Morning report: Taxes, oily birds, power lines | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 29, 2013

Morning report: Taxes, oily birds, power lines

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 6:18 AM

A slow start this morning. A couple of things popped up:

* GROVER NORQUIST DEFEAT LOOMS ON INTERNET SALES TAXES: If the New York Times has it right, the tide has turned on the battle to require on-line retailers to collect local sales taxes just as others must do. The unfair advantage given on-line retailers; the might of people like Walmart (and, more recently, Amazon) is incalculable; the needs of state and local governments deprived of income — all these contribute to the prediction that the legislation will pass the Senate shortly and maybe even the Republican-controlled House as well.

This would be a giant defeat for Grover Norquist, the Republican Party puppeteer, who insists voting for this legislation violates the no-tax pledge required of all Republican candidates. (Technically speaking, it doesn't constitute a tax increase because, in theory, retail customers are voluntarily supposed to be remitting these sales taxes themselves, but almost nobody does.)

Republicans have become emboldened on the subject of supporting tax collection. For example, see the U.S. representative from the 3rd District of Arkansas, home to Walmart, the leading proponent of the measure. It collects taxes on-line because it has tangible operations in all 50 states, a significant disadvantage against many competitors. And the Republicans who've left the fold could be important in more than this particular battle. A loss here could weaken Norquist and his allies on many issues because it would show they are no longer invincible.

For years, conservative Republican lawmakers have been influenced heavily by the antitax activists in Washington, who have dictated outcomes and become the arbiters of what is and is not a tax increase. But on the question of Internet taxation, their voices have begun to be drowned out by the pleas of struggling retailers back home who complain that their online competitors enjoy an unfair price advantage.

Representative Scott Rigell, Republican of Virginia, calls them “the hardworking men and women who have mortgaged their homes to buy or to rent a little brick-and-mortar shop.”

And each time Mr. Norquist and others in the antitax lobby take a loss, they start to seem more vulnerable, Republican lawmakers acknowledge, with ramifications for the continuing fights on the deficit and the shape of the tax code.

“I have a lot of constituents saying to me, ‘Grover Norquist did not elect you,’ ” said Representative Steve Womack, Republican of Arkansas and the author of the Internet tax bill in the House. “Members that come to Washington and kowtow to special interests end up contributing to this very polarized government. These are tough decisions we have to make up here.”

Noted: Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford are co-sponsors with Womack on the legislation to collect sales tax on Internet sales. MIA is the Club for Growth's Tom Cotton.


* OILY BIRD: A promoted Twitter feed this morning drew my attention. The Oily Bird uses the sort of wildlife we've seen near Mayflower in recent days to go after the oil companies in the name of promotion of alternative fuels.

The website includes a good video.

Speaking of oil spills:

On the one month anniversary of a devastating pipeline rupture that sent tar sands spewing through a residential neighborhood, residents of Mayflower, Arkansas are launching a new “Remember Mayflower, Arkansas” effort with a press conference call at 1pm CT/2pm CT to raise awareness of the spill and to tell elected officials to stand with Congressman Griffin in saying that tar sands oil and water don’t mix.

The coalition—composed of local families and leaders—will release new poll findings about tar sands pipelines and unveil a new web ad.

* AND SPEAKING OF UGLY ENERGY: A fight is brewing in the Ozarks over SWEPCO's proposal to build a 48-mile high voltage power line. They are ugly things and neighbors also object to the herbicide sometimes used to maintain right of way. The line came up at a Eureka Springs council meeting last week, where Alderman James DeVito noted the line would be an aesthetic blight on views from the famous Thorncrown Chapel and other scenic points in the region. From The Independent in Eureka:

The impact on some of our most treasured visual features cannot be overstated,” alderman James DeVito said. He mentioned a proposed route for the 150-foot tall towers would make them visible from Spring Street, Thorncrown Chapel, Inspiration Point and Beaver Lake. “And that is just the visuals, not to mention the impact of herbicide-spraying. The fact that the line is not in city limits does not mean it won’t affect us.”

He went on to say the proposed northern route for the transmission lines showed “a callous disregard for the assets of the community.”

A Facebook page to fight the power line route, using the Thorncrown Chapel as an emblem, has been established to encourage objections to the Arkansas Public Service Commission. The page says the line will "encroach" on the chapel's landscape.

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