2019 Legislative Lesson: Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Swamp Consolidates Stranglehold On Utah

The general session of the Utah legislature ended on Thursday and it was a major win for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the elite swamp.

Let’s start with some temporary good news. Outcry stopped, for now, the Chamber’s HB441 tax reform which would have further socialized costs and privatized profits. Again, this is temporary as the legislature is planning a special session to address tax reform. I expect they will basically run HB441 with a bit more lipstick and stick residents with a larger portion of government/infrastructure cost while minimizing big businesses’ contribution (businesses represented by the Chamber), thus maximizing their profits.

Teachers were also unhappy with HB441 and should be reminded that it was the Chamber’s past president, Lane Beattie, who screwed up school funding in the first place. Senator Howard Stephenson also picked up on this as well on his March 9th radio show where he called out those behind this mess.

Stephenson: I believe they created a crisis to then have a solution that was basically cooked up behind closed doors and sprung on the legislature with only two weeks left in the legislature.
Dougall: So when you say “they”, you don’t mean the legislature created the crisis, others created the crisis was responding to…
Stephenson: Well we know who was involved in it: The Salt Lake Chamber, the Kem Gardner Institute and Natalie Gochnour, and the uh Representative Quinn and some others, who, nobody really knows who was part of this brain trust and when they were meeting or anything…

Next, the Chamber and politicians made another big step in pulling political power from citizens and into the hands of political power brokers and political elites (“the swamp”). HB119 modifies the rules on citizen intiatives/referendum to greatly increase the logistics (and cost) by carving cities up into separate districts and requiring signatures come from 75% of those districts along with having to hold town hall meetings. The bill also lets cities spend money to fight such initiatives (thus, they get to use citizens’ tax money to fight citizen initiatives). The bill was sponsored by none other than Brad Daw and chief Utah swamp creature (imported from Chicago), Curt Bramble. This junk comes on the heels of SB54 which shifted candidate selection from the neighborhood caucus (advantageous to citizens) to big money political campaigns and lobbyists/consultants. SB54 also resulted in candidates being selected with less than a majority. Somewhere, Kurt Jowers, his Alta Club posse and his “California friend” are smiling…

The Chamber and Legislature (BIRM) also pushed more high density housing onto local cities. This will make the Chamber’s developers very happy and will not help housing affordability – likely the opposite (note: read the op-ed but then read the author’s (Justin S) comments in the comment section, they are key). The Chamber is also behind the propaganda ads on this issue and note that the Chamber cites the Kem Gardner Institute in the article (you’ll never guess who sits on the board of the Kem Gardner Center…).

More cronyism is glaringly obvious with HB290 where the legislature decided to dish out your sensitive personal information (including SSN, mother’s maiden name, place and date of birth, physical characteristics, medical information, etc.) to the University of Utah (UofU) for their health and epidemiology studies. As I said when I highlighted this abuse of power:

I’ve been part of medical studies but voluntarily participated. The UofU is no better than any other university or other medical research group when it comes to this. They should adhere to the same standards as the rest. They should be ashamed for engaging in political cronyism and trying to get this type of preferential treatment to take our driver license information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Our so-called elites continue their path of power consolidation and legal plunder. Unfortunately, we’ll be left holding the consequences these ignorant elites foist upon us.

Addendum: the Chamber also had limited success with their support of the irrigation water metering bill. They used the guise of water conservation for this bill but it was bunk – water operators stated it was easy to conserve water by simply limiting irrigation to certain days (turning of the system on ‘non-water’ days) etc. What they had attempted (pushing expensive water meters onto everyone) was likely to result in cheaper, smaller water operators being forced out and effectively creating water monopolies and to favor developers. That danger still exists and there’s a question if Utah’s aquifers will be harmed (irrigation water significantly replenishes the aquifer).

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HB290 (2019): Utah Legislature To Expose Your Sensitive Personal Information, Force You To Participate In UofU Medical Studies

Representative Lee Perry, a law enforcement officer ought to know better but I guess he doesn’t care. He’s sponsored a bill that exposes your sensitive personal information and gives it out to medical studies without your consent.

Perry is sponsoring HB290. The third substitute which already passed the House and is now in the State Senate (sponsored by Lyle Hillyard). It gives out your personal information found in Driver’s License records which includes social security number. This also includes your children if they have their license. Here’s where they do it in the bill under a section on who can access driver license personal identifying information:

(v) to the University of Utah for data collection in relation to genetic and epidemiologic research; or
(vi) to a government entity, including any court or law enforcement agency, to fulfill the government entity’s functions, or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfil the government entity’s functions, if the division determines disclosure of the information is in the interest of public safety.

First, the University of Utah really refers to the Huntsman Cancer Institute but the wording certainly doesn’t limit disclosure to Huntsman, the information will go to the entire university as long as they’re conducting an epidemiological study. The UofU and Huntsman do important research but so do plenty of other universities as well as private research outfits. However, they have absolutely no right to take and use anyone’s personal information without getting their permission first.

I’ve been part of medical studies but voluntarily participated. The UofU is no better than any other university or other medical research group when it comes to this. They should adhere to the same standards as the rest. They should be ashamed for engaging in political cronyism and trying to get this type of preferential treatment to take our information without asking. It’s another example of Bastiat’s “legal plunder”.

Second, the “or to a private person acting on behalf of a government entity to fulfill the government entity’s functions” is extremely vague. Any government ‘entity’ or contractor can get extremely sensitive personal information. The bill doesn’t restrict the disclosure to those directly related to public safety and licensing nor limit what it discloses to the scope of their needs/program. There is also no prohibition on thereafter selling or sharing the information with another person/company. Thus, they will spread your information all over the place to who knows how many databases, computers and thumb drives. This greatly increases your exposure to identity theft.

Contact your Senator and ask them to oppose this bill. It is disrespectful to Utah residents and their youth drivers as well. It is simply unacceptable.

 

Socialist Capitalism and Utah’s HB441 Tax Reform

As you may have heard, the Utah House of Representatives rushed out a sweeping tax bill (HB 441) that was developed behind closed doors and slammed it through its first committee hearing. It is unlikely that the bill will be able to be thoroughly vetted as the session is coming to an end.

I’m trying to get time to fully delve into the 260 page, 8,023 line bill but probably just won’t be able to before the legislature votes (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce running things up there, it will likely pass). However, even if this bill were good, I would oppose it because it is something that should’ve been developed in the open and given plenty of time to be reviewed and tweaked if/when unintended consequences etc. are found. The last minute, behind-closed-doors nature of this bill is a non starter. They can hold it and deal with it via interim committees until the next session.

I’m sure they’ll squawk about the bill fixing the penalty they knowingly applied to Utah’s families last session but that is something they could fix with a small bill rather than using it as a fig leaf to try to ram sweeping legislation through that hasn’t been publicly vetted. Don’t fall for this snake oil salesman line if they trot it out.

In terms of the bill itself, here’s what I understand so far:

  • It will reduce taxes some companies pay to avoid multiple taxation. For example, I buy raw material and pay sales tax, then sell my product to another company and charge them tax, they make something else with my product and charge the next producer tax and so on until the consumer finally pays the last sales tax.Sounds fair, right? On the face yes, that would be good BUT it depends on how that’s implemented and from what I can tell, it’s implemented very poorly and only benefits the crony capitalists while leaving small businesses unprotected. More on that in a moment.
  • Lowers the corporate income tax rate to 4.75%
  • It will “fix” the increased tax penalty on Utah families. Again, that can easily be done with a small, self-standing bill (see above).
  • It will increase the sales tax on everyone by taxing services although we are told that the drop in the sales tax rate and income tax rates will be revenue neutral (at least for the next 15 minutes or so).

The first bullet point notes cleaning up the multiple layers of tax placed on an item before it get’s to the consumer. They botched it and probably intentionally at the behest of the Salt Lake Chamber of Crony Capitalists. They have it set up so that Utah taxpayers subsidize certain politically-connected businesses.

First, it will reduce the cost of a product (no tax built into the cost) by passing that cost to consumers who buy the product. That’s totally fine if the product/material is bought by a Utah consumer. However, if the product is shipped out of state to California, Mexico, Europe or Asia etc., then those purchasing consumers or businesses don’t pay the tax while Utah consumers do.

For example:

Acme Beauty in Utah produces for nail clear coat and charges $10/gallon (price includes corporate tax costs). I buy it in Utah and I have to pay about $10.70 (paying both the reduced corporate tax portion and sales tax). Meanwhile, if I buy it in France, I pay $10 and have only paid the reduced corporate tax in the product. Thus, the business reaps the profit while Utahns shoulder a large part of  taxes that paid for the infrastructure, environmental, educational etc. ‘overhead’ costs that made it possible for the company to ship the product and have employees here. Folks in France only paid the reduced corporate tax portion and transferred the rest of overhead costs incurred by the state to taxpayers.

Furthermore, if you are a business offering a service you are still hit with multiple layers of taxation. Using the above example, if I run a nail salon and buy the clear coat, I pay $10.70/gallon and incorporate that in my cost of my manicure service ($5/nail). With new tax on services, I must then charge sales tax raising the price to about $5.35/nail. I have thus double collected tax on the final cost a Utah resident pays (once for the clear coat and then for the service).

Ultimately, the way the tax reform appears to be set up is designed to socialize the costs while privatizing the profits. Utah consumers pay much more into the overhead when certain privileged businesses reduce their tax burdens and reap additional profits from lower costs. On top of that, nonresidents reap the benefits of purchasing goods that were exempt from sales taxes on their inputs.

This whole things sure sounds like ‘socialist capitalism’ to me.

The tax scheme appears to benefit big business (which is more likely to produce materials and do business outside of Utah) and disproportionately impact small business (such as mom & pop services within the state) and Utah taxpayers. This type of scheme is right in line with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce which has a history of looking for ways to push costs onto others and spinning it like they care about the particular vehicle they’ve decided to employ in that endeavor.

I suppose the legislature could remedy this by requiring a tax be paid on items purchased by nonresident addresses but that too would need to be studied and there isn’t enough time for it. The more I type and think about this, the more it really sounds like another Chamber of Commerce crony capitalist gambit to slam something through before anyone can figure out the full effects.

Further reading: The Salt Lake Chamber also  directly supports Medicaid expansion as well as indirectly through the United Way. The Chamber likes expansion as it pushes healthcare costs from business onto taxpayers. Click the link and look at the sections on the “Health Systems Tax Force” and the United Way. UPDATE: Speaking of Medicaid expansion, I forgot to mention that it is funded with a sales tax increase. That is how the Chamber made sure they would push the cost onto residents and, by running through this tax reform bill, they further shift the cost onto residents as they further reduce their remaining exposure to sales tax.

End Exploitation: Illegal Immigration, Tax Credits, ID Theft, And The Border Crisis

I was tipped off to a 2015 KSL article in the comments (thanks Jen). The report is super as it has several illustrations for today: Republicans say Obama giving immigrants ‘amnesty bonuses’

Armed with new Social Security numbers, many of these immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally will now be able to claim up to four years’ worth of tax credits designed to benefit the working poor. For big families, that’s a maximum of nearly $24,000, as long as they can document their earnings during those years.

Obama has issued executive orders shielding about 4 million immigrants from deportation. Some were brought to the U.S. as children; others are parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents.

They’re referring to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It’s something that should sound familiar if you’ve read this blog. It involves illegal aliens not only engaging in identity fraud but tax fraud as well and the IRS basically doesn’t care. To catch up, read the posts on WTHR’s Bob Segall’s outstanding investigative reporting on this issue. Better yet, check out all his reports from the source: WTHR Tax loophole investigation.

Based on the above, it may be possible for one of the illegal aliens who used a fake ID to ‘game the system’ and get a huge EITC for ineligible family members to turn around and file again (thanks to Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty) but under the new social security number they were assigned. Thus, they could double their take of taxpayer funds.

One means that this may be prevented is if the IRS flags their earnings documentation as having already been reported under a different SSN but, given Segall’s findings, that appears unlikely.

Then there’s the identity theft aspect that goes hand-in-hand with illegal immigration:

How does Social Security know when it receives taxes from immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally? There is no foolproof method, Goss said. One way is by tracking reported wages in which the Social Security number does not match the name the agency has on file.

Some of these are clerical errors or unreported name changes, But Goss estimates that a majority of these wages come from immigrants who have made up Social Security numbers or used someone else’s.

The numbers are huge.

It’s well known and well documented that illegal aliens engage in identity theft (along with credit fraud and medical ID theft) and leave plenty of innocent victims in their wake (besides those murdered, drunk/other vehicular deaths, and sexual assault and decades long humanitarian/drug border crisis). Amnesty, HB116 and/or cheap labor proponents like the media, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints prefer to ignore it and hope no one notices the one-sided compassion for the perpetrators and blind eye to victims. But so does the Federal Government.

The IRS upper echelon obviously doesn’t care. Even before Obama’s amnesty, Segall found frustrated IRS officials upset at the abuse and blind eye to the identity theft. The Treasury Inspector General wasn’t happy either. With Obama’s amnesty, the “supporting documentation” they provide will clearly, again, indicate earnings via a fraudulent social security number. Fortunately, you can count of IRS chief, Koskinen, to thumb his nose at victims, citizens/legal immigrants, IRS workers and the IG.

The IRS accepts these tax returns without reporting the taxpayers to immigration authorities, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. That encourages the workers to pay taxes.

“We don’t enforce the Social Security laws, we don’t enforce the immigration laws,” Koskinen said of his agency. “In fact, the reason illegal immigrants file taxes with us is they know we aren’t sharing that data with anybody. We treat it as taxpayer-protected information.”

The IRS was supposed to finally take action with a rule change but I have no idea if it was ever implemented (Segall’s investigation ends there).

Finally, the article ends with a line that unwittingly exposes and condemns the Chamber of Commerce:

“Let’s not forget that these workers receive the lowest wages for what they contribute to their communities and local economies,” said Ellen Sittenfeld Battistelli, policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center. “What do we as a nation gain by further impoverishing them?”

This is an admission that points that illegal aliens are getting paid below market rates (thereby likely artificially depressing wages and innovation) and underpaid employees are dependent on these credits. Unscrupulous employers (and the Chamber of Crony Capitalists) are quite happy to have taxpayers subsidize their lust for cheap labor.

This exploitation of various victims needs to end. The wall must be built and it is essential that E-Verify be implemented to turn off the magnet and perverse incentive to hire underpaid, illegal labor for competitive advantage.

Utah’s Ignorant Ivory Tower Bubble Class And A French Warning

The Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) recently reported on a meeting that included a discussion with the Governor about the state legislature forcing cities to accommodate high density housing. The ULCT understood Governor Herbert was supportive of the developers position and expected he ULCT to go along with their decision. The ULCT was made aware that they will get no where with the Governor if they bad mouth developers.

To sum: residents will just have to deal with it. I expect nothing less from Governor “Available Jones” and his Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce cohorts.

I guess you can add this to the list of other crap our local ignorant ‘elites’ have dumped on us because they know what’s best for the little people. Many are the same people who blather on about federalism, states’ rights, and that decisions should be made locally. Funny how they forget all about it in their own backyard. No, now centralized planning is A-OK. Besides, they live in areas that won’t have to deal with the congested housing fallout.

Of course, the ULCT isn’t going to fight or do anything about it. Regrettably, the ULCT is intimidated by the Governor and Legislature and won’t stand up for the interests of their citizens who have reservations about high density housing. They generally serve the same interests as the Governor and have shown, time and again, that they prefer to lobby for tax increases and certainly don’t represent taxpayers nor residents. Unfortunately, taxpayers pay almost $2 million/year to fund the useless ULCT to…lobby for more tax increases.

I’m left to wonder where the breaking point will be as the not-so-smart bubble dwelling ‘elites’ keep coming up with burdensome schemes that fail and then pop out their next great idea will fix the last (while neglecting to disclose why a ‘fix’ is needed, of course).

If you look around, you realize that virtually the same people run and/or are on the boards of all the major policy-oriented organizations (e.g. the Utah Foundation) that Gov. Herbert and the media refer to as the “authority” for what the state needs. It’s a monolithic echo chamber where the same elites with virtually the same background group-think their way into new policy recommendations. Recommendations which don’t substantially affect them but do adversely impact the rest of us and they simply don’t realize it in their bubble.

These are the folks that still can’t grasp why Trump is in office and think he simply came out of nowhere. A fluke. A total shock and surprise that they still can’t and won’t accept. They are cloistered in their board meetings, think tanks, and summits and simply miss what is going on the ground outside their clique. If you want to get a feel for the late stage of this process, look at what is going on in France right now with the “Gilet Jaunes”:

France: Understanding the Gilets Jaunes Uprising.

Normally, I include a quote from a linked article. Not this time – read the whole thing (it’s not long) and pay close attention to the “Arrogance & Ignorance : A Toxic Mix” and “Those Who Forget History, Are Condemned to Repeat It” sections. It is a warning I hope they notice and one we should apply to our own lives.

Utah’s Uber Rich Slapping More Burdens On The Great Unwashed

Dave Bateman sums it up well.

Gail Miller received a $22.7M tax credit for her Vivint Arena renovation, much of which would have gone to fund Utah schools. She then took $250K of that to fund the “Our Schools Now” ballot initiative, transferring the cost of school funding to the poorest among us through a gasoline tax. Utah’s uber rich are using ballot initiatives to increase their wealth at the expense of Utah citizens

After the OurSchoolsNow bomb, and the coming Medicaid expansion fiasco Bateman mentions, now the Salt Lake Chamber (of crony capitalists) has their point man Governor Gary “Available Jones” Herbert out touting that he needs to raise the food tax: Gov. Herbert’s office prepares plan to expand sales tax and increase the tax on food:

Gov. Gary Herbert’s office is readying a proposal to expand Utah’s sales tax — potentially to increase the rate on food purchases and to tap into a ballooning service economy.

I’ll let you figure out who is proportionally hardest hit by this tax increase.

Same Gamble: Our Schools Now Proposition 1 And The Mega Millions Lottery

Tomorrow we vote on Questions 1 promote by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s front group “Our Schools Now”. The initiative will raise the fuel tax which will ripple through the economy (e.g. fuel costs impact the cost of food at the grocery store).

Besides being a bad idea to begin with, especially with the fiscal shell game the Chamber and their political pals plan to use, take a read of this article:

The Mega Millions jackpot (and why you are not being told the truth)

In the middle of the 20th century, when lotteries first started in the U.S., they were sold to states as a way to benefit the American public by providing additional funding for education.

This means that as the jackpots get bigger and people spend more money on lotteries – $223 per year by the average American, in fact – there should be more money in state budgets to spend on education.

But that isn’t happening.

Most state legislatures haven’t been using the lottery money for additional education funding. Instead, they’re using it to fund the basic education budget, and using the money that would normally fund education on other things altogether. As a result, public schools rarely get a budget boost.

With the Chamber’s involvement, I would expect the same here but rather than using lottery money for their shell game, they’ll use the gas tax to fund their other pet projects.

Really, it will be a double shell game: The tax is already a shell game as they use the gas tax money to fund other stuff so they free up money for education but I’m counting on them eventually turning around and using the freed up money for their pet projects instead of education.

Again, please look at my prior post on Question 1 and the prior political game with education money lead to this situation. Don’t fall for the shell game. Like the lottery, it’s a losing gamble but worse – this time you’re gambling with someone else’s money under government force.

Finally, an acquaintance passed an email on to me that also hits the issue:

Please see the attached link of the legislature when they were in the process of passing the “non-binding questions 1” that is on the ballot.

It shows how many of the legislators hold us, the tax paying voters.

http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=22914&meta_id=846895

Please consider how wise it would be to vote for a lifelong gas tax that cannot go directly to schools, it must be gerrymandered to go to education. Future legislatures cannot be held to switch funds around and every legislator I have talked to say it will only be for 1 or 2 years, but we will pay the tax increase for our lifetimes.

Please use wisdom in voting as we all have to live with the consequences.

The same advice should be applied regarding Proposition 3 (Obamacare-lite Medicaid expansion). Proposition 4 should also be opposed (I have no interest in unelected bureaucrats drawing up/manipulating election lines, it’s ripe for corruption; people doing this should be directly responsible to voters).