Grover Norquist signs his letters “Onward” and other revelationsPosted: April 16, 2012
I heard Iowa City area State Senator Joe Bolkcom comment sarcastically on the radio about hearing from “that great Iowan, Grover Norquist,” earlier this past week. Not hearing the entirety of the story, and unable to find coverage of it online, I emailed Senator Bolkcom to ask him about the context of his comments. He graciously responded and forwarded me the email that he had received from the notorious wannabe bathtub drowner. I have pasted the text of the email below, as well as posting a pdf of the letter on the official Americans for Tax Reform letterhead. While reading and releasing this letter is likely no huge quasi-journalistic feat, it is exciting in that I’ve never read such a letter before.
Now, the Norquist letter was most likely not written by the man himself, although it is entertaining to imagine him sitting down at his desk and drafting a letter to Iowa legislators. Most likely, Will Upton, the Iowa state affairs manager for ATR wrote the letter and cut and pasted Norquist’s signature to it after getting approval from ATR headquarters. Regardless of authorship, I think that it is fair to attribute the ideas and recommendations to the man whose signature is affixed to the bottom of the letter.
Two things become clear through reading this letter: ATR is dead serious when the tell legislators who sign their pledge that they will keep track of their actions even if they are relatively small state issues, and they really don’t care what revenue money is to be used for, they just want there to be no more of it.
The reach both in breadth and depth of Americans for Tax Relief as evidenced by this letter is astounding. At issue in the letter is a bill that sought to raise the amount collected from wireless phone users from $0.65 to $1.00 to meet the rising cost of providing 911 services to wireless users. Had it not been for the letter from ATR, I imagine that this would have been an issue that would have received little to no attention. But, the clear fact is, even if this issue wasn’t on the radar of many Iowans, it surely raised the hackles of the ATR. The fact that ATR is focused in this sharply on a local issue here in Iowa certainly shows that they mean business when they ask state lawmakers to hold true to their oath to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
And clearly they don’t care what doesn’t get funded as a result of opposing and voting against any and all effort to increase revenues. This letter lays bare the fact that they don’t support raising additional funds to provide life saving services to Iowa! I can see their group opposing revenue increases to support social programs (although I’d certainly oppose their opposition) but for goodness sake, is it such a terrible thing to provide needed 911 services to all Iowans at the minuscule additional cost of $0.35 per month for wireless users? Apparently to Norquist it is. To paraphrase Public Enemy, get up get get down 911 is joke in yo town if you fail to adequately fund it.
Finally, what’s with the “Onward” sign off? Onward Christian soldiers march? Onward and upward? What happened to a simple “Sincerely” or “Thanks?”
Many thanks to Senator Bolkcom for sharing this letter with me. The pdf and email versions of it are below.
From: Will Upton [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2012 3:19 PM
To: Will Upton
Subject: Clarification on SF 2272 and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge
April 3, 2012
RE: SF 2272, 9-1-1 Tax and Point of Sale Collection
I write in support of legislation that provides a clear framework for collecting Iowa’s 9-1-1 tax on prepaid service without raising the 9-1-1 tax rate. While SF 2272 accomplishes the goal of reforming the 9-1-1 tax structure, it must be made revenue neutral through amendment that ensures 9-1-1 taxes are not raised.
For legislators who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, support for SF 2272 is not a Pledge violation contingent upon your support for an amendment that rescinds the proposed tax increases in the underlying bill. Leadership has proposed an amendment that would keep the wireless tax at $0.65 rather than raising it to $1.00.
The legislation’s aim is to update outdated definitions to ensure the tax code reflects modern communications and provide a clear framework for collecting Iowa’s 9-1-1 tax on prepaid phone service. The current method of collecting 9-1-1 taxes for prepaid consumers, who pay as they go instead of receiving monthly bills, is muddled and confusing. ATR supports point-of-sale collection that allows retailers to collect the 9-1-1 tax at the time of the transaction. Already, at least 20 states have adopted point-of-sale approaches.
The prime benefit from a point-of-sale approach is that it prevents double taxation while ensuring the tax remains transparent to consumers. For example, other methods of collection bake the 9-1-1 tax into the overall cost of the product or deduct the value from a customer’s account balance, resulting state and local sales taxes being applied to the 9-1-1 tax as well.
Point-of-sale allows retailers to collect and remit the 9-1-1 tax as a separate line item on their receipt, preventing unauthorized double taxation and maintaining tax transparency. It brings a new and more efficient method of collection while preventing unintentionally higher taxes on prepaid consumers.
While bringing clarity to emergency 9-1-1 tax collection on prepaid service is good public policy, such a change should never mask a tax increase. We urge you to vote for both SF 2272 and the amendment proposed by leadership to ensure the bill is made revenue neutral. Anything short of voting for both measures will perpetuate a discriminatory tax structure or raise taxes on Iowans.
Please contact Kelly William Cobb or Iowa state affairs manager William Upton at 202-785-0266 with any questions.
President, Americans for Tax Reform