Sunday, July 27, 2014

NJ WATCHDOG: Christie can't escape suit for travel records




For immediate release

Dispute over Christie travel records takes trip to court

Chris Christie’s lawyers won’t be allowed to escape a court date next week in a lawsuit by a New Jersey Watchdog reporter over records of the governor’s travel paid by outside organizations.

Judge Mary C. Jacobson denied the state’s request yesterday to reschedule or consolidate the case with other public records actions against the governor pending in Mercer County Superior Court.

If granted, proceedings in the case could have been indefinitely delayed. Instead, it remains on course for a hearing Tuesday, July 29.

The dispute centers on disclosures by third-party organizations that pay for out-of-state trips by Christie and his senior staff. State agencies are required to collect and keep documentation of who’s paying on the third-party’s letterhead, under rules detailed in Treasury Circular 12-14-OMB.

At first, the governor’s office completely denied the reporter’s request for the files, claiming it was "unclear...and therefore invalid" under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.

Now, Christie’s lawyers are arguing he is exempt from travel regulations, relying on a 1979 memo to former Gov. Brendan Byrne from a budget director.

Because of that letter, which predates current rules by 35 years, the requirement for disclosure “does not apply to the governor’s office,” argued Deputy Attorney General Todd Wigder in a brief to the court.

The story is now online at http://watchdog.org/161436/christie-travel-lawsuit/.

A Sense of History

The following is from Congressman Rush Holt's newsletter

July 20th marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. The idea of going to the moon was daring and maybe even quixotic, but true to our traditional American character: thoroughly optimistic.

A sense of our history helps us understand whether we are making progress in things like science, research, protecting the environment, and the humanities, but it also helps us understand whether we are making progress as a country. In some ways, yes. We are conducting some of the most ingenious research that is helping people understand our universe. We are making in America some of the most innovative things that are sought after, even essential in the modern world. But with a sense of history we must also ask: are we true today to our traditional American character? Specifically, I find myself asking, is Congress staying true to that American tradition of optimism?

Think about the Morrill Act of 1862, which established out nation’s land grant college system, including Rutgers University, to advance research, agriculture, and commerce. In 1863, President Lincoln also signed the law creating the National Academy of Sciences, chartered not just as an honorific, but as a working agency to help the country grow in a smart way. Both were passed at a very difficult time – during the Civil War – when it was not obvious that the country could afford to do so.

These creations were optimistic – as were the GI Bill and the Civil Rights Act, about which I have written to you recently, and so many other public programs. The history of the U.S. is a history of enormous economic, social, technological, and cultural optimism. Our indisputable success as a nation over two centuries shows that our optimism has been well justified, and a good case can be made that American optimism has a lot to do with American success. I still find among most Americans that traditional optimism, despite some economic hard times, but our government at present does not match that optimism. I regret that so much of the talk in Washington is about what we cannot do, what our deficit - or our obsessions with it - will not allow us to do. Just imagine if at this time of near-zero interest rates, we invested boldly in education, infrastructure, and research! (From my remarks at a reception earlier this month.)

Supporting Our First Responders

Last week, I successfully assisted Fire District No. 1 in Franklin Township, Somerset County, in securing a $450,242 federal grant to replace outdated firefighting equipment.

I often visit with local first responders and see firsthand how important it is that they have the right training and equipment to keep us safe. Saying "thanks" to firefighters is only part of the support they need. Equipment and training take money.

Upcoming Academy Nomination Deadline

America’s military service academies provide a four-year college education, with full scholarship, to young men and women who pledge to serve as the next generation of leaders in the U.S. military services. I am currently accepting application for upcoming academy nominations, and welcome applicants from all areas of the 12th District. The information packet and application form are available on my website, and October 1, 2014 is the deadline to submit all materials. For questions and additional information, please email Zainab Chaudary on my staff at Zainab.Chaudary@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

Rush Holt
Member of Congress


Saturday, July 26, 2014

President Obama's Weekly Address 7/26/14: Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President continued his call for our nation to rally around an economic patriotism that says rather than protecting wasteful tax loopholes for a few at the top, we should be investing in things like education and job training that grow the economy for everybody. The President highlighted the need to close one of the most unfair tax loopholes that allows companies to avoid paying taxes here at home by shifting their residence for tax purposes out of the country. The President has put forth a budget that does just that, and he has called for business tax reform that makes investment in the United States attractive, and creates incentives for companies to invest and create jobs here at home. And while he will continue to make the case for tax reform, the President is calling on Congress to take action and close this loophole now.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Middletown Township Public Library Fund Raiser at Barnes & Noble, Holmdel 7/31/14



The Middletown Township Public Library will be having a fundraiser at Barnes & Noble on July 31st to take advantage of their Harry Potter birthday. There will be assorted activities there throughout the day, many conducted by library staff. The money raised will go toward increasing our STEAM* programs and for equipment for use by all of our patrons, young and old. You can obtain a voucher at any of the B&N service desks at the time of sale or you can purchase online for up to 6 days starting July 31st using Bookfair ID# 11392180.

Activities:

Storytimes at 10:00 am, 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Crafts at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm.
Authors: young adult author, Janine Kimmel at 2:00 pm; children’s author, Artie Bennett at 3:00 pm; local paranormal researcher and author, Richard Kimmel at 4:00 pm.
Harry Potter Party at 6:00 pm.
Fifth Down Teen band at 7:00 pm
Teens from “Young Magicians Crew 123” time TBD.

Pallone Calls on Governor Christie to Disclose More Detailed Reports on Sandy Recovery Effort




Highlights Need for More Transparency Surrounding Hired Contractors, Rebuilding Grants

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) issued the following statement today urging the Christie Administration to release additional information detailing how Sandy aid funds are being spent in the State of New Jersey:

“It has been almost two years now since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and devastated our communities, and we still do not have sufficient answers regarding how relief funds are being spent. The 24-page integrity monitor report that was finally released last week, the first and only one we have seen since Governor Christie signed the bill requiring the state to assign monitors into law in March 2013, was entirely unacceptable. We need more detailed integrity monitor reports so the public can understand what mistakes have been made in the Sandy recovery process and how Sandy aid funds are being spent in New Jersey.

“I am particularly concerned about the lack of detail regarding the contractors utilized by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The integrity monitor report does not include any information regarding the work performed by these contractors, and the state has still not provided the public with any details on what these contractors have accomplished with millions of dollars in recovery funds. Thousands of homeowners are still awaiting grants to repair and raise their homes more than a year and half after Sandy struck. They have a right to know what DCA is paying these contractors for and whether they are doing their job properly.

“My office has also received many complaints throughout the Sandy recovery process about a lack of transparency and publicly available criteria for DCA-run recovery programs, particularly the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program. I am troubled that only $133 million in RREM funds has actually been dispersed and implore the Christie administration to expedite this important aid to homeowners who are still trying to rebuild.

“Thousands of New Jerseyans have noted that rebuilding funds have been slow moving with many still awaiting payments to assist with the cost of repairs to their homes. It is outrageous that Sandy relief for homeowners has been delayed for so long.

“I fought hard in Congress to pass the Sandy aid package by assuring my colleagues that Sandy recovery funds were desperately needed and would be spent wisely. We need to know where the money is, what contractors are doing with it, and why it is not in the hands of those who need it to repair their homes. One 24-page report in 16 months is hardly adequate oversight. It is time for the Christie Administration to be straight with New Jerseyans and help residents rebuild.”


Drugged, Raped and Pregnant? Too bad.

by District 4 Coalition for Change



This is what Congressman Smith has been doing while occupying our District 4 Congressional Seat. The seat we give him to represent OUR values.

Drugged, raped and Pregnant? Too bad. Congressman Chris Smith's Legislation HR3.
Please share... this information with friends and family.

It's up to us to raise awareness about Congressman Smith.

SMITH HIDES IN PLAIN SIGHT.

#CHRISSMITHHASTOGO

http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/republican-plan-redefine-rape-abortion

MCDW Caucus Event-Combatting Sexual Assault on College Campuses


The Monmouth County Women's Democratic Caucus would like to invite you to our upcoming event, A Call to Action: Combatting Sexual Assault on College Campuses. The event will include an performance by SCREAM Theater of Rutgers Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance followed by a panel of experts in the field and student activists.

The event will be at the Howell Police Athletic League Community Center. Doors open at 5:30pm.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Middletown Rabies Alert #11


From Middletown Alerts:

The Middletown Township Health Department has received laboratory confirmation of 2 more raccoons testing positive for rabies, bringing the total of animal testing positive this year to 13. This latest incidents happened in the area of Maxson Court and Walnut Ave.

Over the past few months, the township Health Department has found and reported raccoons and one fox that have tested positive for Rabies. The previous locations of the animals were:

  • Pate Drive
  • Locust Point Road
  • Pineridge Avenue
  • Walnut Avenue between Pine Street and Chestnut Street
  • 900 Leonardville Road, Croydon Hall Complex
  • Route 35 between Kanes Lane and Kings Highway East
  • Red Hill Road between Dwight Road and Deepdale Drive
  • Michael Drive off of Nutswamp Rd
  • Ueland Road off of Nutswamp Road
  • Essex Street off of Bray Ave
  • Clay Court off of Hartshorne Road

The township would like to alert residents about the dangers of interacting with any wildlife. Rabies can be found in many animals. The Health Department would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to keep their distance from all wildlife, ill appearing or not, and to also keep an eye on pets around these animals. Do not let dogs or cats run free where they may become in contact with wildlife. All dogs and cats must be licensed in Middletown, which requires that they all have current rabies vaccinations.

If you come across a sick or injured animal, keep your distance and please contact Animal Control at 732-615-2097 immediately or contact the Police Department after hours and on weekends. Remember, Rabies is a fatal disease. The best course of defense is the vaccination of your pets and not handling or interacting with wildlife.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION'S MOVIE TRAILER BIZARRELY CELEBRATES HIS BROKEN PROMISES AND FAILURES

Video Mocks Pain of Middle Class Families Suffering in the Christie Economy

(Trenton) -- Today, the Christie administration created yet another reason to be publicly ridiculed, releasing an 80 second web video that mimics a blockbuster movie trailer and mocks the promise that the governor made to pensioners -- a promise that he promptly broke.

"Sandy victims continue to suffer from the Christie administration's neglect and the rest of the state's economy is in ruins, and yet the governor is mocking the pain and suffering he's causing middle class families -- it's completely offensive, especially since this was probably the work of staff that received 23 percent raises," said Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, John Currie. Sadly, the governor's bizarre Hollywood fantasy is not the action drama his team imagines, it's a horror film that never seems to end."
 
The Christie economy is the definition of failure. Superstorm Sandy survivors are still paying mortgages on their uninhabitable homes. Christie's economic stewardship has resulted in a record six state credit downgrades. His overly optimistic revenue projections blew a gigantic hole in New Jersey’s 2014 budget. And, New Jersey ranks 49th in the nation in private-sector job growth while unemployment has been consistently high compared to its neighbors.

Pallone Leads Letter Urging President Obama to Sign Executive Order Protecting LGBT Workers from Workplace Discrimination Without Exemptions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) led a letter signed by 34 Members of Congress urging President Obama not to include special exemptions for religious organizations in his planned executive order regarding workplace protections for LGBT Americans employed by federal contractors. The letter comes in response to faith groups calling on President Obama to create exemptions that would allow an employee to be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We set a dangerous precedent if we exempt religious organizations from these workplace protections,” said Congressman Pallone. “The federal government has an obligation to put a complete stop to unfair and discriminatory practices. I am pleased to lead my colleagues in calling for an executive order that ensures all Americans are afforded the same protections in the workplace.”

Pallone, a long-time advocate for LGBT equality, has been a leader on this issue for years, having held a Congressional briefing in 2012 examining the need to require federal contractors to have sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination policies. He has also led letters to President Obama urging executive action on the issue for the last three years.

The full text of the letter is below:







July 15, 2014



President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500



Dear Mr. President:



Like so many Americans, we were proud of your commitment to sign an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. We urge you to sign this Executive Order as soon as possible without exemptions, ensuring that it will protect every American who works with the Federal Government. We believe that this is a critical step towards ensuring that members of the LGBT community receive the same protections afforded to all citizens. What matters in the workplace is how you do your job—not who you are. No one in this country should be subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.



In 2014, it is absolutely unconscionable that a federal contract worker could be fired on the basis of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity without legal repercussions. Thanks to your upcoming Executive Order, this discrimination will be a thing of the past. The federal government has a moral responsibility to ensure that all citizens are treated equally and with dignity.

Like many people of faith, we believe that a fully inclusive America benefits us all. However, we are disheartened to hear that some faith organizations wish to overturn this progress and continue this legalized discrimination. Creating a religious exemption for workplace discrimination would set a dangerous precedent for employees around the country. With this exemption, employers would be able to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Your action at the federal level must put a complete stop to these unfair and discriminatory workplace practices.

We thank you for considering our request. Thank you again for your leadership on advancing LGBT equality, and we look forward to seeing your final Executive Order.


Sincerely,



FRANK PALLONE, JR. AMI BERA, M.D.

Member of Congress Member of Congress



ROBERT BRADY JULIA BROWNLEY

Member of Congress Member of Congress



TONY CARDENAS EMANUEL CLEAVER

Member of Congress Member of Congress



STEVE COHEN JOHN CONYERS, JR.

Member of Congress Member of Congress



SUSAN DAVIS KEITH ELLISON

Member of Congress Member of Congress



LOIS FRANKEL JOHN GARAMENDI

Member of Congress Member of Congress



ALAN GRAYSON BRIAN HIGGINS

Member of Congress Member of Congress



STEVEN HORSFORD RICK LARSEN

Member of Congress Member of Congress



JOHN LEWIS JIM MCDERMOTT

Member of Congress Member of Congress



JAMES MCGOVERN JIM MORAN

Member of Congress Member of Congress



GLORIA NEGRETE MCLEOD DONALD M. PAYNE, JR.

Member of Congress Member of Congress



CHARLES B. RANGEL LUCILLE ROYAL-ALLARD

Member of Congress Member of Congress



LINDA SANCHEZ JOHN P. SARBANES

Member of Congress Member of Congress



ALLYSON SCHWARTZ BOBBY SCOTT

Member of Congress Member of Congress



ALBIO SIRES MIKE THOMPSON

Member of Congress Member of Congress



JOHN F. TIERNEY DINA TITUS

Member of Congress Member of Congress



JUAN VARGAS HENRY WAXMAN

Member of Congress Member of Congress


NJ Watchdog sues Christie for travel expense records

For immediate release:


As Chris Christie eyes a run for the White House in 2016, he’s en route to becoming the most prolific traveler in the history of New Jersey governors.

Yet the self-styled reform advocate is trying to avoid public disclosure on who pays for which trips – and what costs are borne by taxpayers.

A pair of lawsuits by a New Jersey Watchdog reporter against the governor’s office may shed new light on information those state secrets.

The latest legal action, filed last week in Mercer County Superior Court, seeks records of Christie’s travel expenses paid by state government. In a parallel suit, the reporter is asking for release of state records that show who else funds the governor’s sojourns.

Since January, Christie has refused to release records of his excursions paid by third parties – including political groups and others – disclosures required under state travel regulations.

The governor also denied access to state Travel Card statements for his trips on New Jersey’s tab. Once again, his staff rejected the request as being “unclear” – even though the rules clearly state “charges made to the Travel Card may be subject to review under the Open Public Records Act.”

In response to New Jersey Watchdog’s requests for records of all travels from 2012 to present, Christie released partial expense reports for only 13 trips – an average of one trip every two months. The names of all hotels were crossed out, and the lodging receipts were withheld. In several instances, the purpose of trips or means of transportation were not disclosed.

The documents indicate Christie plays fast and loose with guidelines that govern New Jersey officials.

The complete story is now online at http://watchdog.org/159280/christie-travel-expenses.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 7, 2014 Middletown Township Committee Meeting: Police Chief Retires with $250K Payout

Last Monday the Middletown Township Committee held its monthly workshop meeting. The meeting lasted about an hour, which was nearly double the time of recent workshop meetings of the past. It was a busy meeting, a lot was discussed. Namely the retirement of Middletown Police Chief Robert Oches. Upon his retirement effective August 1st, Chief Oches will walk away with a  $249, 338 check for unused sick and vacation time that has been accumulated over his 40 years of service.

 Now in general I have no problem with this, Chief Oches served Middletown admirably over his 40 year career and played by the rules. He is entitled to this payout and I wish him well and hope he uses it wisely during his retirement. However, I do  happen to agree with the members of the Township Committee and think these types of payouts are extravagant budget busters that need to end.  But what really annoys me most about this is the self-righteous indignation that was expressed while discussing this issue.

As usual, our very partisan, all Republican Township Committee placed blame for these types of payouts at the feet of the Democrats in Trenton. They implored the Democratically controlled state legislature to do something about this problem and couldn't believe why they would allow this to go on.

The Committee members seem to forget however that the Democrats did do something about. They sent a bill to the desk of  Governor Christie during the early days of his 1st term in office that capped the payouts for unused sick time and vacation days at $15K! Christie however vetoed the bill because it didn't go far enough. He wanted to eliminate (unrealistically in my opinion) these types of payout all together.

You can watch the whole discussion starting at the 19:50 mark of the video.

As it turns out, all the belly-aching that the Township Committee did last week about having to shell out nearly $250K to our retiring police chief, seems to have caught the attention of NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney, who along with Monmouth County State Senator Joe Kyrillos (a Middletown resident)  issued a joint statement - that should make Middletown Township Committee members happy - which said, "We continue to see hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts to employees simply because they were fortunate enough not to get sick, it's a policy that is grossly unfair to the taxpayers of New Jersey and one the state cannot sustain given our current budgetary issues." according to yesterday's Asbury Park Press.  The article continued to state however that Governor Christie's all or nothing position on the issue hasn't changed.

So maybe it's time for Gerry Scharfenberger, Tony Fiore, Stephanie Murrary, Kevin Settembrino and Steve Massel to put-up or shut-up and issue a resolution calling on their beloved governor to compromise with members of the state legislature on this issue and accept a cap on these type of employee windfalls upon retirement. After all, it would be a whole lot better to pay out just $15K to a retiree than the quarter $Million or more that towns like Middletown are in the process of paying out now or in the future.




As always, you can download a copy of the Meeting Agenda that contains the discussion items and the proposed resolutions and ordinances that were voted on or presented during the meeting. A box around an item is a link, bringing you further into the document to that resolution or ordinance. At the end of the resolution there will be a link bringing you back to the agenda. Attached to this agenda is also the monthly bill list, so that everyone can see how the Township is spending our tax dollars.


10 ways Chris Christie's White House ambition hurts Jersey

If you haven't read the front page of today's Newark Star-Ledger you should. Tom Moran, the Ledger's Editorial Board Editor has a good take on how Chris Christie has hurt New Jersey due to his personal ambitions for a much higher office. 

By Tom Moran/ Star-Ledger

Gov. Chris Christie last week rejected the notion that his ambitions for the White House are driving his behavior as governor.
"Regular people don’t see it that way," he told reporters. "You all have been asking me about running for president since 2010, so is every action I’ve taken since 2010 been through the prism of the presidency? I don’t think so and I don’t even think you all can make that argument."
Granted, no one can peer into the man’s heart. We’d need his diary to divine his true motives.
And no sane person would argue that Christie’s "every action" has been dictated by the need to seduce the Republican base. He did concede the science on climate change, a move that will alienate the flat-Earth crowd in the Republican base, no small loss. He appointed a Muslim judge and called conservative critics of the move "crazies."
Worst of all, he hugged that usurper, President Obama, in the heat of the 2012 presidential race.
But enough nuance. Time to accept the governor’s challenge and make the case that he’s running this state with one eye on the White House, that he is putting New Jersey second, behind GOP primary voters.
The list below offers 10 cases in point.
1. Birth control
In his first budget, Christie cut $7.4 million in funding for family planning, giving up a potential 9-1 match in federal dollars as well. The money was not used for abortions, but for birth control, cancer screenings and other services for low-income women without insurance.
Six Planned Parenthood clinics were forced to close as a result, and others cut back their hours.
Christie claimed his only motive was to save money. But giving up that 9-1 federal match is irrational budgeting. And this program was tiny, amounting to less than 0.03 percent of the state’s $31 billion budget.
Gov. Pinocchio had political motive for this one. Funding Planned Parenthood clinics would have been tough to justify on the trail.
2. Gun control
Christie vetoed four gun control bills, including one that would ban .50-caliber sniper rifles, and another this month that would limit ammunition magazines to 10 bullets.
On this issue, he is an incoherent mess. He proposed a ban on .50-caliber rifles himself last April, then vetoed the ban that reached his desk. And he’s offered no rational reason why New Jersey gun owners could possibly need more than 10 rounds in a magazine.
"The last thing he wants is the right mad at him for being a gun control advocate," said Julian Zelizer, a political science professor at Princeton University. "He’s now entering the Republican primaries as a fragile candidate. He can’t have any more enemies."
3. Climate change
Yes, the governor conceded the science. But he’s following the GOP playbook when it comes to policy.
He pulled New Jersey out of the regional agreement to reduce emissions from power plants. He diverted roughly $1 billion from the state’s Clean Energy Fund for unrelated purposes. He withdrew from a bipartisan lawsuit aimed at reducing emissions from Midwest coal plants. And in the Hurricane Sandy recovery, he has set requirements for building heights that are 1 foot lower than in surrounding states.
So if he gets grief for his rational talk about the science, he can defend himself by showing that his policies are perfectly aligned with the dictates of the Koch brothers, the billionaire kingmakers who earned their fortune on fossil fuels. Even the flat-Earth crowd in the party’s grass roots might forgive him when they take a second look.
4. The gas tax
The condition of New Jersey’s roadways ranks 46th in the nation, according to a study by Reason Foundation. Nearly 10 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient, and another 26 percent are functionally obsolete, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
But the trust fund for transit projects is broke. Worse, Christie broke the piggy bank and spent nearly $3 billion that had been set aside for the Hudson River tunnel. And he’s borrowed billions more to squeak by, breaking a promise and adding to the state’s crushing debt load.
The math is unforgiving: We need to raise the state’s gas tax, the third lowest in the nation. Privately, most Republicans concede this.
But raising any tax could be toxic on the trail. So count this as another mess Christie is leaving behind to protect his presidential ambitions.
5. Bridgegate
Christie was not content to just win last year’s election. He wanted a gigantic victory with bipartisan support to show that he could win a national election. That’s why his staff was pressing Democratic mayors such as Fort Lee’s Mark Sokolich for endorsements, even when it was clear Christie was coasting to victory.
In the end, the governor won re-election in a 22-point landslide, and the story line seemed solid.
Bridgegate wrecked that. Aside from exposing the ugly underbelly of the Christie administration, it has been an expensive distraction for the state government. The governor’s whitewash by attorney Randy Mastro is expected to cost taxpayers at least $3 million. On top of that, taxpayers are paying the legal bills for most of the key players, and for the Democrats, which are unknown at this time.
Continue reading

How Tea Party tax cuts are turning Kansas into a smoking ruin

"States considering deep tax cuts in hopes of sparking a surge of economic growth should look carefully at Kansas," ...  Yes, look carefully -- and run the other way!

By Michael Hiltzik
LOS ANGELES TIMES

Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, doesn't just believe in whistling past the graveyard--he's willing to stroll past it in full-throated song.

The graveyard is where the economy of Kansas has been buried since 2012, when Brownback and his Republican state legislature enacted a slew of deep tax cuts in a tea party-esque quest for economic "freedom."

Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.

"Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy," he promised then. Brownback's tax consultant, the supply-side guru Art Laffer, promised Kansans that the cuts would pay for themselves in supercharged economic growth.

Instead, job growth in Kansas trails the nation. The state's rainy-day fund is dwindling to zero. Month after month, revenue comes in even lower than fiscal officials' most dire expectations.

In the rest of the country, school budgets are finally beginning to recover from the toll of the last recession; in Kansas, they're still falling. Healthcare, assistance for the poor, courts, and other state services are being eviscerated.

Who's benefiting? The rich, including those proud offspring of Wichita, Kan.: the Koch brothers.

Despite all this, Brownback resorted to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago to declare that "the early results are impressive." Among other statistics he cited, "In the past year, a record number of small businesses — more than 15,000 — were formed."

Yes, but as shown by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington economic think tank, 16,000 disappeared. And many of those businesses that Brownback crowed about were surely created to take advantage of one of the tax-cut quirks Brownback enacted. This is the elimination of all taxes on partnerships, sole proprietorships, and LLCs that pass through their tax liabilities to their owners. That allows everyone from freelancers and petty contractors to huge partnerships to avoid any state income tax at all, as long as they're organized as a certain type of "small business."

Brownback's policy, and his claims about its outcome, define the term "ideological" -- the imposition of preconceived notions on a contradictory reality.

The record of Kansas since 2012 shows the folly of such draconian cuts in revenue. It's one thing to enact targeted cuts in tax rates during an economic upswing, when such a policy can add fuel to job generation. It's quite another to do so blindly during a slump, when cuts in state services undermine efforts at recovery.

Brownback's tax policy came right out of the conservative playbook. His 2012 package cut the top two personal income tax rates from 6.45% (on income over $60,000) and 6.25% (on income between $30,000 and $60,000) to 4.9%. The rate on income under $30,000 was pared to 3% from 3.5%. Pass-through business income was made fully tax-exempt. The law increased the standard deduction, but also eliminated several tax credits that assisted the poor....

Continue reading

If Boehner Sues Obama, Only The Courts Win

I agree, this is just a bad idea. Not because politically i'm a Democrat and support our president, but because it would reek all kinds of havoc that would lead to anarchy and a government ruled by activist judges, both conservative and liberal.  


By Jonathan Bernstein
Bloomberg News

The story on House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against President Barack Obama is pretty simple: regardless of whether the administration overstepped, what’s at stake is whether the courts are being empowered at the expense of the elected branches of government.
For starters, there’s zero evidence that Obama has been unusual in his use of executive powers. If he’s overdone it, then all the recent presidents have done so, too. The idea that he’s some sort of tyrant who acts differently than other modern presidents is nonsense.
In fact, It’s perfectly normal for presidents and executive branch departments and agencies to make broad interpretations of law that look a lot like legislating. It’s how the system works, and pretty much how it always worked. Thus Richard Neustadt’s famous claim that the system isn’t “separation of powers,” but separated institutions sharing powers.
Nonetheless, there are rules constraining how laws may be interpreted, and it is possible that in specific instances, the administration may have acted beyond what the law allows.
Indeed, experts have made the case that this kind of overreach occurred with the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act (which, apparently, is going to be central to the House Republicans' lawsuit), though other experts disagree.
In any case, it would be unprecedented, and in fact would constitute a significant change to the constitutional system, if the courts allowed Congress to sue the president over the ACA delay.
The technical issue is “standing.” For the courts to consider a lawsuit, the person or group bringing the suit has to show they were harmed in some direct way. So, for example, in the recent recess appointment case, Noel Canning Corp. was able to show that it had directly been harmed by an action taken by members of the National Labor Relations Board who had been recess-appointed. Generally, the courts have ruled (Vox has a good explainer on this) that Congress isn’t eligible to sue the president just because it doesn't like what he’s done....

Continue reading