Sunday, March 31, 2013

ObamaCare attacks low income earners

Does anyone remember how many times President Obama claimed on the campaign trail that his tax plan would not affect individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples earning less than $250,000? It would only affect people, like the Obamas, who could afford to pay a little more. (Isn't it endearing for someone to remind you over and over that they are richer than you?)

One of his tax increases will hit only low income earners and leave rich people, like the Obamas, unaffected. It's a well-known tax threshold that has been tweaked by the Affordable Care Act, namely the medical expense deduction floor.

Up to the end of 2012, anyone who had allowable medical expenses, including co-pays, deductibles, other uninsured expenses, and health and long-term care insurance premiums, could deduct the portion of those expenses that exceeded 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI). Simply put, if your AGI was $50,000, then medical expenses in excess of $3,750 would be deductible. That is, $5,000 of medical expenses would yield a deduction of $1,250.

In Massachusetts, this is the only expense from Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, that is also allowed on the state income tax return.

Starting in 2013 (and in 2017 for people 65 and older), the Affordable Care Act raises this threshold to 10%. In the example above, the $1,250 deduction would vanish.

Who is this going to hurt? The Obamas? Of course not. This change will only affect lower wage earners who have high medical expenses. Serious medical conditions are often the reason for both, inability to work and frequent doctor visits and hospitalizations. This is the worst example of the rich riding on the backs of the poor that has slipped into law in years.

Most people will not learn of this attack on low income earners until they visit their tax preparers next year only to find out that they are the target of ObamaCare at a time when they are most vulnerable.

Congress needs to address this issue before the end of this year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Invitation to youth risky behavior event

From: Linell Grundman
Subject: For Immediate Release
Date: February 28, 2013 1:30:51 PM EST

The Sandwich Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, (SSAPTF) invites the public to a major event.

"Creating a Community Aware, Engaged, and Addressing Youth Risky Behavior"
Monday, March 18th, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Sandwich Town Hall, Second Floor

Facilitated by national and international Drug Education Specialist, Jeff Wolfsberg, the program will include comments from Jeff along with audience participation. It is a Town Meeting type format.

Throughout the evening we focus on three critical areas: Social Norms, Education and Prevention, Environmental Changes. These are areas highlighted through the results of the recent Youth Risky Behavior Survey conducted by the SSAPTF.

There will be a panel of resource specialist available to address specific questions.  They represent the diverse group of skill sets that come to the SSAPTF and the community working on issues of creating a healthier place for our youth, for us all. Included on this resource panel will be representatives from the town's Fire and Police, our schools, other youth serving organizations, and the medical community.

In addition to the central portion of the evening, in conclusion thirty minutes will be provided for people to have one on one conversations with SSAPTF members and our panel.

Students are welcome.  The results of the resent Youth Risky Behavior Survey are available on the Town's web-site. Please plan to attend. You can make a difference!

Linell Grundman

Friday, March 8, 2013

Governor Patrick's figures don't add up

Our governor is on a statewide campaign to drum up support for his investment (aka taxation) plan that will beef up our transportation infrastructure and education services. The goal? Raise an additional $1.9 billion a year with about half going to each of the above.

He’s pushing legislators to cozy up to his plan by sending us maps of our districts and how much of the $1.9 billion we’ll get each year. There’s no calculation of what it will cost, of course, but I put my pencil to paper and did some of my own calculating.

To arrive at a figure for my district’s cost of the proposed 19% income tax increase, I averaged 258 income tax returns I prepared for people who live in the 5th Barnstable District in 2011 and adjusted the number to coincide with average household income here. The result? Roughly $11 million in new income taxes. (Keep in mind that this is only personal income tax hikes; the governor's proposal also includes $230 million of corporate income tax increases statewide.)

Then I had to figure how much we’d save by having a 4.5% sales tax. This one’s tougher to calculate because a good chunk of that sales tax is paid by out-of-district tourists and second homeowners. (Actually, this is a very strong reason not to reduce sales tax in favor of a higher income tax.) I came up with $4 million for my district.

Netting the two (and this ignores the governor’s plan to index the gas tax and other fees), you get a 5th Barnstable District cost of about $7 million.

And what do we get back for this $7 million annual investment? According to the governor’s charts, $7 million ($5.5 million in education spending and $1.5 million in transportation spending). Pretty even exchange, right? Not so fast.

It turns out that the governor includes all of the school aid increases for the four towns that I represent. Other than the six precincts in Sandwich, I only represent one of fifteen precincts in Plymouth, two of thirteen precincts in Barnstable, and three of seven precincts in Bourne.

Plymouth's increase is $3.2 million, for example. If you look at Rep. deMacedo's chart, it also shows $3.2 million for Plymouth. And if you pull up Rep. Calter's chart? Yep. Again, $3.2 million for Plymouth. I've heard of double-counting things in a budget, but triple-counting is really pushing it. The same thing happens in Barnstable for Rep. Mannal, Rep. Turner and me, as well as in Bourne for Rep. Vieira and me.

So what's the real increase in education funding promised by the governor to the 5th Barnstable District? Paring down the governor's numbers by allocating by number of precincts in each town, he is promising us $664,000. Not $5.5 million. That's a pretty big overstatement. For transportation funding, the governor's unadjusted number is $1.5 million, whereas the real number is $613,000.

Let me summarize the governor's plan. We send $7+ million more a year to Beacon Hill and we get back $1.3 million. I don’t know about you, but if someone came knocking on my door to sell this investment plan, I’d shut it.

(Click on the charts below for a larger image. See all the charts at