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On Tax Day, Shelby praises GOP tax cuts but calls for a flat tax

Chip Brownlee

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Sen. Richard Shelby speaks at a committee hearing.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, on Tax Day Tuesday praised the GOP’s recent tax cuts as a positive for the average American taxpayer but, at the same time, called for going further to implement a so-called flat tax.

As last-minute filers finished their annual returns, Shelby said the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts benefit American taxpayers by lowering the rates for individuals, doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and incentivizing saving for retirements.

“When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we made huge progress in simplifying the tax code and increasing efficiency,” Shelby said. “Today is the last Tax Day that Americans will file their taxes under the old, broken system. Hard-earned money will finally go back into the pockets of the American taxpayer.”

Even as Shelby touted the new tax cuts, they remain unpopular with Americans and the legislation was the most unpopular tax cut in recent American history when it passed last year, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

Even though the tax cuts were never particularly popular according to public poling, a new poll NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday showed that only 27 percent of Americans believe the cuts were a good idea.

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Republicans were banking on the tax cuts to be a campaign talking point as Congress heads into an election year, and Republicans touted the tax cuts Tuesday. Ivanka Trump, an adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke in New Hampshire, a swing state, about the money they said Americans would save when they file next year.

The event — and pronouncement’s like Shelby’s — are part of a larger effort by GOP lawmakers and the White House to talk up what they say are the benefits of the new tax law.

Trump quoted an administration estimate that a middle-class family of four would see a reduction in their annual income taxes of about $2,000.

Shelby pointed to pay raises, bonuses, 401(k) match increases, cuts to utility rates and other benefits that he said are the result of the tax cuts. He said tax reform is already helping to create an environment that lets employers grow their business and hire new employees while increasing wages.

While he praised the tax cuts, he also called on Congress to push forward with his own legislation that would establish a so-called flat tax on income and simplify filing requirements.

“Every year on Tax Day, I highlight the SMART Act as a straightforward solution that would require taxpayers to file only a simple postcard-size return, saving Americans time and money,” Shelby said. “The SMART Act would also allow businesses to focus on expanding their businesses and creating jobs rather than directing resources toward tax compliance.”

Shelby has introduced similar legislation since his election to the Senate in 1986. The act would establish a flat income tax of 17 percent on all income.

There would be more simplified personal exemptions of $14,590 for a single person; $18,630 for a head of household; $29,190 for a married couple filing jointly; and $6,290 for each dependent.

The allowances would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index in order to track inflation, and the law would exempt all savings from being included in taxable income, which he said would result in an immediate tax cut for all taxpayers.

Shelby is not seeking re-election this year.

 

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National

Brooks warns of potential debilitating national insolvency after deficit jumps 17 percent

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, issued a warning about the potential for a “Debilitating National Insolvency and bankruptcy that robs America of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed” following the release of the Treasury Department’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2018 deficit projection of $779 billion and the Comptroller General’s statement that America’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.”

“Yesterday’s Treasury Department report confirms that, when it comes to financial responsibility, Washington is a total and complete bipartisan failure,” Brooks said. “Thankfully, because of free-enterprise economic reforms, America’s economy is booming and federal revenues are up. Unfortunately, Washington spending has once again outstripped and left revenue growth in the dust.”

“At $779 billion for FY 2018, America’s deficit is 17 percent worse than last year’s $666 billion deficit. [3] Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year’s deficit will near the $1-trillion mark,” Brooks wrote in a statement. “Even worse yet, the CBO estimates all subsequent deficits will blow past $1 trillion per year. [4] America’s total debt has exploded to $21.5 trillion. [5] U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has once again evaluated America’s deficit and debt situation and warned Washington that our financial path is ‘unsustainable’ (accounting language for ‘an insolvency and bankruptcy is in America’s future if we do not change our financially irresponsible path’).”

“American taxpayers shelled out about $325 billion in debt service costs in Fiscal Year 2018,” Rep. Brooks continued. “To put $325 billion into perspective, it is more than 15 times what America spends annually on NASA and more than 6 times what the federal government spends annually on transportation. Absent constructive change, the CBO warns Washington that debt service costs will exceed $800 billion per year within a decade. [7] $800 billion is more than what America currently spends on national defense.”

“This financial data points to one dangerous outcome: a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy that robs Americans of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed,” Rep. Brooks warned. “I cannot overemphasize how the voting public throughout America must do a far better job of studying and understanding economic issues well enough to elect senators and congressmen who have both the intellect to understand the threat posed by America’s deficits and accumulated debt and the backbone to do what it takes to prevent the economic destruction of a nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.”

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The primary driver of the debt has been entitlements, Brooks said. So-called “mandatory spending” on expensive social programs including: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are increasing much faster than federal revenues or GDP. The Republican Congress has increased spending on Defense, cut taxes, but has not addressed exploding entitlement costs. The improving economy also means rising interest rates which dramatically increases the cost of servicing the national debt, which has ballooned to $21,634 billion.

Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking his fifth term in the United States Congress. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election on November 6.

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National

Alabama has small but growing immigrant population

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama has a smaller immigrant population than many other states, but the immigrant population is growing and several industries rely heavily upon immigrants for labor, according to an analysis from the American Immigration Council.

As the Trump Administration continues to implement hard-line policies, including family separation, asylum crackdowns and travel bans, immigration remains a top issue as the November midterm elections near.

Immigrants represent nearly 4 percent of Alabama’s total population. In 2015, 169,972 foreign-born individuals lived in Alabama. Another 3 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens who have at least one immigrant parent, according to the analysis. About a third of Alabama’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens. Another 30,000 are eligible to become naturalized, the analysis found.

As the number of immigrants living in Alabama grows, it’s still lagging behind other states. Georgia, for example, has an immigrant population that comprises 10 percent of its total population. About 17 percent of Texas’s population is immigrants, and in California, the number is even higher at 27.3 percent.

State, Mo Brooks sue to block counting of immigrants in 2020 census

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Alabama has sued the U.S. Census Bureau, seeking to block the counting of undocumented immigrants in the 2020 census. Alabama officials fear Alabama could lose a congressional seat when reapportionment happens because Alabama’s total population growth is slower than many other states.

According to documents obtained through a public records request, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office has spent at least $4,914 paying the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration think tank, for a demographic analysis of all 50 states to determine how immigrant populations make affect reapportionment.

A number of the Center for Immigration Studies’ reports have been disputed by other groups such as the Migration Policy Institute, the libertarian Cato Institute, PolitiFact and the Immigration Policy Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS as an anti-immigrant hate group.

While the population is relatively small, industry relies heavily upon immigrant labor. Almost 13 percent of all workers in life, physical, and social sciences are immigrants, as are 12 percent of construction and extraction employees, according to the American Immigration Council’s analysis.

While a large portion of immigrants living in Alabama are naturalized citizens or legal residents, the analysis showed that nearly 40,000 U.S. citizens in Alabama are living with at least one family member who is undocumented. About 39 percent of the immigrant population — or 1.3 percent of the state population in 2014 — is undocumented.

More than 100,932 immigrant workers comprise about 5 percent of Alabama’s workforce, the analysis showed. The top industries for immigrant workers are manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food services, retail trade and health care.

Immigrants paid $719.7 million in federal taxes and $252.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014, and, as consumers, they spent $2.7 billion on Alabama’s economy. As entrepreneurs, immigrants in Alabama generated $179.3 million in business revenue in 2015.

Undocumented immigrants, despite their legal status, paid more than $62.3 million in state and local taxes in 2014, the analysis found, and that contribution would rise to $80 million if they achieved legal status. Those who had enrolled in President Barack Obama’s DACA program paid an estimated $13.2 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

All in all, immigrants have $2.7 billion in spending power.

The American Immigration Council drew from U.S. Census data and other sources to develop their analysis, which provides the latest demographic and economic contributions of immigrants in each U.S. state.

 

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Elections

Alliance for Retired Americans endorses Lee Auman for US Congress

Brandon Moseley

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The Alliance for Retired Americans announced that they have endorsed Democrat James Lee Auman for U.S. Congress in Alabama’s 4th congressional district. The Alliance represents more than 4.4 million retirees, including 68,337 in Alabama.

The Alliance wrote: “[we believe] that [Lee Auman’s] election to the House of Representatives will enhance the quality of life for older Americans.”

The Alliance cited Auman’s commitment to preserve Social Security and Medicare, as well as his dedication to provide more affordable health care for older Americans.

“Older Americans have the right to retire with dignity,” Auman said. “I am committed to supporting Alabama’s retirees by keeping health care affordable and earned benefits protected.”

Auman has also been endorsed by American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Alabama Democratic Conference, and the New South Coalition.

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Auman is running against popular eleven term GOP incumbent Congressman Robert Aderholt of Haleyville.

Auman’s repeated calls for Aderholt to debate him have been ignored.
On Tuesday, the Advertiser-Gleam, Arab Tribune, and Sand Mountain Reporter will hold a political forum in Guntersville, Alabama. Lee Auman accepted the invitation to participate. Robert Aderholt’s office has yet to respond to the request by the legacy media outlets.

“I’m looking forward to speaking with and hearing from voters,” Auman said. “As his constituent, I wish the Congressman would offer the people of his district the same respect.”

Martha Gravlee, Auman’s campaign manager said. “By refusing to respond, Aderholt has made one thing clear: he cares more about playing a political game than the people he was elected to represent.”

The political forum will be held at the town hall in Guntersville, Alabama at 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Auman faces a daunting task. Not only is Congressman Aderholt an incumbent with much more financial resources to spend, the Fourth Congressional District is the most pro-Donald Trump district in the entire country.

Lee Auman is a former camp manager.

The general election will be November 6.

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National

Trump approves Emergency Disaster Declaration for Alabama counties impacted by Hurricane Michael

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump approved an Emergency Disaster Declaration for the state of Alabama in response to Gov. Kay Ivey’s request on Oct. 11. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Program will provide assistance under category B to Alabama counties impacted by Hurricane Michael.

“I greatly appreciate President Trump approving our request for federal assistance,” Ivey said. “Alabama has suffered damage, but we have also stepped in to help our neighbors. This assistance will help us recover some of the cost of response and recovery efforts conducted by the state and local governments. This will be a huge benefit to the smaller communities in Alabama that have been affected.”

Alabama has received a Federal Emergency Declaration for the state and the following counties: Dale, Geneva, Henry, and Houston. The Emergency Declaration is to help local and state governments cover costs associated with preparing and responding to Hurricane Michael.
Under the Public Assistance Program, assistance will be provided at 75 percent federal funding for approved costs related to the storm.

“Working together with our federal partners is an important part of helping Alabamians move back to some sense of normalcy when impacted by a storm like Hurricane Michael,” Alabama EMA Director Brian Hastings said. “We are extremely thankful that although Hurricane Michael was a historic storm our state did not encounter any loss of life.”

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency is working with all impacted areas to assess damages in order to possibly qualify for additional assistance to aid in the repairs to infrastructure and the collection and disposal of debris.

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Hurricane Michael came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida as a very strong Category Four Hurricane, the strongest storm to ever impact the Florida panhandle. The storm surge destroyed beach front homes while the winds which reached 155 miles per hour destroyed homes and businesses across Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The storm also devastated many farms and ranches where barns were destroyed, fences knocked down, livestock killed, and crops, particularly cotton, was flattened and ruined. The disaster declaration means that farmers and ranchers in Barbour, Dale, Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties may be eligible for assistances through the NRCS.
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Alabama Ben Malone announced the special financial assistance sign up for Alabama farmers and ranchers who suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality because of Hurricane Michael.

Affected producers can sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The first batching period will end on October 26, 2018. A second signup period will end on November 9, 2018.

This assistance is available to individual farmers and ranchers to aid in recovery efforts on their properties and does not apply to local governments or other entities. Farmers can apply for assistance including: Emergency Animal Mortality Management, Clearing and Snagging, and Obstruction Removal. The NRCS recommends that farmers seeking assistance for any mass mortality event immediately notify the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries if they haven’t already done so.

Socially disadvantaged, veteran, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers can receive up to 50 percent advanced payment for purchasing materials or contracting.

For more information about NRCS and its programs, visit your local USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for USDA programs until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements.

Be sure to notify your crop insurer of Hurricane Michael losses. Inform your home and/or home insurers about any claims. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may also provide some assistance to homeowners and business owners.

The Alabama Farmers Federation has established a relief fund to directly benefit farmers and ranchers.

“Farmers in south Alabama have received an outpouring of support from neighbors and people across the country,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “Many have asked where they can donate to help farmers who’ve lost their crops and barns, so we have created a special fund within the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation to accept these gifts.”

Donations are tax deductible and may be made at AlabamaFarmersFoundation.org or send checks payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation to P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191.

“Hurricane Michael devastated crops, homes, barns and livelihoods in the Wiregrass,” said Parnell, who is also president of the foundation. “Farmers are resilient, but recovery takes time and money. Alabama producers are grateful for financial help from friends and supporters — and covet your thoughts and prayers during the rebuilding process.”

(Original reporting by ALFA’s Brandon McCray contributed to this report.)

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On Tax Day, Shelby praises GOP tax cuts but calls for a flat tax

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 3 min
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