The Federal Government Wants Even More of Your Personal Information

The Federal Government Wants Even More of Your Personal Information

Over the last several weeks Congress has been trying to construct a highway spending bill. The House has passed a short-term measure to guarantee continued funding. Meanwhile in the Senate, a different solution is being crafted. Reports indicate that the Senate has found three years of funding. Yesterday’s vote on a six-year bill failed. One of the challenges has been to find so-called “offsets,” that is, paying for additional spending through decreases in spending elsewhere, finding “savings,” or tax increases to cover the additional costs. Appropriately, few are eager to support increased government spending and the accompanying tax increases, so savings has become a top priority. However, not all savings are attractive. An estimated $1.8 billion proposed “pay for” would come from compelling more information from those who claim a mortgage interest tax deduction, the tax deduction that allows taxpayers who own their homes to reduce their taxable income by the amount of interest paid on the loan. The plan, as originally proposed in the House this year (although this same scheme was proposed in the Senate last year), would require those who take the deduction to disclose when the mortgage was made, how much is still owed on the loan and where the property is located. The idea demonstrates what has become the all too predictable one-dimensional thinking in Washington: Any demand on taxpayers is okay in the pursuit of more spending or revenue. The risk here is far greater than the revenue the government might receive–a greater concentration of taxpayers’ personal information (which would attract hackers) in the vulnerable hands of the federal government. The number of...
Grassroot Institute on Overtime Expenditures in Maui Watch

Grassroot Institute on Overtime Expenditures in Maui Watch

Joselyn Olinares, an HPU student and Grassroot Institute intern, recently appeared in Maui Watch with an article about the impact of overtime expenditures. Check out an excerpt of Joselyn’s article below, or click here to read it in full. Overtime Expenditures Out of Taxpayers’ Pockets by Joselyn Olinares Lack of transparency is always a concern in public departments, especially when it can be so tempting for public employees to abuse the system to spike their pensions. One common way public employees increase their pensions is by maximizing overtime. The money spent on overtime expenditures is not “free money”, it comes from somewhere (or rather someone). Any guesses to who that someone is? —-It’s you, the taxpayer. Taxes fund overtime expenditures, and when public departments go over budget, taxes will likely increase to make up the difference. This type of budget over expenditures has been continuing for several fiscal years now. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has uncovered data that seems “expensive” for the taxpayers in Hawaii. The Maui County Police Commission budgeted $4.3 million for overtime in 2012. By the end of fiscal year 2012, the end budget for overtime resulted in $4.5 million. The following fiscal year initially $3.5 million was budgeted for overtime . By the end of fiscal year 2013 the overtime expenditures resulted in $4.6 million. Not just $1.1 million more than originally budgeted but $100,000 more than previous fiscal year. Most recently, the Maui County Police Commission stated that the initial budget for overtime for fiscal year 2014 was $3.9 million, however by the end of the fiscal year the overtime expenditures resulted in $5...
Backsliding on Spending Restraint

Backsliding on Spending Restraint

One of the few bright spots in U.S. domestic policy is that the federal budget deficit is falling. In fact, in 2015, the budget deficit will be the lowest of the Obama years, falling to $468 billion. Compare this low to President Obama’s historic $1.4 trillion budget deficit in 2009. Yes, you read that right—Obama’s 2009 budget deficit was bigger than the entire federal budget had been just 15 years earlier, in the Bill Clinton administration. President Obama’s unprecedented spending binge helped drive spending restraint to the top of the agenda for Republicans and for many independent and previously apolitical Americans, and was one of the factors that led to the eruption of the Tea Party movement. Ultimately, this new concern over out-of-control federal spending led to Republicans reclaiming control of the House and ultimately the Senate. Without the president’s cooperation Republicans weren’t able to repeal Obamacare, but they were able to rein in spending. After fits and starts and threats of government shutdowns, it was clear that Republicans would never agree to continue Obama’s big spending budgets. Ultimately, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which President Obama signed, imposed $1.5 trillion in federal budget cuts over 10 years. If Congress and the president couldn’t agree on how to do so, the cuts would take place automatically, across-the-board, exempting most mandatory social insurance programs. Of course, Congress and the president could not reach agreement, so the infamous “sequester” spending cuts took place automatically. The results of these sequester cuts, far from the sky-is-falling, Chicken Little threats made by big spenders in both Congress and the White House, have been...
Big-Spending Republicans Haven’t Learned Their Lesson Yet

Big-Spending Republicans Haven’t Learned Their Lesson Yet

A member of Congress used to tell audiences after Democrats took control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 and the White House in 2008 that Republicans had finally learned their lesson: They had to live up to the limited-government, anti-big spending promises they always campaigned on but seldom implemented. Maybe Republicans haven’t learned that lesson after all. Several reports claim that a number of Republicans are leading a charge to increase spending above the previously agreed-to levels. The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos writes: “Exhibit one: To boost military funding, House Republicans last month approved a backdoor way to bust through the across-the-board spending curbs known as the sequester that Congress approved in 2011. Many Republicans say the 0.2% increase in military spending allowed under the sequester for the next budget year is insufficient.” And Rachael Bade of Politico reports: “But some rank-and-file Republicans are already expressing interest in a much bigger deal that would adjust those caps, sweep away the still-developing blueprint and ease the budgetary pressure on the Pentagon—and, grudgingly, domestic programs if necessary.” President Obama has indicated he would veto any military spending increase unless he gets an equal increase in programs favored by Democrats. Thus do both political parties feed their particular spending addictions. The political problem for Republicans is that they are the ones who run on fiscal restraint. So when they become the big spenders voters punish them for breaking their campaign promises—as they did in 2006. Yes, we are living in dangerous times, and we want a strong national defense to deal with the international threats and challenges. But why...
The Implications of the Council on Revenues General Fund Forecast: What Happened to the $844m Surplus?

The Implications of the Council on Revenues General Fund Forecast: What Happened to the $844m Surplus?

Note from Grassroot: The solvency of the state is an issue that tends to be ignored despite the fact that it reaches to the heart of our economic future. With an important election coming up in November, the question of how Hawaii will overcome its projected budget shortfall is one that should be of concern to every citizen. Whether the state pursues cuts in spending, higher taxes, or some combination, we will see the effects ripple through our economy like a pebble dropped in a pond. What we cannot do is close our eyes to the problem or hesitate to hold politicians and policy makers to account. Below, Paul Harleman, the Budget Director of the Senate Minority Research Office and a longtime Grassroot Institute contributor, discusses the budget implications of the Council of Revenues forecast and what that may mean for the future of our state. Last Thursday, September 4th, the state Council on Revenues lowered its projections for state general fund revenues for the fifth consecutive time. The council members specifically lowered the revenue projections for fiscal year 2014, which recently ended on June 30th, from -0.4% to -1.8%. This amounts to a loss of $76M in anticipated general fund revenues. To make matters worse, the council also lowered its projections for fiscal year 2015, from 5.5% to 3.5%. These figures amount to an additional $188M in anticipated loss of general fund revenues. According to the council’s projections, over the course of the state’s two-year budget cycle (fiscal years 2014-2015), the state will somehow have to absorb a total loss of $264M of anticipated general fund revenues. The council’s latest...