Shale gas drillers will have to wait at least another year before New York regulators consider issuing permits to allow companies to drill for gas using the hydraulic fracturing technology known as fracking.

…the practice has been on hold in New York for the last five years pending a review to determine if fracking is safe.

Cronyism?

CNN has an interesting piece on cronyism – the former president of Shell Oil USA describes his experience with political donations as feeling extorted.

“I feel extorted,” John Hofmeister told CNN’s Drew Griffin. “Every time I wrote a check I felt that it was a form of extortion, the price of entry, because of the reception that you got when you contributed versus the reception when you did not contribute.”

The Rise of the Land Bank

Land Banks Abrv

Last month Philadelphia became the largest city to create a land bank agency. The Herald Tribune reports:

While land banks have been around for decades in cities like St. Louis, newer versions are emerging in places like Syracuse and Macon, Ga.

Supporters point to successes in places like Flint, Mich., where Saginaw Street has been transformed into a busy commercial and residential center. There, the local land bank acquired three buildings vacant for as long as 30 years, said Frank Alexander, a professor of real estate law at Emory University.

In some ways, land banks are like the enterprise zones of the 80′s. Land banks had a first generation that failed to live up to their creators’ expectations and now they’re going through a revamp, just as some states updated or enhanced their enterprise zones a decade or two into their program. A key difference this time is that most states don’t have land banks, and the revamp is bringing the land banking concept to new areas. This is a  worrisome trend, particularly if the revamped land banks have arbitrary power to buy and sell property, or if land banks grant individual city council members control over city land within their district.

The map at the top of the post is an original map of US land banks. One thing to bear in mind is that not every land bank has an equal level of discretion over its activities. Additionally, the map shouldn’t be viewed as comprehensive, particularly since states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are adding land banks with some frequency.

Struggling Florida Panthers ask for public cash

No, it’s not deja vu, it’s simply another professional sports franchise asking for taxpayer money to help fund its private operations. In this Sun-Sentinel report, it’s revealed that the team hasn’t delivered on almost all of its original promises to the taxpayers, and now they’re asking for even more money:

The Florida Panthers professional hockey team says it’s losing more than $20 million a year and needs more public funds to survive.

A Parasite Economy?

The Mackinac Center notes that between 2000 and 2012 income in the county hosting Michigan’s state capitol grew 28% faster than the state as a whole.

In both Michigan and the nation as a whole, citizens are paying a premium to keep government employees living in the style to which they have become accustomed and giving them ever more areas of life into which to intrude. Yet there is little or no evidence that all these “investments” have made life much better — just the opposite, if anything.