Friday, February 27, 2009

Working Two Jobs to Make Ends Meet? – Beware of Stimulus “Tax Cuts”

The Internal Revenue Service has recently released the revised tax tables under the Obama Administration’s Stimulus plan. Those who are holding two jobs, (say trying to save some extra money to pay for a mortgage, or other essentials) should be aware that if they receive a reduction of taxes for both positions, they will most likely be “reimbursing the government” for 2009 taxes. It is highly advisable to be certain that should one hold two jobs, or three, given the economy, that they adjust the withholding upward on second and third jobs, in order to avoid paying taxes in 2010. Those have one job only; will see a slight increase in their payroll.

Federal Agency Seeks Increase in Gas Tax – Follows Massachusetts Lead

The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Committee released its assessment of how end users of the U.S. roadways should pay for upkeep. currently, the highways and byways are funded through a Federal Gas Tax, this Commission has decided that an increase in the gas tax of .10 cents per gallon is imperative to continue to keep our roadways sound. Coined “A Blue Ribbon Panel” by the New York Times, the Committee is concerned that, with a shift to more fuel efficient vehicles, the current Federal Tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, will be insufficient to cover costs of maintaining the infrastructure. The Los Angeles Times brought into question the 8 billion dollar bailout of the Transportation Highway Trust Fund last year, apparently due to a decrease in driving over an increase in the price per gallon that was a direct result of the decline in Retail sales that added fuel to the fire of recession. The majority of the stimulus rebate checks of 2008 went directly to pay mounting fuel charges rather than towards the purchase of non-essentials. Further, there is $40 Billion in stimulus that is earmarked for Infrastructure, however, the panel insists that this will only cover three months of funding (perhaps they have a similar payroll to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority).
The solution: some officials within the Obama administration, taking a cue from the “Blue Ribbon Panel” came up with a tax per mile driven, which was quickly rejected by the President. (Who may be watching that nasty Daily Gallop Tracking Poll.)

The tax per mile system is also being considered by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who is trying to meet a bloated Turnpike Authority Payroll and debt incurred for Boston’s Big Dig – Patrick has put that plan on hold, for the moment, instead calling for a .19 cent hike in the current State Gas Tax. Residents of Massachusetts will be the state paying the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Should the Federal Government raise the tax further, it will further erode the “stimulus” tax cuts of $13.00 per week (depending upon whether or not one has a job to drive to and fro). Further, the fact that consumers changed habits in order to conserve gasoline and save a few dollars out of necessity and at the urging of certain candidates during the 2008 presidential campaign marathon, one has to find it ironic that consumers who acted in good faith, are now going to pay through the nose, both at the pump and in the long-run through taxes (someone has to pay for the “stimulus”).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mass Gas Tax Increase to Cover Turnpke Authority Payroll? More Insanity from the Bay State!

Update: There is a bit of a brouhaha this morning over the proposed Massachusetts Gas Tax increase tied to meeting the payroll of those employees of the Turnpike Authority. The Springfield Republican has supplied a list of salaries here showing part-time toll takers making $49,337.00 annually. Over at WHYN AM Talk Radio Springfield an online petition saying "no" to an increase in the State Gas Tax has received over 5,000 signatures thus far. This morning, radio hosts read an email received from a local attorney who was incensed that toll-makers are paid more than college professors (or most people not that well "connected" in the Bay State", and pondered moving (the Massachusetts Exodus just keeps on rolling).

Strongly suggest reviewing Beacon Hills motives for pushing through another tax on the public by 1) checking Turnpike Authority salaries, and b) Signing that petition.

Massachusetts Republicans Protest Gas Tax Increase – Governor Backtracks

Massachusetts Gas Tax Protest - photo Boston Globe

Dissent is has been brewing in the Bluest State over a proposed increase in the Massachusetts State Gas Tax. A rally, organized by Massachusetts Republican Chair, Jennifer Nassour, took place in front of the State House in Boston yesterday. Video clip from New England Cable News Network is shown below. WCBV Boston, ran the story, noting that State Representatives are on the fence – backlash from constituents is growing, and 2010 is right around the corner. The Globe, downplayed the protest, however, and supported the Governor quoting Patrick as: “flexible on the size of the tax hike.” From Western Massachusetts, Representative Wager, of Chicopee told the Globe he is receiving anti-tax messages from his constituents, citing that his office has not received as many calls on any issue in the past 18 years. That said; he is still considering support for the tax.

The proposed increase in the Massachusetts Gas Tax is to cover mounting debt for road repair and salaries. That said, The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is no stranger to scandal (Big Dig, Salaries!), and the Stimulus Bill that was rammed through the Senate should provide Massachusetts with funds for road repair. Further, the Party Faithful are touting the same line: Republican’s were in control; therefore, we have to fix it (see video). Of course, this might fly if the State House had not been controlled by one party over the past several decades, leaving the Governors’ office, the sole Opposition to the excesses of Beacon Hill, an uphill battle that often left Massachusetts Republican Governors’ frustrated. Due to the fact that the “Yes we Can” (increase your taxes, spend until we drop) Duval Patrick has been in that office since 2006, with a likeminded legislature, the idea that the populace will buy into that line is growing increasingly unlikely. Protests are what is needed, and a hearty thank you to Jennifer Nassour, for working for the people of Massachusetts; party politics aside, Republicans, Democrats and Independents all suffer in the Bay State, and she is giving a voice to every resident. Should this continue, regardless of how Beacon Hill and the Globe play it, if the pressure stays on, the proposed gas tax may end up being just that: proposed, not enacted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Selling An Increase in The Massachusetts Gas Tax Unlikely

Former Mass. Gov. Dukakis, also raised the state Gas Tax - photo: Blog.wire

James Aloisi, Massachusetts Transportation Secretary, attempted to assuage the residents of Western Massachusetts by insisting a 19 cent per gallon increase in the state’s Gas Tax would benefit the region. In an article in the Springfield Republican, Aloisi noted that the tax would be spread “evenly” across all regions, and that those opposing the tax increase should take a harder look, because “A state divided against itself cannot survive” – and there is division on this issue, between the electorate and those on Beacon Hill. State legislators in Western Massachusetts are receiving calls and emails saying “No” to any increase :

Sen. Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham, said she received almost 100 calls and e-mails from people opposing an increase in the gasoline tax of any amount. As of now, she said, she cannot back any increase.

"My district is asking me overwhelmingly to not support even one penny of a gas tax increase," she said.

Additionally, the angst is not restricted to Western Massachusetts, Lawmakers on the east coast are also questioning Patrick’s latest plan. State Senator Susan Fargo (D)is concerned that the tax would create an added burden on the people, and is unlikely to support any increase.

Apparently, this is not merely a state divided, rather a party divided. The backlash against Gov. Duval Patrick’s administration is growing and party faithful, aware that the majority of the state’s electorate is registered as “unenrolled” (no party affiliation),that they stand in danger of losing should the “Democrat Brand” be further tarnished in what has become known as “The People’s Republic of Massachusetts”. From newspaper internet forums, rumors regarding party opposition to the Governor have surfaced, noting that Tim Cahill, the State Treasurer, and Lt. Governor Tim Murry may seek the corner office in an effort to save Party face. Apparently, Murray’s fundraising has increased, giving rise to speculation that he will seek the Governor’s office.

The Governor will face opposition in 2010 from the Massachusetts GOP; several potential candidates have been mentioned including the very popular State Senator, Scott Brown, among others. Should the GOP fully fund this race (among other state races), the face of Massachusetts politics may change. Regardless of party, the message is clear, Massachusetts residents are no longer co placement when it comes to additional tax burdens, and “throw the bum out”, has become a mantra of sorts. The question remains, will the state electorate react the same way the national electorate did in 2008 – pushing any GOP contender or incumbent aside in the name of “Change”. As the Presidents Polls continue to decline having fallen below 60% in less than two months into office (Gallop Daily Tracking - note taken directly before Obama's Address to the Nation), will the dissatisfaction of increased debt and taxation, instead of “middle class tax cuts” (also promised by Patrick), cause these numbers to fall further? Massachusetts may very well be the state to watch in 2010.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Time for a Massachusetts Tea Party - Jennifer Nassour Plans Rally

Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, is pushing hard for an increase in the Massachusetts State Gas Tax, to the highest level in the nation. Massachusetts, already burned by deficits on all fronts, including the deficit ridden State Mandated Health Care Program (“taxes” individuals who earn too much annually to qualify for the States Commonwealth care, should they not be able to afford private insurance), a decrease in the tax base (Massachusetts is losing population to neighboring states), a loss of businesses (Massachusetts has the 4th highest tax rate – globally), can hardly afford to burden the few taxpayers left with any additional “taxes or fees”. The premise for increasing the tax is, of course, the need to repair and reform the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and its pet project known as the “Big Dig”.

The proposed increase, of .19 a gallon, or, is seen by the Governor as a necessary evil, and those that don’t agree with his assessment, are merely being immature (the Massachusetts electorate). Apparently, the Governor did not count on the electorate to balk against yet another tax – also apparent he does not spend much time in the Western end of the State.

Patrick announced that Massachusetts will receive approximately 9 billion in in Stimulus (taxpayer funded) aid, however, that amount is not enough, according to the Governor, to stop the bleeding. Therefore, residents of the State can be assured of more tax (or fees) in the future.

Is anyone speaking out for the Taxpayer? Absolutely, Jennifer Nassour, newly elected Chair of the Massachusetts G.O.P., has been on the stump for the taxpayer from the moment she took the office. In a recent article from Wicked Local, Nassour spoke out for the people:

“When tolls go up, the blame will rest squarely on the Patrick Administration for squandering two years and waiting until the 11th hour to propose a flawed transportation plan,” Nassour said. “A gas tax increase should be off the table, and the Democrats should get serious about passing real reforms. Massachusetts families should not be asked to pay the highest gas tax in the nation in order to keep feeding the gluttonous appetite of state government.”

Understanding that the rise in the gas tax will impact the citizens, as well as industry in the state, from the auto industry, to the independent trucker, Nassour has planned a rally this Wednesday, the 25th, to protest the Governor’s proposal. The rally, to take place in front of the State House on Beacon Street in Boston at 7:30 in the morning, has generated more than a little interest on the social networking site, Face Book. The Governor can also anticipate resistance to this proposal from the Repblicans in the StateHouse. It is about time that the residents of the Bluest State, had advocates for those working families stuck between a rock, and the Governor’s office.

Monday, February 23, 2009

President Obama and The President Carter Effect - Deja Vu

In regards to the current economic crisis, first and foremost, lest we forget, history has a way of repeating itself, second – if one has lived through the 1970’s, one is sure to be currently experiencing déjà vu. The fear and drumbeat of the media, from the current issue of Harper’s Bazaar, which features articles such as “Cost Per Wear”, a piece on shopping for high end clothing and accessories, one cannot currently afford, as an “investment”, to the constant drumbeat of economic experts on every news outlet crying “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression!”, has most American’s in a state of anxiety over the future. A look at the past, however, and a calculator (to adjust for inflation), will go a long way towards assuaging fears, and allowing one to understand that the nation has been here before, gotten through it, and basically, with a lot of discomfort, came out just fine.

In the last term of his Presidency, Jimmy Carter’s budget was 739.3 billion dollars ; using the historical data to adjust for inflation, that figure (at a 95% increase since 1982), represents over 1.4 trillion dollars. President Carter also experienced a deficit,
The Carter deficit was caused by a somewhat bloated budget (i.e. “stimulus), which led to an increase in taxes, specifically a 50 cent per gallon hike in the fuel tax and higher taxes for corporations (making Wall Street nervous).

There were cuts in the budget, of course, specifically the military.
The nation experienced a steep rise in unemployment, as well as a housing/savings and loan bailout that allowed for a 10 billion dollar “fund” for Savings and Loans (banks), to invest in older neighborhoods.
In addition, we've bailed out Detroit before - under Carter, with with
Chrysler receiving 1 billion dollars in U.S. back loans.

Obviously, some of Carter’s programs did not turn out as expected; that said, the media at the time, did not push headlines at the populace which screamed “Great Depression”, nor did the President, which may have led to a feeling of “safety” and hope for those who took the bus to stand in the unemployment lines for hours on end. (Just a note, many of those who were working were on that same bus, due to the high 26% interest rates on used cars, and the lack of available credit.)

Therefore, one has to understand that the President (Obama) is in a situation that is, indeed, strained, and he is working with a Congress that is of like mind. Additionally, like Carter, he lacked experience coming into the position, so one would think that those who voted for Obama would allow for a period of adjustment. Herein lies the difference between 1979-1980 and 2009 – impatience and a lack of historical reference (Social Studies taught in lieu of History for the past 30 years is part of the problem); individuals expect hope and change to be immediate, and the “masses” are not seeing much hope, or for that matter the “change ($)” that were expected. The leap to judgment, without the knowledge that we’ve been here before, is causing a backlash of finger pointing, that has accelerated a decline in approval ratings (those pesky polls, and without George Bush to blame (and it goes without saying, the former President will be brought into conversation), the judgment will be upon the current administration. Fair, hardly, however, one must understand that without knowledge of governing coupled with a lack of historical reference, the reaction (to the economic crisis) is what should be expected.

A note from Massachusetts: Due to the Financial Crisis and the cost of administering the state MCAS, students in the state of Massachusetts will not be tested on History.

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