Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Senate opens debate on Hatch flag amendment -- Stop the Madness

Today, Senator Hatch is trying to amend the Constitution ... again. This time he is seeking to amend the constitution to prohibit flag desecration. Although I did agree with the marriage definition amendment, this amendment leaves me again to wonder why have we kept him in the Senate so long. Is there not more important issues in Congress than treatment of an effigy? It seems like this type of political rhetoric is akin to idolatry, something as a Mormon Sen. Hatch should be opposed to. I do find it offensive when the flag is burned for any reason, but it is form of political speech which speech is a bedrock of our constitution.

While the flag is a symbol of our nation - it is only a symbol. Another symbol of our nation is the right to speak out against the policies and actions of our leaders. Offensive as it may be, flag burning is an strong form of political speech. Our men and women of the armed forces have fought and died, not to defend the flag alone, but the freedoms that the flag represents.

Senator Hatch, freedom is the true symbol of our nation -- not the flag. The constitution has answered the question regarding flag burning -- it is a matter of free speech.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Transportation Initiative -- Raise Sales Tax?

The Senate Site had an interesting post regarding a transportation initiative to increase sale tax in order to meet mass transit and highway expansion goals at an accelerated pace. The current debate is stemming as to whether the transportation tax proposal merits a debate during special session. Judging from the Senate Site post it sounds like it will not be debated during the special session. However, it is a question that has merit. Should we, as Utahns, increase our ranking in the US to the third highest taxed state in the nation for more roads?

As a state with such a high tax burden I would have to say I would feel quite concerned if such a tax proposal was passed without some major efforts to finance such projects through the private sector. Revenue bonds (this is on memory from the last finance class I took 4 years ago) could be an excellent method of raising some of these funds --revenue bonds are paid from revenue received from the project that the debt was used to finance. In reference to my last post, offering the wealthy tax credits for contributing to such projects could be another means of coming up with the needed funds. I hope the legislature will continue to look at all options before lifting the states taxes.

However, if all else fails, a raise in sales tax may be a valid method of funding the project. With rising fuel and energy cost, the per capita monetary benefits of using mass transit could possibly justify the tax burden citizens would have to absorb for those who use mass transit.

That comment feels rather hypocritical for me. I often find myself commenting that Utah's conservatism ends when it comes to taxes.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Tax Reform -- the New Angle.

I'm curious if the Governor's main purpose in getting elected was to have the flat tax established so he could leave office as the Champion of Wealthy and the Elite. In a DesNews article on tax reform the newest attempt to get the flat tax passed has a new spin on it. A dual tax system! Just to make filing your income taxes a bit more complicating, the state of Utah is proposing as system where taxpayers choose from filing under the reduced 5% flat tax rate or filing under the current system and rate. The Guv seems to believe that this should please everyone, however some key members of the legislature are a little more skeptical.

"The lion's share of the $70 million tax cut allocated to the flat-tax returns would assuredly go to the wealthiest of Utahns— who don't get that much of a tax benefit from the current system's deductions and exemptions.
You would see the wealthiest among us, those making $250,000 a year and more, eating up most of that $70 million tax cut because they would choose to pay the lower rate. I have a real problem with that, and so would many of my House colleagues," Curtis said.

This latest proposal seems to be a blatant "wealthy" only tax cut. Instead of at least keeping all tax payers using the same tax computations, middle class tax payers get to keep the same tax burden as before or they get to choose a method or pay more under the "fairer-flatter" tax. I wish the Governor would advocate for a more modest approach like that of Steve Urquhart:

"Tax reform may sound sexy, but it is not necessary," said Urquhart. "What we need this year is a tax cut, drop the top rate a bit. Our current tax system is good, except that it takes too much money from taxpayers."

If I had any influence whatsoever on the goings on in the legislature, I would advocate for either a simple rate reduction under the current system or meaningful tax credits under the current system at the current tax rate.

The credits I would propose would consist of a nonrefundable child tax credit that could adequately account for the rising cost of raising a family, a credit for education expenses incurred in reaching under graduate and graduate degrees, and a continuation of any and all vehicle energy credits (such as the Utah State hybrid vehicle credit that is expired for'06). For wealthy taxpayers who are often phased out of a great deal of these types of credits, offer charitable giving credits on a non-phased out limited dollar-for-dollar basis which could prove beneficial on a number of issues. For instance, Steve Urquhart suggested that wealthy citizens could be encouraged to donate funds to help the state provide dental insurance to the general public. Offering a non-phased out, limited dollar-for-dollar credit would be one means of encouraging such altruism among those who carry such a large tax burden in our state.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Worthless Blog

I was on another blog and I noticed an icon saying "My blog is worth $XXXXX". I checked it out and discovered that My blog was worth $0.00, wawawaaa. A little sad but not a big deal, I find my blog to have a great deal of value to me.

I got curious about other blogs in the Utah blogosphere and I found The World According to Me and SLCSpin topping out at a value of nearly 21,000 dollars each. Mozeltopf! That is only second to Alito's blog at nearly 25,000 dollars. Now the only question for Ethan and Bob is how to tap into those funds.

Happy Blogging!

Pandora is Sweet. Thanks Steve U.

Hats off to everyone's favorite Utah State legistator Steve Urquhart. This site is sweet.

I'm sure that Havaianas are cool to.

Gay Marriage -- Some of my thoughts after the debate.

Its been a few weeks since the Marriage amendment was struck down in the Senate. I've participated in a lot of lively debates regarding this issue. I've come to some conclusions about the issue that are important and need to be considered.

1.) This issue cannot be totally in the states individual hands. There is one major all-encompassing reason that the Fed will have to define marriage. Every American has to file income tax returns and marital status can make a large difference in what the outcome will be on an individual income tax return.

2.)A full ban on gay marriage will never pass. Although the evidence is weak and sill far from full wide acceptance that gay behavior is fully genetic and natural, the rhetoric that gays are a oppressed minority has successfully become engrained in much of the American psyche. As such, there is no way I see a broad enough majority of lawmakers voting for something that might label them as homophobic bigot to amend the law of the land.

3.) A Charley Foster-esque compromise unfortunately will not be fool proof. Tax cases are some of the most frequent and heavily contested issues. Because of the tax issues alone, gay marriage legal in some states and banned in others is assured to see a major Federal Court decision.

4.) Federal court presidence (from what i understand) leans toward gay marriage legalization. I'm not a lawyer so I'm not going to quotes cases, but it seems like a majority of federal court cases strike down laws pertaining to bedroom activities between consenting adults.

Personally, while I am wholly opposed to gay marriage becoming an institution in our nation, I don't believe the battle to ban it will be a successful endeavor. Irritating as legalized abortion, this issue is one, I fear, that morality and wholesomeness will likely take a backseat.

Stenar has been writing about the BYU professor's firing. The professor was fired because he questioned the leaders of the Mormon church, an Stenar was miffed that his questioning leaders of the church that he is member of, and the church that operates the University where he teaches, led to his termination. Problem for that professor is LDS doctrine is expicit about supporting the leaders of the church, it is one of the major interview questions for temple recommends. Church doctrine has often stated that a lack of support for church leaders is a first step to apostasy from the LDS church. So as and American he is okay protesting LDS church official proclamations and doctrine, but as a Mormon he is definitely endangering his LDS membership.

However, because of a hypothetical issue, (a coworker brought this point up) it is surprising that the LDS supported the Amendment with one man one woman. The LDS church believes that polygamy is a law that God requires to be practiced in a place and manner he deems necessary, so hypothetically Mormons could some day be polygamists. Limiting marriage to one man and one woman might have been a hypothetical bullet through their foot.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lobby for a Siesta Patterned Workweek

I live is St. George. Brigham Young alledgedly said, if given the choice between St. George and Hell he would choose Hell. It is with that quote I'm considering lobbying Congress for a work week in summer that has everyone sleep during the hottest part of the day and working a major part of the night.

I'm sitting in my office with blinds closed, and its sweltering. I can only imagine how bad it must be for those that work for a living. I guess I need to get a petition going.

Correction: Brigham Young's quote I think is likely more attributable to the cursing Apostle J. Golden Kimball. I still can't find any written citation of it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Charley Foster answers the Question of the Marriage Amendment

I've grown very tired of the Marriage Amendment debate. I as an LDS member supported the Amendment because, (a.) I have had concerns that liberal federal courts might make rulings that supersede the states laws and rights in this matter, (b) I believe my church leaders are led by divine inspiration and I follow their counsel. From the tone of many conversations I've heard regarding this issue I guess that I was quite in the minority. I was visiting Charley Foster's blog and he brought up an excellent solution regarding the timing and or language of a Marriage related amendment.

"If the federal courts threaten to take the question away from the several states, I say then pass an amendment giving the question to the states once and for all."

I know that this solution would not totally please the LDS church hierarchy, who for many years have been quite candid on this issue. However such an amendment would solve the concern that Federal court decisions could overrule state approved constitutional amendments. The amendment wouldn't (as Democratic senators alledged) chisel bigotry into the US constitution, but it would allow right leaning states to decide the issue how they wanted and left leaning states can allow gay marriage if they like.

The only Federal question I see is what marriages will the Treasury Department recognize for income tax purposes. If they allow individual state laws to rule, then alot of recognized marriages in some states would be nullified if the couple moved. If the Fed decided any marriage will be recognized no matter where it is solomnized, than states right will still be overruled. The Fed will still have to answer this question, what will marriage be defined as?

Charley rules!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Amnesty will not be cheap.

This came from the EAJournal:

A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last month has run into constitutional trouble over some tax provisions. S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and passed the Senate on a 62-36 vote. If signed into law, the bill would increase border security, expand a guest-worker program, and offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship based on certain requirements. In order to better enforce hiring laws, the bill would require the disclosure of certain taxpayer information by employers and certain government agencies. Additionally, and most importantly for enrolled agents, while S. 2611 would require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes, it would bar them from claiming any tax credits for past years.

The enactment of a tax provision by the Senate while not only unconstitutional, would prove expensive for illegals seeking amnesty that are required to file past tax returns. These "guest" workers, often have several children and I'm guessing most of them don't have itemized deductions. Citizens get a 1000 dollar tax credit per child, for which a married family of 3 would with income of 40,000 dollars could escape the Federal government tax free. Without the child tax credits they are assured of paying a tax of at least 1500 dollars less interest and tax penalties.

I'm glad to see this provision, because it does require illegals to pay taxes that they owed without giving tax credits that often produce tax refunds for lower-middle income tax payers. Even if I feel that amnesty is wrong, at least guest workers will pay their share of income tax. If only the government could secure the border and make citizenship a 2 year, monitarily affordable, lawyerless proposition.