Posts Tagged ‘passenger rail’

Tax Roundup, 12/26/2012: legislator wants a $310 million train set for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Iowa’s legislators get $800 million to play with for Christmas. Naturally, many of them think they can spend it better than those of us who gave it to them, based on a Des Moines Register report today quoting a bunch of prominent state politicians.

For example, Joe Bolkcom, Iowa City Democrat and Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee:

“We have a silent crisis in the number of kids and the number of our children living in poverty in our state,” Bolkcom said. “One of my top priorities will be addressing that crisis as a matter of tax policy. We need to use some of this tax surplus to make a substantial boost in the earned income tax credit.”

Bolkcom also favors appropriating $20 million as a state match to help  secure an $87 million Federal Railroad Administration grant to establish passenger train service between the Quad Cities and Iowa City, a move he says would create hundreds of jobs.

That’s two awful ideas.  As we have pointed out, increasing Iowa’s earned income credit would impose a brutal combined effective income tax rate of over 50% on low income workers — rewarding dependency and punishing taxpayers for emerging from poverty.

20121226-1And for the passenger rail plan — that’s ten kinds of crazy.  With the Megabus making three daily runs between Chicago and Iowa City for no more than $39.50 — and for as little as $1.50 — it’s hard to imagine a less urgent priority than pouring $20 million into a $310 million federal-state boondoggle to establish rail service that will lose millions annually selling $42 tickets for slower service.

Unfortunately, none of the politicians quoted by the Register proposes using the surplus to overhaul Iowa’s dysfunctional and business-hostile income tax. There is a better way:  Lower the rates, simplify the system, repeal the job-killing corporation income tax, and eliminate the corporate welfare deductions and tax credits.  In other words, The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:  You’d better waste your $20 million, or we won’t waste our $80 million!


Fiscal Cliff Notes

Kay Bell,  With the Mayan end of world threat over, it’s time to focus on the fiscal cliff

Can I return it?  AMT, the Gift You Don’t Have to Wrap!  (Trish McIntire)


Paul Neiffer,  One Week to Go Checklist

Missouri Tax Guy, Can an LLC be Taxed as an S Corp

Jason Dinesen,  Dinesen Tax Greatest Hits – The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2012

Scott Hodge,  Taxing Guns to Pay for Cops in Classrooms? A bad idea to fund another bad idea.

That’s the way to bet, anyway.  Sometimes the Cynics Are Right  (Russ Fox)

Loss carryforwards?  Why Santa Won’t Owe Any Income Taxes This Year (TaxGrrrl)

Robert D. Flach won’t let the post-holiday letdown kill his Buzz!

Because I want to finish reading the phone book first?  Why Not Read the Entire Sales Tax Statute? (Jim Maule)


Poor Des Moines has to give back illegally-collected money.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Construction proceeds at the new city bus barn, strategically built next to the railroad to await the trains that will never return.

Des Moines really hates coughing up illegally-collected taxes, reports the Des Moines Register:

The city of Des Moines plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an order requiring the city to repay up to $40 million in illegal taxes, a move some say is a long shot.

The Iowa Supreme Court in March ruled the city must pay back funds collected using a once-unlawful fee tacked on to MidAmerican Energy bills.

Why shouldn’t they have to repay an illegally-colleced tax?

City Manager Rick Clark said that effectively leaves the city two options: Either cut back city services or take on more debt, the latter of which would lead to “a very significant increase” in tax rates.

Maybe next time they’ll think of that before they impose an illegal tax.  By that logic the police should be able to rob convenience stores for the city, as otherwise the city has to spend less or tax more.  As I watch the new city bus palace go up out my window, my sympathy fails.


Amtrak’s ridership forecasters must be taking outside work

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

From Going Concern:

PwC Report Finds That Wildly Optimistic Projections for Visitors to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Basically Came Out of Thin Air

The resemblance to Amtrak traffic projections is uncanny.


You’d better waste your $20 million, or we won’t waste our $80 million!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Or, as the headline writer for the Des Moines Register put it,

$80 million at stake if Iowa doesn’t fund passenger rail

Well, duh. The $318 million dollar rail boondoggle announced just before the election requires Iowa to spend $20 million to get the feds to kick in for their share of a project that nobody would ever dream of financing with their own money. Even if the ridiculously optimistic passenger usage would occur, Iowa would still be on the hook for $3 million each year — $12 per ticket — for a slower, less reliable and more expensive alternative to the Megabus.
The article makes the loss of the federal wastage to help Iowa waste its own money look like some kind of a threat. Don’t throw us into that briar patch! The “deficit reduction” commission issued its draft report yesterday. Absurd rail pork like this should be the first thing to go.
Related: Will new Governor stop Iowa’s crazy train?


Will new Governor stop Iowa’s crazy train?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Just Maybe. State 29 passes on this from the Cedar Rapids Gazette about the proposed $318 million Chicago-Iowa City Amtrak route:


It’s worth the wait if the wait is forever

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Joe Kristan

A front-page Des Moines Register piece this morning finally points out some obvious issues with the $310 million rail link between Chicago and Iowa City. From the story Is rail expansion in Iowa worth the wait? :

The Amtrak passenger train that could be hauling travelers between Iowa City and Chicago within five years won’t be the quickest way to get to the Windy City, nor will it be the cheapest.
Cars, buses and planes will get you there faster. And only air travel is more expensive.
So why would nearly 250,000 passengers ride the rails each year? It’s a question more than a few transportation and public policy experts are asking.

Why, indeed? The idea that 684 people each day who wouldn’t already forego their cars for the Megabus would do so to ride a more costly, slower and less reliable Amtrak is hard to grasp.
The piece notes that none of the economic miracles touted to arise from passenger rail have occurred where train routes already run. There is no economic boom near the Amtrak Osceola station — a pattern that also holds along the existing Chicago-Twin Cities route.
The usual suspects are quoted boosting the route. Typical is this from Nancy Quellhorst of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce:

“It will fuel job growth, improve the environment, increase tourism and improve the quality of life.”

They say this stuff in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary everywhere else the trains run. Faith-based policy lives, at least where passenger rail is concerned.
Related: Off the rails