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New York and Vermont Seek to Impose a Retroactive Climate Tax

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From Heartland Daily News

By Joshua Loucks for the Cato Institute.

Energy producers will be subject to retroactive taxes in New York if the state assembly passes Senate Bill S2129A, known as the “Climate Change Superfund Act.” The superfund legislation seeks to impose a retroactive tax on energy companies that have emitted greenhouse gases (GHGs) and operated within the state over the last seventy years.

If passed, the new law will impose $75 billion in repayment fees for “historical polluters,” who lawmakers assert are primarily responsible for climate change damages within the state. The state will “assign liability to and require compensation from companies commensurate with their emissions” over the last “70 years or more.” The bill would establish a standard of strict liability, stating that “companies are required to pay into the fund because the use of their products caused the pollution. No finding of wrongdoing is required.”

New York is not alone in this effort. Superfunds built on retroactive taxes on GHG emissions are becoming increasingly popular. Vermont recently enacted similar legislation, S.259 (Act 122), titled the “Climate Superfund Act,” in which the state also retroactively taxes energy producers for historic emissions. Similar bills have also been introduced in Maryland and Massachusetts.

Climate superfund legislation seems to have one purpose: to raise revenue by taxing a politically unpopular industry. Under the New York law, fossil fuel‐​producing energy companies would be taxed billions of dollars retroactively for engaging in legal and necessary behavior. For example, the seventy‐​year retroactive tax would conceivably apply to any company—going back to 1954—that used fossil fuels to generate electricity or produced fuel for New York drivers.

The typical “economic efficiency” arguments for taxing an externality go out the window with the New York and Vermont approach, for at least two reasons. First, the goal of a blackboard or textbook approach to a carbon tax is to internalize the GHG externality. To apply such a tax accurately, the government would need to calculate the social cost of carbon (SCC).

Unfortunately, estimating the SCC is methodologically complex and open to wide ranges of estimates. As a result, the SCC is theoretically very useful but practically impossible to calculate with any reasonable degree of precision.

Second, the retroactive nature of these climate superfunds undermines the very incentives a textbook tax on externalities  would promote. A carbon tax’s central feature is that it is intended to reduce externalities from current and future activity by changing incentives. However, by imposing retroactive taxes, the New York and Vermont legislation will not impact emitters’ future behavior in a way that mimics a textbook carbon tax or improves economic outcomes.

Arbitrary and retroactive taxes can, however, raise prices for consumers by increasing policy uncertainty, affecting firm profitability, and reducing investment (or causing investors to flee GHG‐​emitting industries in the state altogether). Residents in both New York and Vermont already pay over 30 percent more than the US average in residential electricity prices, and this legislation will not lower these costs to consumers.

Climate superfunds are not a serious attempt to solve environmental challenges but rather a way to raise government revenue while unfairly punishing an entire industry (one whose actions the New York legislation claims “have been unconscionable, closely reflecting the strategy of denial, deflection, and delay used by the tobacco industry”).

Fossil fuel companies enabled GHG emissions, of course, but they also empowered significant growth, mobility, and prosperity. The punitive nature of the policy is laid bare by the fact that neither New York nor Vermont used a generic SCC or an evidentiary proceeding to calculate precise damages.

Finally, establishing a standard in which “no finding of wrongdoing is required” to levy fines against historical actions that were (and still are) legally permitted sets a dangerous precedent for what governments can do, not only to businesses that have produced fossil fuels but also to individuals who have consumed them.

Cato research associate Joshua Loucks contributed to this post.

Originally published by the Cato Institute. Republished with permission under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Trudeau’s bureaucrat hiring spree is out of control

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano

Bureaucrats love to think of themselves as “public servants,” but who is really serving who around here?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added another 10,525 bureaucrats to the taxpayer payroll last year. Since becoming prime minister, Trudeau has added more than 108,000 new federal bureaucrats.

That’s a 42 per cent increase in the federal bureaucracy in less than a decade.

Ask yourself, are you getting 42 per cent better services from the federal government? Unless your paycheque comes from taxpayers, the answer is a big fat NO.

While Trudeau’s bureaucracy grew by 42 per cent, Canada’s population grew by 14 per cent.

That means there would be 72,491 fewer federal paper pushers had Trudeau kept growth in the bureaucracy in line with population growth.

It’s not just the size of the bureaucracy that’s ballooning – the cost is too.

The total cost of the federal payroll hit $67 billion last year, a record high. That’s a 68 per cent increase over 2016.

Trudeau gave federal bureaucrats more than one million pay raises in the last four years alone.

Since taking office, Trudeau also rubberstamped about $1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded bonuses to bureaucrats working in federal departments.

The bonuses were paid out despite the Parliamentary Budget Officer finding “less than 50 per cent of [performance] targets are consistently met.”

Then there’s the bonuses at failing Crown corporations.

CBC dished out $15 million in bonuses last year, while their President and CEO Catherine Tait whined about “chronic underfunding” and begged the government for more taxpayer cash. The CBC takes more than $1 billion from taxpayers every year.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation dished out $102 million in bonuses over the last four years, while Canadians couldn’t afford to buy a home. The bonuses rained down, despite the CMHC repeatedly claiming it’s “driven by one goal: housing affordability for all.”

The Bank of Canada dished out more than $60 million in bonuses over the last three years, even though it failed to do its one and only job: keep inflation low and around two per cent.

The average annual compensation for a full-time federal bureaucrat is $125,300, when pay, pension and perks are accounted for, according to the PBO.

There are now more than 110,000 federal bureaucrats taking home a six-figure base salary – an increase of 154 per cent since Trudeau took power.

Meanwhile, data from Statistics Canada suggests the average annual salary among all full-time workers in Canada was less than $70,000 in 2023.

Here’s why all this matters:

First, it’s an issue of fairness. The last few years have spelled hardship for Canadians who don’t work for the government, but do pay the bills.

Countless Canadians were sent to the ranks of the unemployed, lost their business and struggled to afford rising rents and costly grocery trips.

They’re paying higher taxes so more highly-paid bureaucrats can take bigger paycheques.

Second, more than half of the federal government’s day-to-day spending is consumed by the bureaucracy. That means any government that wants to fix the budget dumpster fire must shrink the bureaucracy.

Let’s recap:

Taxpayers paid for 108,000 new federal bureaucrats. Taxpayers paid for more than one million pay raises over the last four years. Taxpayers paid for more than $1 billion in bonuses.

And bureaucrats barely meet even half of their performance targets – targets they set for themselves.

It’s clear Trudeau’s bureaucratic bloat isn’t serving taxpayers. It’s time to find a pin and pop Ottawa’s ballooning bureaucracy.

This column was first published in the Western Standard on July 202, 2024.

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National

Trudeau must prove he won’t tax our homes

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano 

Actions speak louder the words. That’s especially true when those words come from a politician with a track record of breaking promises and hiking taxes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he won’t send the taxman after Canadians’ homes. But if Trudeau wants Canadians to believe he won’t impose a home equity tax, there’s one thing he must do: end the CRA’s home reporting requirement.

In 2016, the Trudeau government made it mandatory for Canadians to report the sale of their primary residence even though it’s tax-exempt. If you sell your home, the CRA wants to know how much money you received from that sale. But if the taxman isn’t taxing it, why is the taxman asking that question? Is the CRA just curious?

Official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre confirmed to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation he would remove this reporting requirement if he forms government.

Trudeau must do the same. Otherwise, Canadians should worry a home equity tax is right around the corner. As Toronto Sun Columnist Brian Lilley recently wrote, “For Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party, taxing your primary residence is a bad idea they just can’t quit.”

On June 25, Trudeau attended “a private town hall about generational fairness,” hosted by Generation Squeeze, a group advocating for home taxes.

What do you notice about the theme of that town hall? The government recently used the cloak of generational fairness to impose its capital gains tax hike.

The Trudeau government also spent hundreds of thousands funding and promoting a report from Generation Squeeze that complained of the “housing wealth windfalls gained by many home owners while they sleep and watch TV.”

The report recommended charging a tax on the value of homes above $1 million. The tax would cost Canadians up to $5.8 billion every year, and it would hit many normal Canadians. In British Columbia and Toronto, the typical home price is above $1 million.

Trying to improve affordability with tax hikes is like trying to boil water with your freezer. Higher taxes won’t make homes affordable. Consider this insight 50 pages into the report.

“Owners of homes valued over $1 million that include informal rental suites may try to recover the surtax by passing some of its cost on to renters,” reads the report.

It turns out higher taxes can make things cost more.

The head of Generation Squeeze was invited to a cabinet ministers’ retreat in Charlottetown last summer.

Documents uncovered by the CTF show staff in the prime minister’s office met twice with the head of Generation Squeeze, which included “a briefing about the tax policy recommendation.”

Trudeau has an appetite for taxing people’s homes. His recent capital gains tax hike will impact Canadians who sell secondary residences and cottages. He imposed a so-called anti-flipping home tax. And Trudeau taxes homes the government deems “underused.”

With Trudeau scrounging through the couch cushions looking for more money to paper over his deficits, Canadians should worry a home equity tax is next.

A home equity tax would come with a big bill for a young couple looking to upgrade to a family home or for grandparents who rely on the equity in their home to fund their golden years.

As an example, Canadians that bought their Toronto home for $250,000 in 1980 and sold it for $1.2 million today would pay between $50,000 and $190,000, depending on the type of home equity tax.

The Trudeau government has repeatedly flirted with home equity taxes. The only way for Trudeau to put Canadians’ minds at ease is to act and remove the requirement for taxpayers to report the sale of their home to the CRA.

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