164 Companies Credit Tax Reform for Bonuses and Pay Raises

One hundred sixty-four companies have gone on record stating they gave bonuses and pay raises to employees because of the new tax reform law, according to Americans for Tax Reform.

The list has been continually updated and jumped from 40 companies to 164 in 10 days, the Washington Examiner reports.

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The businesses include American Airlines, AT&T, several prominent savings and loan banks, Boeing, Comcast, Pacific Power, and Visa.

The list shows what each company paid in bonuses and includes attached statements or press releases, saying tax reform was the catalyst for each company’s decision.

AT&T showed direct support for President Donald Trump in its statement and said it expects the changes to produce more jobs and “economic growth.”

“Congress, working closely with the president, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. “Tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.”

Americans for Tax Reform tweeted the list and said companies also provided increased 401K contributions along with the bonuses as a result of the new tax law.

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Wal-Mart Announces Higher Minimum Wage and Bonuses, Citing Trump Tax Cuts

Wal-Mart announced Thursday it will raise its starting wage to $11 per hour and will give employees a bonus of up to $1,000, crediting the tax cuts signed into law Dec. 22 by President Donald Trump.

Wal-Mart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement the retail giant was “pleased” to announce the wage increase, which will take place beginning in February and will benefit more than 1 million Walmart, Sam’s Club, eCommerce, logistics and home office employees.

The bonuses will be based on the length of employment, with a minimum of $200 for employees with less than two years of experience working at Wal-Mart and a maximum of $1,000  for employees who have worked there for more than 20 years.

The payouts should total around $400 million, according to CNBC.

“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” he said. “It’s our people who make the difference, and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families.”

McMillon added that Wal-Mart is “early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates” for it to invest in its customers and associates to “further strengthen” its business.

“Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.,” he said, adding that the retailer is especially excited to invest in new technologies to help customers and employees alike.

Trump responded to the announcement by saying it’s “[g]reat news,” adding that it is “a result of our TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT!”

Wal-Mart also announced it will be expanding its paid maternal and parental leave by offering full-time hourly employees 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried workers will receive the same six weeks of paid parental leave that their hourly counterparts receive, too.

“Families are a priority to us, and connecting with and caring for a new family member is obviously important,” McMillon said.

Prior to these changes, paid maternity leave was eight weeks and paid parental leave was four weeks for full-time hourly workers.

Additionally, Wal-Mart will contribute $5,000 toward the cost of adoption, which on average ranges from about $34,000 to $40,000. The $5,000 can be used for adoption-agency fees, translation fees, and legal or court costs.

“I’m proud of our progress, and we have momentum. Let’s build on that in 2018,” McMillon said.

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After Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Freezes Data Collecting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren Demands Reversal

A federal court last week again ruled in favor of Mick Mulvaney as the rightful head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which strengthens his hand on such issues as the recent decision to freeze data collection in light of cybersecurity concerns.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who conceived the idea of the consumer agency, which critics say has too much and often undefined power, strongly objected to the agency’s temporary halt in data collection just last week.

“CFPB cannot fulfill its core functions without collecting personally identifiable information,” Warren wrote in a Jan. 4 letter to top CFPB officials.

“When a consumer submits a complaint, the CFPB asks for information, such as their name and account number, to enable the agency to help resolve the dispute,” Warren continued.

“CFPB bank examiners and enforcement lawyers regularly use account-level data provided by regulated institutions to detect improper and unlawful activity.”

President Donald Trump appointed Mulvaney to be acting CFPB director, in addition to continuing to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. In December, Mulvaney announced plans to halt personal-data collection after an inspector general’s report warned of cybersecurity problems with the agency.

“I think we should find ways to have as rigorous a data-security program as possible here before we start expecting that from people who we oversee out in the industry,” Mulvaney told reporters at the time.

However, in her letter last week, Warren—who was previously critical of metadata collection by the National Security Agency—said hobbling CFPB data-gathering endangers consumers vis-a-vis financial institutions.

“Examinations are data-driven and granular. If examiners aren’t able to request information from the relevant financial institution, they can’t do their job,” Warren’s letter said.

In June 2013, as a first-year senator, Warren joined a bipartisan group of 26 senators in a letter to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, raising questions about the NSA metadata gathering.

Warren’s office did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal for this article.

Even former CFPB Director Richard Cordray has said the personal information isn’t entirely safe, countered House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.

“The American people should rightfully be worried about the massive amounts of private information a single government agency collects on their personal lives, especially when the former director of the agency acknowledged that the data held by the CFPB is ‘not 100% secure,’” Hensarling told The Daily Signal in an email statement.

“In this age of criminal hackers, data breaches and identity theft, we must safeguard the privacy and security of America’s private, personal information,” the Texas lawmaker added. “Considering the scale of data-collection efforts by the CFPB, I applaud Acting Director Mulvaney for taking such bold action to protect Americans.”

The temporary halt is perfectly reasonable, said Ronald L. Rubin, a former CFPB enforcement lawyer and a former chief adviser on regulatory policy for the House Financial Services Committee.

“If you would like to know what Elizabeth Warren is going to protest tomorrow, just look at whatever Mick Mulvaney is doing tomorrow,” Rubin told The Daily Signal. “Given Equifax and other problems, it’s hard to understand why you wouldn’t be cautious about data collection in any shape or form.”

Rubin added that the stop is temporary.

“Data collection has always been something Republicans were worried about at the CFPB,” he said. “People of all political backgrounds are concerned about their information being compromised.”

In a report released Oct. 30, CFPB Inspector General Mark Bialek said:

The Office of Inspector General has likewise identified information security as a major management challenge for the CFPB, due to the advanced, persistent threat to government information technology (IT) infrastructure.

CFPB management needs to continue improving its information security program, overseeing the security of contractor-operated information systems, transitioning IT resources from the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and ensuring that personally identifiable information is properly protected.

Before that, a Government Accountability Office report from September 2014 noted serious concerns about the privacy and security of the consumers whose data are being collected by the CFPB.

The GAO found the CFPB was collecting more information than was necessary for its regulatory mission, from 87 percent of the credit card market. It further said the agency’s 12 mass data collections had information on 173 million loans.

The agency already has accountability issues, said Norbert Michel, director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, who has been a CFPB critic.

“It brings up questions of why do they need to collect so much information,” he said. “We know the potential for problems with personal data. If the mass data collection isn’t well-defined, who knows if it is secure?”

Warren’s letter identified Leandra English as the “acting director” of the CFPB, despite a court ruling rejecting a request for a temporary restraining order to block Trump from appointing Mulvaney as acting director. The letter identified Mulvaney only as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

After Trump named his budget director to temporarily lead the consumer agency, English, the deputy CFPB director, sued to retain the position to which she had been appointed by Cordray when he departed, and has appealed the court ruling.

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7 Ways Congress Can Rein in Out-of-Control Spending

Congress achieved major success in 2017 by passing the first meaningful tax reform in decades, but fell short in other areas of the budget and spending.

This year, important issues loom, including defense and nondefense appropriations for the remainder of the year, the debt limit, an infrastructure plan, and health care and entitlement reforms, among others.

Here are seven priorities that Congress should address this year:

1. Reform and extend the Budget Control Act.

While imperfect, the Budget Control Act is one of the few tools available to control spending and slow the growth of the federal deficit.

The law has saved hundreds of billions of dollars since its enactment. Instead of passing another budget deal that raises the caps and adds potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid-for new spending, Congress should stick to the overall spending totals agreed to in 2011.

In doing so, it should remove the categorical caps for defense and nondefense spending, and extend the law. This would allow Congress to prioritize national defense spending, a constitutional mandate, without piling on to the already growing tab that current and future taxpayers will someday have to pay for.

2. Enforce a real debt limit.

If past budget deals are any indication, it’s likely that the looming budget deal could also include a debt limit increase.

Pairing spending increases with raising the debt limit is fiscally dangerous. The debt limit is a different animal and should be handled separately.

The country is more than $20 trillion in debt. Before agreeing to another debt limit increase, Congress must first show a commitment to meaningful spending reforms.

Lawmakers should pursue budget process reforms, such as a statutory limit on all federal spending with real deadlines and automatic enforcement mechanisms. Lawmakers should commit to fiscal responsibility, engage in meaningful budget debate, and pursue deliberate, targeted reforms to the country’s most pressing fiscal issues.

3. President submit and Congress pass a budget.

If a budget deal is completed, some might argue that there’s no need to pass a fiscal 2019 budget inasmuch top-line appropriations numbers will already be locked in.

Reports indicate that the Republican Senate might be reluctant to pursue a budget because of its diminished majority and the political dynamics of the approaching midterm elections.

To let these concerns win out would be a mistake. The president’s budget sets the administration’s legislative agenda for the upcoming year. The congressional budget uses that document as a guide when developing its own proposal and priorities.

Most importantly, without a budget, there’s no mechanism in place to fast-track reforms through reconciliation, meaning that mandatory reforms to reduce the nation’s growing debt would be kicked further down the road.

Congress should pursue a budget for fiscal year 2019. It’s the responsibility of the governing majority.

4. Return to regular order in budgeting and appropriations.

Regular order means that Congress is passing budgets and appropriations, and authorizing legislation in the method and schedule prescribed by the 1974 budget act.

In reality, this has not happened in 20 years, which was the last time Congress enacted funding for all government activities before the end of the fiscal year.

To make matters worse, Congress has also failed to carefully examine and reauthorize programs on a regular basis, allowing for hundreds of billions of dollars per year in so-called “zombie appropriations.”

Congress has fallen into a pattern of funding the government through crisis, owing to self-imposed deadlines. This has led to a cycle of continuing resolutions and massive omnibus spending bills.

The process lacks accountability and oversight, and is a disservice to taxpayers who expect Congress to responsibly and carefully prioritize resources.

5. Reform the budget process.

The budget process provides the framework for regular order and should serve as a guide for legislative action. Too often, though, instead of driving congressional decision-making, the budget process has served as a political tool without implementing meaningful legislation.

In 2018, Congress should implement commonsense budget reforms, such as accounting for interest costs when estimating the fiscal impact of pending legislation, adjusting score-keeping practices to accurately reflect the solvency of federal trust funds, and using fair-value accounting for federal credit programs to reflect the true risks of these programs.

These reforms are a small piece of the puzzle toward creating a more transparent and responsible budget process.

6. Repeal and replace Obamacare.

Despite the unsuccessful attempts at reform last year, health care should continue to be a top priority this year.

While some progress was made with the repeal of the individual mandate, there’s still work to be done to provide relief to millions of Americans.

Congress should seek a long-term solution that enables greater competition so that Americans can choose the option that is best for them, with more affordable options, while protecting the ability of the vulnerable to access care.

7. Pass welfare reform.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans think that the current welfare system needs to be changed or reformed.

An overwhelming majority supports four simple reforms: eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse; not penalizing parents when they get married; not just providing services to the poor, but paying for real outcomes, such as finding a job; and a work requirement in exchange for receiving government benefits.

There is a real appetite for reform from lawmakers, as well as the public, and Congress should follow through on this momentum.

In 2018, Congress and the administration should reject the temptation to take a yearlong victory lap on tax reform and coast into the midterm elections.

Instead, they should continue to move forward with a conservative agenda and face head-on the issues that are affecting millions of Americans, such as the national debt, the defense budget, and health care and entitlement reform.

With deficits projected to reach trillion-dollar levels in only five years, inaction on the budget is driving the country closer to a fiscal breakdown.

Reforms are needed now more than ever.

The post 7 Ways Congress Can Rein in Out-of-Control Spending appeared first on The Daily Signal.

How Tax Reform Will Put More Money in Your Wallet This Year

President Donald Trump on Dec. 22 signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and this sweeping reform of the U.S. federal tax system will mean significant tax cuts for most individuals, families, and businesses.

Because most workers have taxes withheld from their paychecks, these tax changes could have a big impact on take-home pay and household budgets.

Those changes to paychecks could come as soon as February, when the IRS is supposed to have new wage-withholding guidance available to businesses. Currently, however, the IRS has instructed employers to continue using the old, 2017 withholding tables.

Once the IRS releases its 2018 tables that incorporate the changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, most workers will see either larger paychecks, or little change in them.

Workers with children and those with moderate incomes will likely experience significant changes—increases—in the size of their paychecks.

A single individual earning the median wage of $50,000 a year can expect a $35 to $45 increase in their biweekly or semimonthly paycheck. That amounts to an additional $1,100 in take-home income per year.

A married couple with three children and $75,000 in income can expect an additional $65 to $75 in their combined biweekly or semimonthly paychecks, or close to $2,000 per year.

The primary source of higher paychecks will be the new tax law’s lower rates and higher child tax credit.

Lower Rates

The new tax law lowered marginal tax rates virtually across the board. That means the IRS will direct employers to withhold less of workers’ wages.

For example, income previously taxed at a 15 percent rate will now be taxed at a 12 percent rate, and much of the income that was previously taxed at a 25 percent rate will now be taxed at a 22 percent rate. Lower rates mean less money withheld and thus higher take-home pay.

Child Tax Credit

The doubling of the child tax credit, from $1,000 to $2,000, along with a higher phase-out level and a higher threshold for the refundable portion will translate to less tax withholding for workers with children.

Employees who receive the full benefit of the child tax credit can expect to receive about $40 more per child in each paycheck.

Of course, the new tax law does away with personal exemptions, which previously provided an additional per-child tax benefit ranging from $0 to a little more than $1,000 per child, depending on the taxpayer’s income level.

The near-doubling of the standard deduction, along with the increase in the phase-out and the refundability of the child tax credit will go a long way in making up for the loss of personal exemptions for most taxpayers. On net, the higher child tax credit will result in significant increases in workers’ take-home pay.

Pass-Through Income for Small Businesses

Workers with pass-through income from a small business or LLC can also expect to submit lower tax payments to the IRS.

The new tax bill provides a 20 percent deduction for certain pass-through income, and that income is also subject to the new, lower tax rates.

For a small business with $150,000 in annual income, the new tax law will likely translate to about $2,500 less in quarterly income tax payments to the federal government, or $10,000 less per year.

Retirees

Most retirees receive a large share of their income from fixed sources, such as Social Security, pensions, or 401(k) withdrawals.  Thus, they are unlikely to experience changes in their monthly income because of the tax bill.

Many retirees will, however, experience a change in their total tax bill. For most, that will be a positive change, meaning a lower total tax bill.

The new tax law will not affect either the level of Social Security or 401(k) payments and withdrawals or the taxation of those payments and withdrawals. It will, however, generally result in lower tax rates on income from earnings or pensions.

For many seniors, that will mean either lower quarterly tax payments to the IRS or income tax refunds when they file their 2018 taxes next year.

Higher Refunds in 2018

Since employers won’t receive the new tax-withholding tables until February, most workers will pay more in taxes than they owe during the first few weeks of the year. Consequently, tax refunds for 2018 (which will come in 2019 after workers file their 2018 taxes) will likely be larger than in future years when the correct withholding tables apply for the entire year.

Although not perfect, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will have significant, positive effects on the economy.

Some businesses have already responded to those anticipated changes by granting bonuses and wage increases and by making or planning for additional investments. Individuals, too, will soon see the benefits of tax reform by taking home bigger paychecks.

The vast majority of businesses and individuals will benefit, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The post How Tax Reform Will Put More Money in Your Wallet This Year appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Delaware County Could Miss Right-to-Work Boom, Chief of Kentucky County Predicts

GEORGETOWN, Delaware—Despite one county’s decision to reject a right-to-work law, Delaware will remain the only state in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic with a local statute prohibiting imposition of union mandates on private sector employees.

The town of Seaford intends to move ahead with its right-to-work law even though surrounding Sussex County backed down in the face of pressure from labor unions whose leaders argued that the change would drive down wages.

“Right to work is one tool that will help to improve our competitive posture so we can lure in new businesses,” Seaford Mayor David Genshaw told The Daily Signal in an interview.

And in Kentucky, where local action to pass right-to-work laws has galvanized the movement, one county official says Seaford did the right thing for its residents last month even as Sussex County backed down this week.

“People are noticing that Warren County, Kentucky, is a great business-friendly place to live, to work, or to start a business,” Mike Buchanon, the county’s judge-executive, told The Daily Signal.

Right-to-work laws prohibit private sector employers from entering into agreements that make union membership and payment of union dues a condition of employment.

Since Warren County’s right-to-work ordinance went into effect, Buchanon said, the county seat of Bowling Green has seen downtown development “skyrocket” with about $300 million in new capital improvements.

Commercial and residential development is booming, he said, as is the hotel business.

‘Big Gains’ Forfeited?

The Sussex County Council rejected its own right-to-work ordinance in a 4-1 vote Tuesday after County Attorney J. Everett Moore told members that the law would not prevail against inevitable legal challenges from unions.

Councilman Rob Arlett, an early proponent, was the only member of the all-Republican council to vote for the measure one week after union members packed the council chambers during a public hearing.

>>> Right-to-Work Advocate Blames Unions’ Legal Threats for Loss 

Elected officials in Seaford, however, took the unexpected step of passing their own ordinance Dec. 12 in a unanimous vote. The city of about 7,000 in southwestern Sussex County was once home to a 35-acre DuPont plant that created thousands of local jobs by producing nylon used in military parachutes.

Sussex is one of three counties in Delaware.

As mayor of Seaford, Genshaw said he wasn’t content to wait for the county to act and anticipated that the city’s own right-to-work law could attract businesses and opportunities to the site of the former DuPont factory as well as other parts of Seaford.

“When you compare right-to-work states with non-right-to-work states, it’s clear to me that this could mean big gains for Delaware,” Genshaw said in an October interview. “I talk to a lot of families who want their kids to stay in the area, but we need to create opportunities that have gone missing in recent years.”

Signs of Boom in Kentucky County

The capital investment and job growth flowing into Warren County, Kentucky, where the local right-to-work movement first took root, appears to bolster Genshaw’s argument.

As judge-executive, Buchanon, a Republican, is Warren County’s elected chief administrator, similar to a mayor. In previous interviews with The Daily Signal, he described how a broad cross-section of Kentucky residents came together to support right-to-work legislation in Warren County that passed in 2014.

For years, Warren County had been losing out to neighboring parts of Tennessee, Buchanon explained, because experts recruited by companies and other employers to identify potential work sites viewed right-to-work status as a critical factor in making a final determination.

At the time, Tennessee was a right-to-work state and Kentucky was not. Times have changed.

>>> Local Leaders Try New Tactic to Bring Right-to-Work Laws to Kentucky

Since passage of the ordinance in December 2014, Warren County has attracted 174 prospective new businesses, representing about $2.5 billion in potential investment, and 16,618 jobs have materialized, according to the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.

Buchanon estimates that Warren County now has more than 6,000 openings for blue-collar and white-collar jobs in a wide range of fields that include manufacturing, education, health care, retail, hospitality, construction, and engineering positions.

“We are growing our workforce as well, with inward migration, attracting workers from across the nation and from around the globe,” Buchanon told The Daily Signal in an email Tuesday.

A new University of Kentucky Medical School is under construction on the Bowling Green campus, and multi-unit residential apartments and townhouses are being built throughout downtown Bowling Green and on campus.

“The economy is growing to an historic level, and new people are moving into Bowling Green in Warren County every single day,” Buchanon said.

Some of the union members who turned out Jan. 2 outside Sussex County’s government office building to oppose a right-to-work measure, from left: Michael Burns of AFSCME, Jeff Taschner of the Delaware State Education Association, Michael Begatto of AFSCME, James Maravelias, president of Delaware AFL-CIO, and Kat Caudle of AFSCME. (Photo: Kevin Mooney/The Daily Signal)

Union Opposition in Delaware

In response to the action in Warren County, 11 other Kentucky counties quickly followed suit with their own ordinances, and the whole state went right to work in January 2017.

>>> Kentucky’s Right-to-Work Earthquake Reverberates Across State Lines 

A total of 28 states and the territory of Guam now have right-to-work laws. In addition to Kentucky, since 2012, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have become right-to-work states.

Despite the transformative influence of right to work in Kentucky, union leaders and activists who gathered to protest the proposed Sussex County ordinance in Delaware insisted that it would harm average workers.

That’s what James Maravelias, president of the AFL-CIO in Delaware, said in a Jan. 2 interview with The Daily Signal during a protest by labor unions at the Georgetown Circle outside the Sussex County administration building.

If passed, a countywide right-to-work law would lower wages for workers, Maravelias said.

Standing next to him, Michael Begatto, executive director of AFSCME Council 81, echoed that argument.

The state AFL-CIO president was joined by dozens of union members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Delaware State Education Association, among others.

During the Jan. 2 hearing, Sussex County Council members heard from county residents on both sides of the debate.

To Jermaine Johnson, a member of United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 173 who said he also is a pastor with Prophetic Kingdom Ministries, right to work is “about defunding and dividing the ability of unions to negotiate on behalf of the worker.”

‘There Is No Pie’

But other residents spoke out ardently in favor of the bill.

Lyle Humpton, of Bridgeville, represented Master Interiors, a Delaware-based acoustical contractor that he described as an “open shop company” with 43 employees.

“There is a bigger issue here than just union versus nonunion,” Humpton told council members. “This is about freedom and liberty versus government intrusion.”

Kevin Burdette, a Milton resident who heads the KNB Associates business consulting company, told council members that a right-to-work law would create a “bigger pie for everyone,” including union and nonunion companies.

Burdette added: “Unless we get other jobs coming to Sussex County, there is no pie. Economic growth has occurred at higher rates in right-to-work states.”

David Stevenson, an economist with the Caesar Rodney Institute, a Wilmington-based free-market think tank, picked up on this point during his testimony.

In contrast to states that have right-to-work laws, Delaware has experienced anemic economic growth, diminished job opportunities, and falling household incomes, Stevenson told council members.

Over the past decade, Delaware’s economy has grown by 0.4 percent a year, he said, and in 2017, the state was one of only four that logged a rise in unemployment.

Contrary to what union leaders and members said in public statements, incomes rise just as fast in right-to-work states as in other states when the cost of living is properly considered, Stevenson argued:

You can’t compare wages in right-to-work states like Alabama or Georgia, where houses sell for a quarter of the price of [those in] California, without adjusting for cost of living. My own analysis shows real household incomes have grown just as fast in right-to-work states since 2000—2.1 percent—as in non-right-to-work states—2.2 percent.

‘Clear Legal Path’

Stevenson cited a 2015 report from The Heritage Foundation that shows right-to-work laws do not lower pay in the private sector.

Right-to-work states have equal rates of health insurance coverage subsidized by private employers, Stevenson told council members, adding:

In summary, worker pay, benefits, and safety are the same with or without right-to-work [laws]. However, faster economic growth will raise incomes through higher-paying occupations and a tighter labor force, putting upward pressure on wages.

It is certainly true that unions likely would challenge a right-to-work law in court, Buchanon told The Daily Signal, but the Kentuckian said that Sussex County officials, in his opinion, should have pressed ahead.

“Although I am not familiar with Delaware’s constitution or their laws, the federal courts were clear in their decision about the legal rights of counties as political subdivisions of the state,” the Warren County official said.

“The courts recognized counties’ rights and responsibilities to govern and make laws in the interest of protecting individual workers’ rights and freedoms, and for economic development and commerce,” Buchanon said, adding:

I believe that the unanimous decision of the federal appeals court in the Hardin County, Kentucky, decision established a clear legal path forward for counties in most every U.S. state.

This doesn’t mean that a union can’t file a suit. Certainly they have the right to file legal action, as everyone does. However, that doesn’t mean they can win, and in light of the federal appeals court’s decision, their suit would appear to me to be a waste of their time and of their members’ money.

The post Delaware County Could Miss Right-to-Work Boom, Chief of Kentucky County Predicts appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Conservatives Warn Trump Not to Revive Earmarks If He Wants to Drain the Swamp

Some conservatives are sounding the alarm over reinstating earmarks in Congress, as President Donald Trump voiced support Tuesday for reviving a budgetary practice that critics say feeds cronyism and corruption in government.

“I hear so much about earmarks and how there was a great friendliness [among lawmakers] when you had earmarks,” Trump said Tuesday in a bipartisan meeting on immigration with House and Senate members.

“Of course, they had other problems, but maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” the president said.

“The time is right” to reinstate earmarks, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said, The Washington Times reported Sunday.

In a statement provided Wednesday afternoon to The Daily Signal, Culberson said earmarks could help his district recover from Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, among other areas, with flooding.

“Hurricane Harvey changed everything for my district, and it’s my job as a representative to be an advocate for my constituents,” Culberson said.

Conservatives long have opposed earmarks, which direct taxpayer money to lawmakers’ special interests and projects through the budget without competition based on merit. Lawmakers banned earmarks under House rules in 2010.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House’s largest GOP caucus, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that bringing back earmarks isn’t an option for him.   

“My position on earmarks hasn’t changed,” Walker said, adding:

I think it’s a very slippery slope to bring back something that has been abused by so many, so much of the time. … Members [have] to grovel to work out bills and be influenced to vote for legislation they may or may not have even supported at some point. So I think it’s a legitimate concern; I worry that earmarks would allow the algae-infested waters to start filling up the swamp.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told The Hill about bringing back earmarks: “I don’t know that I’m opposed to it.”

“Since Congress holds the power of the purse, members of Congress should be able to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to move more rapidly on a flood control project,” Culberson told The Daily Signal.

The Texas Republican, whose district includes parts of Houston, said earmarks would be a way to help his district recover:

I’m proposing that we restore the ability of members of Congress to direct money toward flood control or highway projects when we receive a request from a local or state unit of government. We would submit the request at the subcommittee level, and the request would then go through the entire legislative process, out in the open, so that the public can see it and debate it. Most importantly, these projects would not increase spending. It’s good public policy.

A reporter for The Washington Post tweeted that Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, is not as keen as the president on reinstating earmarks:

The White House did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

One conservative House staffer told The Daily Signal in an email Wednesday that reinstating earmarks would go against Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp.

“If you’re going to drain the swamp, reinstating earmarks is the last thing you should do. Congress banned earmarks because members were wasting taxpayer dollars and illegally enriching themselves,” the aide said. “Restarting that practice is not what everyday Americans sent us here to do.”

Other conservatives with influence on Capitol Hill are not happy with the development, either.

“I think [Trump] is getting bad advice on this and basically I think he has been frustrated that Congress hasn’t passed much of his agenda other than tax reform, and somehow believes that if they were able to reinstate earmarks, the rest of his agenda would get passed,” Wesley Denton, senior communications director at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“The truth is, what it would simply bring back is corruption and bribes and more big spending bills,” Denton said.

In a statement emailed to The Daily Signal, David McIntosh, president of the free-market group Club for Growth, decried the talk of reviving earmarks.

“If Republicans bring back earmarks, then it virtually guarantees that they will lose the House,” McIntosh said. “Bringing back earmarks is the antithesis of draining the swamp.  Earmarks will only benefit the special interests that grow government at the expense of working men and women.”

Mike Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that resurrecting earmarks should not be an option.

“It is nearly unthinkable that after President Trump ran a historically successful election to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington, D.C., Congress would consider reinstating one of the most egregious examples of cronyism on Capitol Hill,” Needham said, adding:

President Trump should continue to work with conservatives in Congress to drain the swamp and stop any congressional efforts to reinstate earmarks. Heritage Action is dedicated to working alongside President Trump to end cronyism and pass real conservative solutions that actually help hardworking Americans.

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing  for members on reinstating earmarks on Jan. 18, and another hearing Jan. 19 with outside organizations, Politico reported.

This article has been modified to identify Walker correctly as chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

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Death Threats Against FCC Chairman Are Unprecedented and Must Stop

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back President Barack Obama’s “net neutrality” policy, Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters, “It’s not going to kill democracy.”

But could it kill him?

Federal officials are certainly concerned, now that a flood of death threats has reached a level most insiders say they’ve never seen. This is “routine for presidents and vice presidents,” sources say, “but highly unusual for heads of government agencies like the FCC.”

For the 44-year-old chief, the risks of the job were clear from his earliest days at the FCC. He tells horrifying stories about his house being surrounded by protestors, some lurking under his windows with signs of his children’s names.

“My kids are 5 and 3,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2014. “It’s not pleasant.”

Now, the dangers to Pai and his family are so serious that the FCC head was forced to back out of a speech at one of the most important tech events of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show.

“Basically, if these threats are credible, you need armored vehicles—and I mean plural—not to mention area sweeps, aerial support, and Secret Service directly manning the commissioner at all times,” said a security expert familiar with the situation.

“There’s not the budget for staffing the Consumer Electronics Show from threats of that level,” he went on, explaining that Pai’s “detail is ill-equipped to protect against snipers, attackers, bombs, gas attacks, vehicular blockades, and other assassination attempts.”

Of course, the question on everyone’s minds is: Who cares this much about net neutrality?

Most people don’t even know what the FCC stands for, let alone who heads it. If it weren’t for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction or Bono’s fleeting expletive, half the country probably wouldn’t know the agency existed.

As for net neutrality (which is about as misnamed as “marriage equality”), the issue has never been the stuff of mainstream political passion. It didn’t even get a passing mention in the presidential debates.

So what is it about this issue that’s leading an army of the far left to threaten an innocent man’s life?

Like most things, the crusade against Pai began in the dark shadows of Obama’s favorite radicals.

“The tech left, funded largely by George Soros, decided to champion under the banner of a benign-sounding ‘net neutrality’ campaign and seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab the moral high ground in their determination to allow the giant edge providers to censor the internet to suit their ideological preferences—ridding the internet of conservative and libertarian content,” Roger Stone explains in an eye-opening column for the Daily Caller.

Obama added the idea to his toolshed of unconstitutional crackdowns, all but demanding the FCC implement the policy in 2015.

As then-Commissioner Pai vented,

“Why is the FCC turning its back on internet freedom? Is it because we now have evidence that the internet is not open? No. Is it because we have discovered some problem with our prior interpretation of the law? No. We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason alone. President Obama told us to do so.”

Essentially, Stone explains, the FCC “legalized censorship, allowing Soros-funded groups to run rampant spreading the most violent messages possible, while at the same time aggressively censoring Donald Trump supporters and patriotic Americans who desire only to make their country great again.”

The very opposite, he points out, of neutrality. Or, conservatives might add, the FCC’s mission.

For Pai, things only got worse. HBO host John Oliver kicked off a campaign called “Go FCC Yourself,” determined to gin up outrage (and worse) against the FCC chair. Liberals blocked the Pais’ driveway, while others savaged him on the FCC site, unloading on Pai as a “dirty, sneaky Indian.”

The rampage got so out of control that Oliver had to call on his own flock to tone down the threats. They didn’t.

The Pai doorbell rang every half hour “with pizza deliveries that they had not ordered,” Commentary Magazine’s Noah Rothman explained in his column about Pai’s tormentors. His neighborhood was plastered with fliers of Pai and his vitals, like something out of the FBI’s Most Wanted.

“Is this really the world you want Annabelle and Alexander to inherit,” read a hand-made sign affixed to a lamppost outside Pais’ residence in November, making a point to emphasize the names of Pai’s two children. “They will come to know the truth: Dad murdered democracy in cold blood,” read another.

The harassment of Pai and his family is a national outrage that should be a headline in every news outlet in America—especially considering the irony of the left’s position. These fanatics are attacking Pai on the same internet they’re complaining isn’t neutral. Only a liberal could keep a straight face.

For the rest of society, it’s just another example of the left’s ruthless and relentless intolerance. An intolerance, sadly, that too many in the media ignore—if not embrace.

As Pai said on “Washington Watch” in November, this culture of cruelty must stop.

“I cannot say in strong enough terms how much I reject this notion that people who are passionate about an issue … should go after public officials personally and their families—particularly the families. In my case, it’s been extremely unpleasant, to say the least, to have to think about these things and worry about them.

Even today, there are criminal charges filed against a man who called up Congressman [John] Katko in upstate New York and said, ‘If you don’t vote for net neutrality, I will kill you and your family…’ There’s no place in civilized society for that.”

Disagreements used to be an opportunity for debate. Now, we don’t even pretend to look for consensus.

In this post-civil world, some Americans have simply lost the desire for common courtesy—and excusing the bad behavior of an enlightened few as “justice” or “reasonable resistance” doesn’t help.

In the last decade, conservatives have paid the price for their convictions with their careers, businesses, life savings, and security. If anyone misses real neutrality, it’s us.

This was originally published in Tony Perkins’ Washington Update, which is written with the aid of Family Research Council senior writers.

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Trump’s EPA Is On Course To Retire Half Its Staff

Due to a series of buyouts and retirements, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could cut its workforce by half by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term in office, The Washington Examiner reports.

Several agencies in the Trump administration are focused on a leaner workforce and cutting spending. The EPA is leading the pack. It is on track to reduce the size of the agency anywhere from 25 to 47 percent.

“We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement to The Washington Examiner.

At the start of 2018, EPA employed 14,162 workers. Through Pruitt’s series of buyouts and generous retirement packages, as well as normal retirements, up to 47 percent of employees will leave the agency in the next five years.

Trump initiated a hiring freeze in Jan. 2017 that will prevent retirees being replaced by new hires.

If the EPA remains on its current course, agency could employ less than 8,000 people in the next few years. It would be the leanest workforce the agency has seen since 1972, two years after it was created.

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County Votes Down Right to Work as Attorney Warns of Union Lawsuits

GEORGETOWN, Delaware—Officials in one of Delaware’s three counties rejected right-to-work legislation Tuesday, shortly after the county attorney detailed his legal opinion and predicted a thicket of costly court challenges to the law from labor unions.

Councilman Rob Arlett, who has spearheaded the proposal, was the only one of the five Sussex County Council members, all Republicans, to vote yes on the measure.

“What we want regardless of the color of our shirts is we all want jobs, and we all want the best for our families,” Arlett said before casting his lone vote in favor of the right-to-work ordinance.

“We have to do something as a community and as a council to attract new industries, I think all sides agree to that,” he said. “The question before us today is, is this a tool in that toolbox as a community that we should consider?”

Right-to-work laws prohibit private sector employers from entering into agreements that make union membership and payment of union dues a condition of employment.

A total of 28 states and the territory of Guam now have right-to-work laws, with Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia making the move since 2012.

Delaware last month became the only state in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic with a local right-to-work law on the books. The city council of Seaford, not content to wait on the Sussex County Council to act, passed its own ordinance Dec. 12.

Sussex County officials had put off action Tuesday after dozens of union members turned out in force at government offices to oppose the legislation during a public hearing. The Sussex council then asked for a formal opinion from the county attorney, J. Everett Moore, pending this week’s formal vote.

Representatives of local union affiliates gathered before the hearing at a traffic circle outside the Sussex County Administrative Office Building. Members also packed the council chambers and watched the action from overflow rooms.

“My No. 1 concern is that right to work lowers wages,” Kat Caudle, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told The Daily Signal before the hearing.

“Workers should have the right to bargain for wages,” Caudle said, “and unions bring equality to this process.”

Voting no Tuesday were council President Michael Vincent, Vice President George Cole, and Councilmen Samuel Wilson and Irwin Burton.

Arlett at first moved to delay action but the other council members also rejected that.

Based on testimony and the public record, Arlett said, it is evident to him that “people want this.” He also recognized that “quite a few others [are] in opposition.”

“I believe in the power of choice and to me, if it’s worthy for six school districts in this county, why isn’t it worthy in the private sector?”

Six of the eight school districts in Sussex County are right-to-work entities in the public sector, with no requirement for teachers to pay fees to the union.

“That’s just a commonsense analogy,” Arlett said.

He also acknowledged differing legal opinions.

“That’s why there is a court system, to determine what is lawful and not lawful,” Arlett said. “On the merits of economic development … if it has the ability to attract jobs, then we should consider it and let the courts make their decision as they see fit. So, for that reason alone, based on the testimony and the record, I will vote in favor of this.”

But the testimony and opinion of Moore, the council’s attorney, carried the day.

Moore repeated his concern that Delaware’s home rule statute did not delegate authority to the council to adopt a right-to-work law. Sussex County would be drawn into legal challenges at both the state and federal level that could prove costly,  he said.

“My opinion is that a Delaware court is unlikely to uphold the ordinance in its current form,” Moore said.

The county attorney also warned council members that if they did go forward with the ordinance and accept pro-bono legal coverage from outside the state, they would need to confer with the State Public Integrity Commission, whose rules cover payment to government employees.

 Burton also spoke at length, saying he voted no because he was convinced by Moore that the county would incur legal costs that would detract from the council’s ability to perform its primary functions.

“If we adopt this ordinance, we will be in expensive, time-consuming litigation,” the council member said.

Burton credited Moore with providing a “thorough, extensive opinion.”

Given the need to attract new jobs, Burton said, his vote was “one of the hardest decisions” of his career.

Burton expressed concern that enforcement of a controversial ordinance would burden the county with additional costs.

“I’m a proponent of limited government and of keeping costs low,” Burton said. “This will cause an expansion of government and new costs.”

Despite voting no,  Cole said he favored the concept of right to work but was not convinced the council had the legislative authority to move forward.

“I wish there was a way I could vote yes,” Cole told fellow council members.

At least two lawyers in Delaware have disagreed publicly with Moore’s opinion that the state’s home rule statute doesn’t allow local right-to-work laws.

Theodore Kittila, a lawyer speaking for the Caesar Rodney Institute, a free-market think tank based in Wilmington, told council members last Tuesday that Sussex County has the authority to pass such a law under authority delegated by the 1970 statute. Kittila expanded on this point, citing several cases, in a written legal opinion that is part of the public record.

Kevin Fasic, a Wilmington-based lawyer who specializes in construction law, said during the council’s Oct. 24 meeting that a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling opened the door for local right-to-work laws in Delaware and other parts of the country.

As The Daily Signal has previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a legal challenge to the local right-to-work ordinance in Hardin County, Kentucky, permitting the 6th Circuit ruling to stand.

The 6th Circuit covers Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio; Delaware falls within the 3rd Circuit, which has not ruled on the merits of local right-to-work laws.

If the 3rd Circuit were to rule in conflict with the 6th Circuit, the case likely would move up to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Fasic noted during the October meeting that the high court may have signaled its intention to uphold local right-to-work laws last year when it rejected a petition from labor unions challenging the Kentucky law.

But on Tuesday, Moore insisted the legal questions are not entirely the same.

“Because some other county has done this, doesn’t mean that we can,” Moore said. “We have to look at the underlying legislation.”

While the ruling out of the 6th Circuit “may influence” the 3rd Circuit, it doesn’t “control” either the 3rd Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, Moore told council members.

In New Mexico, Sandoval County has pursued its own right-to-work legislation amid intense union opposition. The County Commission is set to vote Jan. 14 on the bill.

Although union leaders also threaten to file lawsuits to block the Sandoval County measure, Forbes columnist Matt Patterson has noted that unions “almost always lose” such challenges.

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

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