Maryland

Blue States Rewarded with Slush Funds from the Failure of Obamacare Exchanges?

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Time to revisit, in the wake of what many think may be the death of Obamacare, what happens to the money invested in the failed exchanges. For some background, here’s the current status of the debacle that was supposed to ensure everyone had affordable healthcare:

Maryland Republicans Introduce Bill to Fight NSA

Eight Maryland Republicans introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act last Thursday. The bill would keep local government from providing resources to the National Security Agency while it’s engaged in any form of spying programs. According to OffNow.org, the bill would make any data gathered by the NSA inadmissible in state court.

The piece of legislation is based on the model legislation drafted by the Tenth Amendment Center that is being used by lawmakers in several other states to fight the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance locally.

Maryland is basically the National Security Agency’s political subdivision, according to the Tenth Amendment Center’s executive director Michael Boldin. The agency’s home base in Ft. Meade, Maryland uses a massive amount of water, which would be denied to the agency if the legislation passes. Local governments would be denied state funds if they refuse to comply with the law and companies would be blocked from maintaining any state contract if they choose to cooperate with the NSA.

Eight Republicans are defending Maryland’s HB 1074 in the House of Delegates. The bill will only pass with the approval of three-fifths of delegates. The introduction of the legislation follows reports concerning a contract renewal between the NSA and Howard County, Maryland that will provide the agency with up to 5 million gallons of water per day. The water is used to cool the agency’s supercomputers, which would not be functioning if it weren’t for all of the water provided by local governments.

Tax Bite Leaves Flacco Second Best Paid in NFL

Written by Matt Blumenfeld, State Policy Associate at Americans for Tax Reform. Posted with permission from Americans for Tax Reform.

As reported this week, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens have agreed to a six-year, $120.6 million contract making the star quarterback the highest-paid player in NFL history, earning an estimated $20.1 million per year. But being the “highest paid player” and earning the most after tax pay are two very different things.

By choosing to remain a Raven, Flacco is now set to pay a combined marginal income tax rate of 51.98 percent. This overwhelming tax rate is composed of the federal, Maryland, and Baltimore County income tax rate, as well as the Medicare tax. And that’s excluding his “jock tax” liability for away games – play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, pay Massachusetts income tax on earnings for that game - and other taxes levied against him such as Maryland’s property tax.

Given that Flacco is coming off of his best season, the franchise quarterback could have commanded a similar contract from any other team in the league while keeping a greater percentage of his contract. Four of the nine no-income-tax states have professional teams in need of the Super Bowl MVP’s caliber and skill.

State

Team

Federal Income

Tax Burden

State and County

Rat head in the Coke bottle: Getting Republicans out of the tax-raising business

Grover Norquist

Americans for Tax Reform’s President, Grover Norquist, tells it like this:

The Republican Party is a brand. Like Coca-Cola. Consumers know what Coke tastes like. It tastes the same from every bottle and out of every soda fountain. There’s no guessing what Coke tastes like from one drink to the next.

Since ATR’s inception in 1985 at the behest of Ronald Reagan, it’s been trying to brand the Republican Party as the party of lower taxes — the party opposed to tax increases. That attempt has been largely successful.

ATR’s “Taxpayer Protection” pledge puts candidates and elected officials on record opposing tax increases. And it holds them accountable when they stray.

So, when a Republican attempts to raise taxes, that damages the brand. It’s like a rat head in a Coke bottle. Someone drinking a Coke wouldn’t discover a rat head in the bottle and say to themselves, “Hmmm, perhaps I’ll finish this bottle later.” No. They would seriously consider whether or not they would drink another Coke ever again. They might tweet about it, show their friends, and discourage others from drinking Coke. That’s a branding problem.

Let’s consider a few surprising gubernatorial pick-ups from last Tuesday and see what those Republicans did that helped them cross the finish line.

In Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, the Republican candidates for governor largely ran against their opponents’ records on taxes.

Successful Republican challenger Bruce Rauner in Illinois outlined his tax plan online:

The Quinn-Madigan 67% income tax hike.

Beretta has had enough: Gunmaker plans to bolt from Maryland due to restrictive new gun control laws

Beretta

Businesses may not be able to vote, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not responsive to policies enacted by lawmakers that could hurt them. This usually revolves around tax policy and/or regulations. But other policies can have a similar effect. And Beretta, a gun manufacturer based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is a perfect example of that.

The Maryland legislature passed and, last week, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) signed several restrictive gun control measures into law, including a ban on high-capacity magazines and certain “assault weapons.” And, in response to these new laws, Beretta announced plans to move its operations to Tennessee:

The culture clash escalated after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where Adam Lanza killed 27 people, including 20 first-graders. In the political furor that followed, Maryland banned 45 types of assault weapons and put in place tough fingerprint, photo identification and training requirements —restrictions viewed by Beretta as the legislative equivalent of a declaration of war on its operations.

Maryland to scrap $126 million Obamacare exchange website

The spectacular failures of Maryland’s $125 million Obamacare exchange system and website, much of which was paid for through grants from the Obama administration, has led state officials to scrap it and start over, according to a report the Washington Post:

Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair.

The board of the Maryland exchange plans to vote on the change Tuesday, the day after the end of the first enrollment period for the state’s residents under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
[…]
As of last Saturday, 49,293 Maryland residents had enrolled in a private plan through the exchange, far short of the state’s original goal of 150,000 enrollments and shy even of its revised estimate of 75,000 to 100,000.

Some of the hardware that Maryland bought for its system, such as servers, can be salvaged, but the software and coding that are the guts of its online marketplace will be replaced, said the individuals familiar with the decision.

Administration may extend Obamacare enrollment deadline for some

The White House has hinted that it may extended the Obamacare enrollment deadline for Americans who experienced technical problems on the state and federal exchanges, much like the administration did in December for those who wanted to sign up for health insurance coverage at the beginning of the year.

“March 31 was the deadline, as was the case for the December deadline, we’re going to want to make sure that people who are already in line can finish their enrollment,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday, pointing them to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further explanation.

“We want to make sure, as we did in December, on that deadline, that folks who have begun the process are able to complete it,” said Carney. “We certainly expect, naysayers notwithstanding, that there’s going to be continued interest right up to the deadline, and that interest will probably increase as we approach the deadline.”

Administration to allow subsidies for health plans purchased off exchanges

The Obama administration has made yet another unilateral change to Obamacare, this time by extending tax credit subsidies to those who purchased health insurance coverage outside of troubled, dysfunctional state exchanges:

The administration quietly issued a health law fix Thursday to help those states. Several Democratic-led states, including Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii, are still trying to solve website problems that have eclipsed those experienced earlier by the federal HealthCare.gov site, now largely repaired.

Although the new policy fix is available to any state, Republican governors basically defaulted to federal control of online sign-ups in their states. Those who stand to benefit the most are Democratic governors who plunged ahead and ran into problems. Some are facing sharp criticism at home, from both sides of the political aisle.
[…]
HHS said state residents who were unable to sign up because of technical problems may still get federal tax credits if they bought private insurance outside of the new online insurance exchanges.

The federal policy change is significant because until now the administration has stressed that the only place to get taxpayer-subsidized insurance under President Barack Obama’s health law is through the new online markets, called exchanges. Previously, people who bought outside the marketplace were not eligible for subsidies, although they benefit from consumer protections in the law.

Maryland gun stores saw surge in sales before gun control laws took effect

New gun control laws in Maryland led to surge in gun sales in the days before the onerous measures, which includes a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, took effect at the beginning this month:

Gun owners in the state aren’t happy, and in recent weeks, they’ve been flocking to snap up firearms. On Monday, outside Fred’s Sporting Goods in Waldorf, there was a huge crowd and a countdown sign advertising: “1 day left.”
[…]
Joe Herbert, the store owner, says he was ready for the onslaught of customers ahead of the deadline. “I got full staff for the last week and a half … working overtime,” he says.

And, he says, he can’t keep his shelves stocked. In recent weeks he’s done about five times his usual sales.

It’s been like this all over the state. Sgt. Marc Black, a spokesman with the Maryland State Police, the organization responsible for processing background checks, says the office has been “working 21 hours a day, seven days a week.”

As of Sept. 20, he says, “we’re looking at 106,000 applications.”

That’s more than double the number for all of 2011 and represents an unprecedented surge in gun purchases, he says.

The laws may have good intentions, but they’re unlikely to prevent tragedies similar to Sandy Hook. For example, a memo from National Institute of Justice — the research arm of the Department of Justice — noted that the ban on assault weapons is “unlikely to have an impact on gun violence” because they “are not a major contributor to US gun homicide.”

Parent faces 10 years in jail for asking questions about Common Core

Robert Small asks questions about Common Core

Robert Small, a father of two, went to a panel in Towson, Maryland hoping to relay his concerns about Common Core, national curriculum standards pushed by the Obama Administration. Rather than answer his questions, state school officials intimidated him and subsequently had him arrested (emphasis added):

Small stood and interrupted Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance during a question-and-answer session and began to tell the audience that he believed the new curriculum was lowering the standards of education and was intended to prepare students for community colleges. “You are not preparing them for Harvard,” he said.
[…]
When Small started speaking, Dance told him that he believed his question would be answered, but Small continued to talk. After a couple of minutes, a security guard confronted Small, saying, “Let’s go. Let’s go.”

Small, 46, asked him if he was an officer and the security guard, an off-duty Baltimore County police officer, showed him a badge. The officer grabbed Small’s arm and pulled him toward the aisle. The audience gasped and some people sitting nearby got out of their seats.

As he was being taken out, Small said, “Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle.” Then he said, “Is this America?”


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