Mark Newgent at the Maryland Watchdog Wire writes about a new tax in Maryland that will tax…rain?
In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Maryland to raise money to reduce storm water runoff in order to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the Chesapeake Bay. In response the Maryland General Assembly passed HB 987 mandating that the state’s 10 largest counties generate the revenue through taxing “impervious surfaces” (roofs, driveways, patios, parking lots) in order to pay for storm water management. Beginning in July, property owners will now see a new line item on their tax bills based on the amount of impervious surface on their property.
A Wall Street Journal article highlights a specific tax break for…television program?
Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have helped to grease the show’s eastward move with a special new tax credit available only to big-budget television programs that relocate to New York. According to the state’s new budget the credit is aimed at “a television production that is a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season.” Oh, and the show has to be filmed in front of a studio audience of 200 or more and spend at least $30 million in annual production costs in New York. How’s that for a very specific special interest?
Ezra Klein at the Washington Post writes about the staffers of a prominent politician, and how his position of authority has lead to his staffers becoming lobbyists:
…the point of hiring Baucus’s former aides isn’t that they can seamlessly insert any language they want into the final legislation. It’s that they have a direct line to Baucus, and to the people around Baucus, and that gives them a huge advantage. The fact is that human beings are more likely to find arguments convincing when they’re coming from friends rather than strangers or enemies.
That’s the key to most of the lobbying in Washington. It’s not about leveraging bribes so much as it’s about leveraging relationships — and that makes it harder to stamp out.
Angela Longomasini from OpenMarket.org has written the following article asking questions about those who benefit from alcohol taxes. The issue according to the article is that the main advocacy groups that seek tax increases on alcohol are not really concerned about the public health impacts of these taxes, but rather they are concerned with inserting earmarks in the tax code to favor their organizations.
While there appears to be no acceptable level of alcohol consumption to participants at the Alcohol Policy 16Conference, which met last week in Arlington, Virginia, they certainly don’t mind profiting from people who do drink. During a discussion on alcohol tax policy, these “public health advocates” discussed ways to hike the rates as much as possible and earmark the funds to their own organizations.
Rebecca Ramirez of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University presented her qualitative research on the framing of pro-tax messaging for use in lobbying campaigns. […]. One disability advocacy group, she noted, told her flat out that they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue earmarked to their organization.
Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman of the Mercatus Center wrote an article in US News about the tax preferences that benefits college athletic programs:
So why do politicians continue to hand out these privileges? One answer is that sports teams are well-connected and well-organized, giving them an inherent lobbying advantage over a multitude of unorganized taxpayers. Another explanation is that people love sports – especially their home team – and politicians are eager to associate themselves with anything popular.
This same explanation accounts for why politicians have gone out of their way in recent years to privilege another popular industry: Film production. The vast majority of states now offer a spate of tax credits, exemptions, and subsidies to production companies that film on location.
Rich Tucker at Heritage’s Foundry blog writes about the possible cronyism related to the opening of an electric vehicle company in Mississippi, and why these kinds of incentives are harmful.
For example, instead of handing out direct financial incentives, Mississippi could attract jobs by improving its legal and economic climate. Companies prefer to set up shop in states where they are confident they won’t be subjected to frivolous lawsuits. Yet the American Legislative Exchange Council’s survey Rich States, Poor States ranks the state’s liability system 48th out of 50. Improving its tort litigation system (as Texas has done) would encourage more businesses to set up shop in the Magnolia State.
When the federal government or the state governments act as venture capitalists, taxpayers lose. It’s a form of federalism—but the wrong kind.
Matt Mitchell from the Mercatus Center has a blog post on loopholes and the relationship between loopholes and cronyism. He particularly focuses on accelerated depreciation. Is accelerated depreciation a loophole?
The idea that “accelerated” depreciation is a loophole can be traced back to Stanley Surrey, the Harvard law professor whose work in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s influenced many tax reformers, including Senator Bill Bradley and officials in the Reagan Treasury Department. When the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation began cataloguing loopholes in their annual “tax expenditure” list in 1972, they too called accelerated depreciation a loophole.
This thinking persuaded me to list accelerated depreciation alongside other tax loopholes as a privilege. In conversations with friends and colleagues over the last few weeks, however, I’ve come to change my mind on this one.
Jim Morrill at the Charlotte Observer writes about a piece of legislation in North Carolina that would use public money to fund a professional sports team.
The bi-partisan bill would allow the city of Charlotte to use local taxes earmarked for the convention center to help upgrade Bank of America Stadium…
“There are a lot of people in the state who have a problem with what is happening in professional sports, the NFL in particular,” said Rep. Bert Jones, a Reidsville Republican. “The NFL is big money, let’s face it.”
Rep. Paul Luebke, a liberal Democrat from Durham, called the bill “corporate welfare.”
“This is welfare for a major, profitable corporation,” he said.
Dan Boyd at the ABQ Journal in New Mexico writes about recent legislation aimed to provide benefits to filmmakers in the state, a policy that has failed elsewhere:
Backers of the legislation say it would reinvigorate the state’s film industry, which sagged after new restrictions were enacted in 2011.
But skeptics, some of whom voted for the bill, said the state’s film rebate program has given rise to a corporate welfare system.
“Basically, we’ve created a dependent here, and you can’t cut your dependent child loose,” said Senate GOP Whip William Payne of Albuquerque.