Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A note from a friend




As one of my favorite people, Rosanne Roseannadanna, often said, “It just goes to show ya, it’s always something!”  I don’t think she realized at the time that truer words were never spoken.  Every day it’s something.  I wish I could say it was something good.  It’s gotten to the point where every turn in the road leads to lies and deceit.  Are you uneasy with the state of our country?  I’m filled with disbelief that we Americans have allowed a small percentage of bureaucrats, protestors, activists, racists and political hacks to shove their agendas down our throats.
What is going on?  Are we afraid of these people?  Do we not care anymore what happens to our country?  Has eliminating God from all things important to us made our lives better?  Hello!  Is no one listening?  Take a look around you; the VA now has to cover religious statues etc. so as not to offend those who are not Christians.  In Texas, a mayor now wants to see all sermons by pastors to be sure they are not offensive to those who do not believe the words of the Bible.  There are even those who are pressing for the phrase “Under God” in our Pledge of Alliance to be replaced by “Under Allah”. 
Our present administration has had one scandal after another and yet we sit idly by and allow these crooked politicians to continue on their merry way; after all, we’re nothing but a bunch of dumb hicks who don’t care about much except free contraceptives and recreational marijuana.  Nixon was impeached for a lot less than any of these government atrocities.  It’s time to clean out the House and the Senate.  Get rid of every last one of those self-serving politicians.  None deserve to keep their seats and I’m tired of listening to their party line blathering.  I firmly believe most of us want what’s best for our country but that takes hard work and perseverance and we’ve become a nation of lazy and complacent do-nothings. 
We are now saddled with the Ebola virus and a lot of finger pointing as to who caused it.  Democrats say it’s the Republicans; Republicans say it’s the Democrats.  I say it’s OUR fault.  We have allowed our government to strip medical research funding for life threatening diseases without batting an eye.  What do we give our tax dollars to?  How about “determining if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior;” or the “National Institute of Health spending our hard earned money to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa”.  Or here’s a real pressing issue, “funds to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly”.  We allow our politicians to tell us that they have cut spending as much as they could; those darn superfluous programs like medical research.  President Obama continues to calm the hysteria over an Ebola outbreak by assuring us (wink, wink) that all is under control and we need not worry. 
For goodness sake, people, WAKE UP!  Is anybody home?  We’ve got mid-term elections coming up and unless we begin to voice our discontent in the voting booth, we’re going to be in for a lot worse than we’ve already encountered.  You’re right, Roseanne Roseannadanna; “It just goes to show ya, it’s always something!”
Diane L. Schabo
511 West F Street

Iron Mountain, MI  49801`

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

I'm Convinced NO on Proposal 1

I have read the Policy Brief put out by the Mackinac Center, the Citizen Research Center Report and reread SB 821 and I am still more convinced than ever that this is bad for individual taxpayers.
From the Mackinac Policy Brief:
"The Use tax is similar to a sales tax — both are assessed on the price of a purchased product. The difference is that a sales tax is levied on the sellers of goods and services, whereas a Use tax is levied on the
user of a good or service. Some items that are subject
to Michigan’s Use tax include vehicles, boats,
snowmobiles and aircraft, in addition to goods
purchased over the Internet or via catalog."
This means they can come after you instead of the business.
There is also a description of the duties of the Authority responsibilities in SB 821 I think you should read. Just ask and I will send you the bill. Believe me when I say I am not anti business. But, if they are going to do this they should do it right.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Proposal 1 August 5, Primary



Wayne County Taxpayers Association Position Paper

Proposal 1
APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL OF AMENDATORY ACT TO REDUCE STATE USE TAX AND REPLACE WITH A LOCAL COMMUNITY STABILIZATION SHARE TO MODERNIZE THE TAX SYSTEM TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES GROW AND CREATE JOBS
The amendatory act adopted by the Legislature would:
1. Reduce the state use tax and replace with a local community stabilization share of the tax for the purpose of modernizing the tax system to help small businesses grow and create jobs in Michigan.
2. Require Local Community Stabilization Authority to provide revenue to local governments dedicated for  local purposes, including police safety, fire protection, and ambulance emergency services.
3. Increase portion of state use tax dedicated for aid to local school districts.
4. Prohibit Authority from increasing taxes.
5. Prohibit total use tax rate from exceeding existing constitutional 6% limitation. Should this law be approved?
************(*
I want to state that the Personal Property Tax is a horrible tax and a burden to business and employment. If I were to say to the average taxpayer that their stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer and any other appliance or furniture were all subject to personal property tax for 10 years after purchase with a reduction each year for depreciation, we would have a revolt.
Anyone wishing to understand how the tax works and its effects can go to Personal Property Tax Reform in Michigan The Fiscal and Economic Impact of SB 1065-SB 1072, Anderson EconomicGroup  http://www.andersoneconomicgroup.com/SearchAEG/tabid/59/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/8021/Personal-Property-Tax-Reform-in-Michigan-The-Fiscal-and-Economic-Impact-of-SB-1065SB-1072.aspx or the Citizen Research Council at  https://crcmich.org/TaxOutline/index.html
This is not just an elimination of the Personal Property Tax for some small businesses. It is about much more.  It is my estimation that it was not necessary to place anything on the ballot to allow the reduction of that tax. Everything they needed is presently included in the State Constitution as defined in the Headlee Amendment.
Article IX  Michigan Constitution
§ 25 Voter approval of increased local taxes; prohibitions; emergency conditions;
repayment of bonded indebtedness guaranteed; implementation of section.
Sec. 25. Property taxes and other local taxes and state taxation and spending may not be increased above the limitations specified herein without direct voter approval. The state is prohibited from requiring any new or expanded activities by local governments without full state financing, from reducing the proportion of state spending in the form of aid to local governments, or from shifting the tax burden to local government. A provision for emergency
conditions is established and the repayment of voter approved bonded indebtedness is guaranteed.
Implementation of this section is specified in Sections 26 through 34, inclusive, of this Article.

§ 26 Limitation on taxes; revenue limit; refunding or transferring excess revenues;
exceptions to revenue limitation; adjustment of state revenue and spending limits.
Sec. 26. There is hereby established a limit on the total amount of taxes which may be
imposed by the legislature in any fiscal year on the taxpayers of this state. This limit shall not
be changed without approval of the majority of the qualified electors voting thereon, as
provided for in Article 12 of the Constitutio n……. If responsibility for funding a program or programs is transferred from one level of government to another, as a consequence of constitutional amendment, the state revenue and spending limits may be adjusted to accommodate such change, provided that the total revenue authorized for
collection by both state and local governments does not exceed that amount which would have
been authorized without such change.


§ 29 State financing of activities or services required of local government by state
law.
Sec. 29. The state is hereby prohibited from reducing the state financed proportion of the
necessary costs of any existing activity or service required of units of Local Government by
state law. A new activity or service or an increase in the level of any activity or service beyond
that required by existing law shall not be required by the legislature or any state agency of
units of Local Government, unless a state appropriation is made and disbursed of Local Government for any necessary increased costs. The provision of this section shall not apply to costs incurred pursuant to Article VI, Section 18 to pay the unit. 

There are 10 Senate Bills connected to this proposal. Nowhere in the ballot language is a Personal Property Tax mentioned specifically. The bills range from SB821 through SB830. For brevity and simplification I will address SB822 which must be passed for most of the others to take effect.
 .

We start our problem with the establishment of yet another Authority which would be granted enormous power. Since this new Authority would not be elected by the voters, there would be no true accountability but they would have the responsibility of handling a huge amount of our money.   
“BEGINNING ON OCTOBER 1, 2015, THE SPECIFIC TAX LEVIED UNDER SUBSECTION (1) INCLUDES BOTH A STATE SHARE TAX LEVIED BY THIS STATE AND A LOCAL COMMUNITY STABILIZATION SHARE TAX AUTHORIZED BY THE AMENDATORY ACT THAT ADDED SECTION 2C AND LEVIED BY THE
AUTHORITY, WHICH REPLACES THE REDUCED STATE SHARE AT THE FOLLOWING RATES IN EACH OF THE FOLLOWING STATE FISCAL YEARS”

Legislation then goes on to define the state’s portion of “THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
STABILIZATION SHARE TAX RATE TO BE LEVIED BY THE AUTHORITY IS THAT RATE CALCULATED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY ON BEHALF OF THE
AUTHORITY… THE STATE SHARE TAX RATE IS THAT RATE DETERMINED BY SUBTRACTING THE LOCAL COMMUNITY STABILIZATION SHARE TAX RATE FROM 6%.”

The state then declares the revenue portion from 2015-2016 through 2029 without knowing the accuracy of the amount listed. They will also be committing future legislatures to a dollar amount.
This Authority would be granted an enormous responsibility. That cannot be good for taxpayers.  The line in the proposal that limits the used/sales tax to 6% does not address the expansion of the sales tax to, for example, internet purchases or fines or penalties for failure to comply. It does not address other things that they may choose to include as taxable by the sales tax which they seem to think they have the authority to adjust.
Whatever your feelings on taxes, this proposal does not give the taxpayer more security. The language does not reflect the full nature of the outcome if it passes.  If you have concerns, I will be glad to forward copies of the bills.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.  wctaxpayers@comcast.net .  313-278-8383.

The Wayne County Taxpayer Association suggests vote NO on Proposal 1



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Until Next Time

I am sorry to announce that the Part Time Legislature Committee has informed me that they will not be able to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot. For the hundreds who received petitions from the Wayne County Taxpayers Association  I am asking that you destroy the petitions.  It is their intentions to try for the 2016 elections but those petitions you have are dated and can not be used. There are a number of reason why they were not successful but they hope to have those problems worked out for the 2016 election.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Gun Rights



On September 25th,1994 the Jon Coon, Libertarian for US Senate campaign hosted a "Brass Roots" rally, honoring both the Second Amendment to the US Constitution and Article I, Sec. 6 of the Michigan Constitution. The 10,000 Michigan gun owners who attended contributed hundreds of pounds of spent brass "from firearms they vow to never give up" that was melted down and cast into a 4' x 6' plaque.

Shortly after its creation, state representative, Leon Drolet, got legislation to install the plaque on the Capitol grounds adopted by the House on a 104-0 vote.  Unfortunately, the bill was not taken up by the senate. 

We are now making a second attempt to finally put this monument to our cherished right to keep and bear arms in a deserved place of honor -- where it will serve as a continuing reminder to both public officials and the public generally of the one right upon which all the others depend.

Rep. Martin Howrylak, along with 15 cosponsors, has introduced HB 5595 to accomplish this long-sought goal -- hopefully in time for a dedication ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the original "Brass Roots" event. 

Any help you might provide in this effort would be greatly appreciated.  Please take a moment to call your state rep and urge support for HB 5595.  Then forward this e-mail to every other Michigan gun owner you know.  Thank you.

Yours for liberty from one who was there,

Tim O'Brien

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LATEST PENSION “REFORM” FAD THREATENS TO DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD

by Justin Mordarski
The latest sortie into fixing our broken system is a push by some to assume an artificially low rate on investment returns.This sounds innocuous, perhaps even prudent…right?

Not even close. Even a very small difference in the assumed rate of return can have a massive effect on forced taxpayer contributions. A recent report on the pension system of Rhode Island illustrates the danger in manipulating the assumed rate of return. Lowering the rate by less than 1%, from 8.25% to 7.5%, increases the shortfall by over $2 billion, from $4.7 billion to $6.8 billion!  Lowering it to 6.2%, increases the amount taxpayers owe by $4.5 billion.
     
 What does this mean for a Michigan city or township?  While it varies by the size of the fund, lowering the assumed rate of return by even 1 percentage point could translate into several millions of dollars per year in additional, required payments by the city or township.


The pension fund’s assumed rate of return, or discount rate, is one of the primary variables in determining its funded ratio and it is ultimately the funded ratio that determines the bulk of the amount that taxpayers are required to contribute to the fund. It is expressed as a percent, usually between 7.5% and 8.0% and it is used discount the liabilities (what is owed) that are presented on the fund’s financial statements, so if it is too low, the liabilities appear artificially high and, most importantly, the required taxpayer contribution toward said liabilities is much higher than it needs to be.

The exact value of the discount rate should be based on the fund’s historic, long-term average rate of return in its investments.  Generally, this period should be rather long, usually 20 to 30 years; provided, of course, the pension boards has accurate records going back that far.
The latest fad in pension “reform” is to lower this rate, sometimes considerably.  The belief in is that doing so will somehow be “safer” or “more cautious”, which is why a lot if well intentioned, thought misinformed, conservative activists have been drawn to it.
The problems of artificially lowering the rate of return are significant and real, while the benefits are questionable at best.

First problem is higher taxes.
There is a direct link between the rate of return used and the amount taxpayers much contribute every year: the lower the rate used, the more residents and businesses must pay.  There is no way around this relationship. So understand that if some well-intentioned bureaucrat wants to lower it be even 1%, the taxpayers in that city or township would then be forced to increase annual payments to the fund, which, depending on the fund size, could be an extra million dollars a year or more.

This extra money can really only come for one of two places, higher property taxes or service reductions; so either homeowners and businesses pay more property taxes or needed services, such as road repair, are cut.
For most areas, the fragile housing market is just now starting to recover, the last thing we need to do is stunt its recovery by large property tax increases.

 While I strongly support closing local pension systems to new entrants, understand that this does not magically make existing unfunded liabilities go away – they must be paid and the assumed rate of return determines how much taxpayers will be paying.So even under the scenario where a traditional pension fund is replaced by the 401 (k) style plan, local residents and businesses could still end up paying hundreds of extra dollars a year in property taxes if too low an assumed rate of return is used to calculate the remaining balance.

Second, there exists a real danger to the taxpayers in overfunding. Pension boards in Michigan have quite a bit of autonomy and are, as a practical matter, usually controlled by the employee groups; and it this autonomy which confers upon them a good deal of discretion in how to deal with any overfunding; overfunding which becomes “extra” money to the board, who historically find a way to spend it to enrich their supporters. 

Perhaps the best known example is the infamous 13th Check paid by Wayne County.  Even though not required by any contract, the 13th Check was a bonus paid annually to existing retirees.  One of the main justifications for doing so was that there was “extra” money in the pension fund, so why not spend it. 

More commonly, the “extra” money in the pension fund is allocated to existing employees in the form of enhancements regarding how their pensions are calculated.  One frequent methodology is to allow unlimited overtime or unused vacation time to be included in their final average compensation; thereby increasing or “spiking” their pensions considerable. 

Another disastrous use of this “extra” money advocated by pension boards is a DROP, or Deferred Retirement Option Program, which allows employees to collect a full pension while still working. As long as pension boards are allowed to treat overfunding as “free money”, overfunding can be just as costly to taxpayers as underfunding.

Third, it is simply wrong and not supported by the available data. 
The assumed rate of return is supposed to be based upon real data, namely, decades of investment return data by the fund or similar funds.  It is not supposed be based on outliers (a few bad or good year), but on a long-term average.  Nor, should it be based on or influenced by the investment experiences of individual persons.  I mention this last point since many well-meaning activists like to suggest that since they only make 1% in back CD’s or their personal portfolio only made 4% last year, the pension should reduce its rate in kind.  Pension funds have a diverse investment pool including foreign currency, stocks, real estate and exotic investment products too myriad to list, and employ complex hedging strategies to achieve a fairly consistence average return rate over diverse economic conditions.  A pension fund is nothing like the investment products used by most individuals.  Another mistake many individuals make is to focus on bond yields (currently very low) and use this as a reason to reduce a rate of return for a pension fund.  Traditionally, stock and bond yields move in opposite directions, so when bond yields go down, fund managers just move assets from bonds and into stocks.  A recent report by JP Morgan indicated that US corporate pension funds increased their funding status from approximately 77% to almost 100% in just two years, primarily due to gains in the stock market.

The data over the last several decades strongly supports the 8% average rate of return used by most pension funds both in Michigan and throughout the nation.  According to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the median, average annual rate of return for all public pension funds was 8.5% in the 25 year period 1986 to 2011.  The average for the state of Massachusetts’s pension funds has been 9.6% since 1986.  Even the much maligned CalPERS (one of largest funds in county) posted a 8.38% average 20 year return.  These returns are reported by the funds themselves, so perhaps it is healthy to be skeptical.  Even sources outside the pension funds themselves support the 8%.  The Standard and Poor’s Composite Index retuned 10.14% for the period 1926 to December 31, 2013.  Even the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the 30 year annual return of a large bundle of stocks selected by Morningstar was 11.1%.  The data is pretty conclusive that an 8% projected rate of return is more accurate than the 4% or less some are suggesting.


Forth, this is distracting us from the real issues and does nothing to fix the underlying problems with most municipal pension funds.  The demise of a municipal pension fund in our state usually follows a simple, basic path: the municipality will contribute to the fund based upon an employee’s base salary, say $50,000; then, usually just before retirement, an enhancement is added (this can take the form of allowing overtime to be included, unused vacation pay, a ceremonial promotion, or any of a number of things) and these enhancements now increase the pension to say $80,000.  It is the gap between the $50,000 pension the funding was predicated upon and the actual pension of $80,000 that produces the shortfall.  This $30,000 may not sound like much, but it paid every year the person receives his or her pension; so $30,000 a year for 40 years is a $1.2 million shortfall in the fund for just one person!

The other problem starting to afflict more and more pension funds relates to mortality assumptions: retirees are simply living longer than the pension board had predicted. Every incident of pension distress I have seen here in Michigan came from one, or both, of these causes.  I honestly cannot find one fund where distress was caused by investments not achieving an appropriate, long-term return on investments. 
(If you know of any, please send me an email , because I have been looking and still cannot find even one.)
              
This brings us the so-called Grand Bargain in Detroit and the desire by some to use almost $200 million in state money to bail-out Detroit.  So why are they asking citizens from Grand Rapids, Plainwell, Graying and every other city and township in the state to contribute their hard earned tax dollars to Detroit?  It seems all this money is going toward the two Detroit pension funds since Orr wants to lower the rate of return to around 6.5 % for each fund.  As demonstrated earlier, all lowering this number does is increase the amount of money the taxpayers are forced to contribute.  Another issue with the $200 million Orr wants state taxpayers to spend is that it is based on old valuations of the funds, valuations that likely do not reflect recent gains in the stock market.  It seems rather plausible that is Orr used a rate of return based upon historical averages (closer to 8%) and applied to a more recent valuation, the $200 million in bail-out money would not even be needed.

 In summary, there is no need to pay higher taxes to fix a problem that does not even seem to exist.  Instead, we should focus on the true and proven problems in our pension system, such as pension spiking, and address those. This current fad of trying to manipulate the rate of return in pension funds for political reasons needs to go the way of other past fads such as popped collars on dress shirts.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Contacts in All 83 Counties are Now a Reality for Part Time Legislature Petitions


Collecting signatures on a petition for a Part Time Legislature is really easy. Very few people will turn you down. Well, maybe some legislators,their staff and their relatives. Maybe a few other self serving lobbyists and there is also a few people who don't care or don't know the facts. Don't let that deter you. You can now get petitions in all 83 counties through county coordinators. Simply click on This Link and you will be able to click on your county and be able to contact your county contact.

 I thought I would answer a few questions that a few people ask.

 Q. How will they be able to get their work done?

 A. They only work 120 days as it is and half the stuff that they are working on should not even be on their agenda. We are only one of four states that have a Full Time Legislature - New York, California, Pennsylvania and Michigan. This should tell you almost all you need to know. The Texas legislature only meets every other year.

 Q.It says that the governor can call emergency sessions, How doe we know that this power will not be abused?

 A.That language is the same as the language that exists in our present constitution and it doesn't happen now. For one thing the legislators would not like being called back and if the governor or his party ever expects to get elected again I don't believe they would want to play that game unless it really was an emergency.

 Q. How can we get quality people to run for office if we pay them so much less?

 A. We did it for 127 years before they decided to rewrite the constitution in 1963 and it was all or nothing for the voters. Quality people will run for office. Look at all these people who are out there working for better government and don't get paid a thing. (I hope we can include you.)

 Q. How will I know what to do to collect signatures?

 A. If you have never done this before, it is as simple as reading the directions on the flap of the petition. It is as simple as asking your friend, family, church or social group members to sign or if you are really dedicated to stand in front of a store or post office or walk your block to get signatures. You can also contact your county contact for events they might have scheduled so that people may sign the petition.

 If you have more questions, we will try to answer them. In the meantime, remember to sign as the circulator at the bottom and that you can collect signatures from all counties but all the signatures on sheet must be from the same county.