CCAGW Celebrates a Year of Victories | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW Celebrates a Year of Victories

The WasteWatcher

As the holiday shopping season rolls around, taxpayers across the country face higher prices thanks to fiscal irresponsibility both in Congress and the states.  Thankfully, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) secured a fresh round of victories in 2023 to protect taxpayer dollars and ease the pain of inflation.

CCAGW’s winning streak began on Capitol Hill when the House Appropriations Committee included five recommendations from Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) Prime Cuts report in the FY2023 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act.  One recommendation included in the THUD Appropriations bill was CAGW’s proposal to reduce Amtrak’s federal subsidy to $876 million, bringing the agency’s funding below its FY 2003 levelCAGW has long argued for completely eliminating federal subsidies to Amtrak, which would save $2.5 billion in the first year and $12.5 billion over five years, and THUD’s recommendation advances that ball down field.

The THUD Appropriations bill also included other Prime Cuts recommendations like cutting funding for HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program, reducing federal funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Improvement Grants program by $392 million, and reducing the HOME Investment Partnership program’s budget to $500 million.  The committee also rejected an amendment that would have restored federal funding for California’s High-Speed Rail boondoggle.  CAGW has long worked to shine a spotlight on the continual setbacks and rising costs of that project, including a September 18, 2008, joint report by CAGW, the Reason Foundation, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation which noted that the California project lacked “a comprehensive financing plan.”  On February 13, 2019, CAGW published a timeline detailing the progress, or lack thereof, to that point.  A February 21, 2021 CAGW article reported on the failure of the project to get on track, with projected costs rising to $100 billion, 23 percent higher than the $81 billion projected in its 2008 report.  Now, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates the entire project will cost up to $127.9 billion.

Across the country, CCAGW helped defeat 17 state legislative bills in 2023 including price control legislation that would have increased prescription drug costs in six states, misguided data privacy measures in three states that would have undercut Congress’ ability to design a nationwide data privacy standard, and bans on flavored tobacco harm reduction products in two states which would have made it more difficult for smokers to quit, among a host of other legislative victories.  CCAGW also supported four victorious ballot measures in Texas and Maine that will protect energy and broadband investments against government tampering.   Mainers also rejected a high-profile initiative that would have used eminent domain to seize the state’s two investor-owned utility companies to create a quasi-governmental power monopoly, saddling Mainers with up to $13.5 billion in debt.

CCAGW’s reporting on a California bill to expand unemployment insurance to striking workers called attention to the state’s $20 billion unemployment insurance fund (UIF) debt, the largest of any state, helping to persuade Governor Gavin Newsom (D) to veto the bill.  Any legislation that would delay California’s UIF debt repayment would increase the odds of automatic payroll taxes going into effect for millions of employers across the Golden State.  By following CCAGW’s advice against calls from organized labor groups that strongly support Democrats, Governor Newsom displayed a rare sense of fiscal responsibility on behalf of more than 900,000 Californians reliant on a sustainable unemployment insurance fund.

In Texas, CCAGW weighed in to support a state constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from enacting a wealth tax or property tax in proportion to any individual or family’s net worth.  Thanks in part to the significant evidence the ineffectiveness of wealth taxes abroad, Texans resoundingly supported the measure by a vote of 68 percent to 32 percent, setting a strong example for other states to emulate. 

In another victory for taxpayers, Congress took steps to address the widespread fraud that plagued UI systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that pandemic fraud cost federal taxpayers between $100 billion and $135 billion.  The amount that was stolen equals between 11-15 percent of total unemployment insurance payments. 

Thankfully, the House of Representatives took steps to recover the stolen funds by passing H.R. 1163, the Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act on May 11, 2023.  Passed with CCAGW’s support, this bill would incentivize states to recover stolen UI funds by allowing the states to retain 25 percent of the money they recover.  This recovered money could be spent on improving state UI systems to better protect taxpayer money and ensure these systems are not such easy targets for criminals in the future.  The bill would also extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting UI fraud from 5 years to 10 years.  The Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass H.R. 1163 and send the bill to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

Going into 2024, CCAGW will continue to hold state and federal lawmakers accountable to restoring fiscal sanity and enacting policies that spur economic growth and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

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