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by Rob Bluey /

The Daily Signal made its CPAC debut this year, closely following the 2016 contenders and hot policy debates at America’s largest conservative conference. We’ve pulled together a quick take on the highlights of the first day.

1) Scott Walker Casts Himself as Champion of ‘Hard-Working Taxpayers’

The Wisconsin governor arrived at CPAC as the early 2016 frontrunner in Iowa, home to the much-anticipated Republican caucus next year. His speech, which came at the end of day one, drove home an economic message, touching on issues such as taxes and jobs that have played a big role in his three electoral victories in the Badger State.

During his speech, Walker found himself heckled by a member of the audience—an experience he’s endured on more than one occasion in Wisconsin. Winning applause from the crowd, he declared, “those voices can’t drown out the voices of hard-working taxpayers.”

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., at CPAC. (Photo: Mike Theiler/EPA/Newscom)

2) Ted Cruz Criticizes GOP Leadership for ‘Cutting a Deal’ with Democrats on Immigration

With a deadline fast approaching to fund the Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, showed no signs of compromising with Democrats. Conservatives, including Cruz, want to undo President Obama’s executive actions on immigration as part of the funding bill, which the Senate will vote on again Friday.

Before his speech, The Daily Signal joined a handful of journalists for a sit-down interview with Cruz. Here’s what he told us about the state of play:

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PHOTO: Byron Allen, Twitter

By PATRICK HOWLEY

Byron Allen Goes To War With Sharpton, Obama, Comcast For Future of Black Media

Legendary TV talk show host Byron Allen is taking on Al Sharpton, President Obama, and the most powerful media corporations in the world in a battle to spotlight the crisis at the heart of American race relations. It’s a daunting mission. But for some reason he doesn’t sound scared.

Allen told The Daily Caller that top media interests are actively freezing out and in some cases destroying black-owned media companies — and they’re paying Reverend-turned-MSNBC host Al Sharpton to give them racial cover to do it.

As for Washington politicians like Obama? According to Allen, they’re bought out by the very same interests, and they’re playing a part.

Allen, 53, is the chairman and CEO of the production company Entertainment Studios, which joined with the National Association of African-American Owned Media to file a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit this week against Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the Urban League, and former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. Allen and his fellow plaintiff also filed a $10 billion suit against AT&T and DirectTV.

“It’s cheaper to give Al Sharpton money than it is to do business with real African-American owned media,” Allen told TheDC. “What Comcast does is they give Al Sharpton money so he doesn’t call them racist. That is the issue here.”

It’s an issue that Allen, the cool longtime host of shows like “Real People” and “Entertainers,” talks about with off-the-air passion.

Comcast’s more than $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable is waiting on approval at the FCC, with a decision expected soon. If approved, the merger would make Comcast the most powerful media corporation in the world. But as Allen, who owns seven upstart cable networks, points out: Comcast pays out $11 billion in licensing fees to networks that it carries on its platform. How much of that money goes to 100 percent African-American owned media companies? $3 million. A fraction of one percent.

Sharpton’s curious takeover of the 6 pm timeslot on Comcast-owned MSNBC in late 2010 was predicated on the Reverend signing off on Comcast’s last merger: its historic acquisition of NBCUniversal, which the FCC and Department of Justice approved in January 2011 after a tough regulatory fight from California Rep. Maxine Waters on racial discrimination grounds. Comcast lavished donations upon Sharpton’s National Action Network and other civil rights groups to get them to sign off on the deal, according to Allen’s suit.

“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”

“Al Sharpton is nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game,” Allen continued. “He’s not even bright enough to know he’s on the chess board and he’s being used by his white masters at Comcast, specifically [executive vice president] David Cohen and [chairman and CEO] Brian Roberts.”

AT&T, which is looking to acquire DirectTV for $67 billion including assumption of debt, also pays off Sharpton for racial cover, Allen said.

“I find it outstanding that AT&T is the biggest sponsor of Sharpton’s 60th birthday party,” Allen said. “AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton’s birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media combined. [Sharpton] should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a sick day.”

“Reverend Jesse Jackson, you were on the balcony when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Why are you taking money from AT&T? Why is Al Sharpton getting more money from AT&T than Ebony Magazine, which has been around for 70 years?”

“[Corporations] trick people like, ‘I got the diversity award.’ Well, diversity is defined as women and white women.”

“My wife happens to be white and I ask her who is the white guy who speaks for all white people? You can’t even think that. That idea is racist. That’s wrong. So why do I have some black guy who speaks for me? Why is he cutting deals that somehow I don’t benefit from but somehow he’s on television every night?”

Sharpton’s power, including his informal adviser role at the White House, is just part of the game.

“I think that Obama uses him to control the Negroes,” Allen said of Sharpton.

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By Kelsey Harkness /

Portrait of Kelsey Harkness

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.

Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.

“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” saidLindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”

The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.

“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.

The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.

The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.

In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.

A-PLUS

“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).

Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.

A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.

DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Now, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, conservatives argue that Congress has an opportunity to gives states a way out from federal control of K-12 education.

Infographic: Kelsey Harris

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RATP Monthly Meeting
When: Monday March 9, 2015 7PM
Where: Palazzo Grande
 54660 Van Dyke, Shelby Twp.

“The Meat of the May Sales Tax Proposal”


James M. Hohman is the Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He has written studies on the Protect our Jobs Initiative, Michigan’s pension funds, state emergency manager laws, school support service privatization and subsidies for the Chevy Volt.  His work has appeared in the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, the Wall Street Journal and, most likely, your local paper a handful of times.He holds a degree in economics from Northwood University.  He has been with the Mackinac Center since 2002.

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Mistake in ballot language means fuel for boats, snowmobiles, lawnmowers would cost extra

By Jack Spencer

The ballot proposal that goes before Michigan voters on May 5 includes a “double tax” on fuel purchased for uses other than driving on roads, including for boats, snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and possibly agriculture. Some Lansing insiders have known about the problematic wording for weeks, and while few will talk about it on the record, it has attracted much attention among those in the know.

“It’s right there; all you have to do is be able to read,” a well-placed source said under the condition of anonymity.

Officially dubbed Proposal 2015-1, the ballot measure is the road funding deal Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature reached at the end of a lame duck session last December. Voters will have the final say in a statewide election.

The proposal would be a $2 billion tax hike in its entirety, but that number does not include the “double tax” potential, since it is not reflected in the analysis done by the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The deal has two main components. First, a constitutional amendment would increase sales and use taxes from 6 percent to 7 percent, collecting an additional $1.427 billion from taxpayers. If this is approved it will automatically trigger a $663 million net increase in fuel and vehicle registration taxes. The second component, dealing with fuels, has two parts. It would exempt fuel purchases from sales and use taxes — this money is not currently used to support roads — and increase the motor fuel tax.

(The sales tax increase is a constitutional amendment originally called House Joint Resolution UU. It was approved by the Legislature in December with the two-thirds supermajority required under the Michigan Constitution to place it on the ballot. The sales tax exemption for fuel purchases was in House Bill 4539, passed at the same time. It and the fuel tax hike only go into effect if voters approve the sales tax increase.)

Under the actual wording of both the sales tax increase and the new motor fuel sales tax exemption, fuel purchases would only be exempt from the sales and use taxes if they were used to operate vehicles on public roads or highways. In other words, some fuel would be subjected to both sales tax and the much higher gas tax.

The problematic language in the ballot proposal states:

“No sales tax or use tax shall be charged or collected from and after October 1, 2015 on the sale or use of gasoline or diesel fuel used to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads or highways of this state.”

This would mean fuel purchased for boats, snowmobiles, and ORVs would still be subject to sales and use taxes, on top of the increased motor fuel tax. It is estimated that 2 percent of all gasoline sold in Michigan is used for those and other recreational uses. More fuel is used for agriculture and other non-road uses.

“I don’t think it’s fair to have boaters pay the sales tax in addition, if that is in fact the way this is going to be done,” said Eric Foster, owner of Belle Maer Harbor in Harrison Township, the state’s largest marina.

There has been speculation that if the state were constitutionally permitted to collect this “double tax,” it could require gas stations to install special fuel pumps that collect the higher amount on those purchases. Other insiders, though, say they doubt the proposal language would lead to that, but do fear that tax collectors would eventually seek to collect the extra levy in other ways.

“The constitutional change only exempts fuel for vehicles that travel on the roads,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Those purchasing fuel used for other purposes would have to look for exemptions elsewhere because it isn’t part of the package.”

Patrick Anderson, of Anderson Economic Group, said even people who find other exemptions to avoid immediately paying the “double tax” might not be altogether in the clear.

“This would be an automatic invitation for the IRS,” Anderson said. “It is always the personal property deductions or exemptions that attract its attention.”

Gongwer News Service, a Lansing-based political newsletter, has reported that the Snyder administration will seek legislation to correct the problem. However, if the May 5 ballot proposal is approved by the voters, the double tax language would be in the state constitution, which could only be amended by another ballot proposal.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, Michigan Capitol Confidential sent an email that included three questions about the “double tax” to Dave Murray, spokesman for the governor, and to the office of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, which often deals with technical issues involving taxation. The email also asked that the questions be responded to by noon Wednesday.

The questions were as follows:

Question 1: How would this be administered?

Question 2: What assurance could voters receive that – immediately or in the future – the state would not pursue ways of collecting the sales tax on fuel purchases for purposes other than the use of vehicles that travel on roads?

Question 3: If Proposal 2015-1 passes, thus amending the Michigan Constitution, how could the lack of the sales tax exemption for non-road-use fuel purchases be corrected?

Murray replied that he could not respond by this report’s deadline. Calley’s office has yet to respond.

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Two Immigrants For Every New Job Since 2000

The United States has accepted two new immigrants for each additional job created since 2000, according to federal data.

The data shows that 18 million legal and illegal immigrants settled in the United States from 2000 to 2015, while only 9.3 million additional jobs were created, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors a reduced level of immigration.

After subtracting deaths, departures and retirements among the immigrants, the working-age population of immigrants has grown 12 million since 2000, according to data at the Bureau of Labor Standards, said Steve Camarota, the author of the CIS study.

That’s equal to three years of American births.

The population of Americans aged 16 to 65 also grew by 16 million from 2000 to 2014, Camarota told The Daily Caller.

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Michigan’s May Tax Proposal

Spring gas tax proposal would raise taxes $2 billion

Michigan residents on May 5 will vote on a constitutional amendment and a package of bills that will go into effect if approved. The proposal will increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, raise taxes on fuel, and increase vehicle registration taxes. It will also hike the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

Overall, the proposal will increase state tax revenue for fiscal year 2015-2016 by approximately $2 billion, of which $1.3 billion will go to funding transportation — initially to accelerate repayment of existing transportation bond debt, to increase overall road maintenance, and to spend more on transit and recreational grants.

Of the additional $700 million in new tax revenue, $300 million would go to public schools, $100 million to local government revenue sharing, and pledges for future spending on local bus and transit agencies.

The increase in the EITC will cost the state budget a further $260 million.

Tax and fee changes:

The proposal raises the state’s sales and use taxes from 6 percent to 7 percent, a 17 percent increase in the rate. This would give Michigan the second-highest state sales tax in the nation, though other states allow local governments to also levy their own sales taxes. Increasing sales and use tax rates would bring the state government an extra $1.4 billion.


The state currently imposes both sales tax and a per-gallon excise tax on motor fuel. This excise tax along with vehicle license and registration fees are the primary source of revenue for the state’s road maintenance budget. Under the measure, sales tax would no longer be imposed on fuel and the motor fuel tax would be replaced with a new wholesale tax levied at higher rates than currently.

At a listed price of $2 per gallon, the state is currently collecting 29 cents per gallon in sales and excise taxes on gasoline. This proposal would increase those collections to 41.7 cents per gallon.


Registration fees for commercial trucks that weigh more than 26,000 pounds will be increased on a sliding scale based on the truck’s weight.


Currently, the state provides relief from registration taxes as vehicles age. The annual tax is originally based on on the vehicle’s list price but is discounted at the first, second and third renewals. This package phases out these discounts on newer vehicles. Electric vehicles will also be subject to higher registration fees.

The change is not expected to raise much revenue in the first few years but will eventually collect $150 million annually when discounts no longer apply.