Taxpayer Update: What we've achieved | Hidden tax | War on geese
This will be my last newsletter until the new year. Today the team is reflecting on a challenging but productive 2021.
A small sample of what you made possible this year
The Government froze pay for high-earning public servants after months of petitioning and lobbying from our supporters. (They're set to review this decision next year: we'll be ready.)
We successfully lobbied the Labour Party's trade union to repay their wage subsidies.
We attracted extraordinary media interest and public outrage over our investigation into DOC's absurd funeral and burial of a dead turtle.
Our Jonesie Awards celebrating the worst exampels of government waste were a great success, racking up tens of thousands of view on Facebook and Youtube.
Half the 15,000 submissions made to the Climate Change Commission on its big emissions plan came from Taxpayers' Union supporters.
The Taxpayer Talk podcast is now one of New Zealand's most-listened political podcasts. We even got Nanaia Mahuta to front up for an interview on Three Waters.
Taxpayers' Union supporters like you chipped into an ad campaign that ensured practically everyone in the country knows how the Government gave $2.75 million to Mongrel Mob affiliates.
Our bumper stickers to stop Labour's car tax are now a regular sight up and down the country.
And our Stop Three Waters campaign has seen 85,000 New Zealanders and 60 local councils unite against Nanaia Muhata's asset grab, spooking Cabinet to the point where they forced Nanaia Mahuta to delay the introduction of legislation until (at least) March next year.
Another development on Three Waters
On that last point, there's been another development: Nanaia Mahuta is now proposing that every local council will have the opportunity for representation on the new waters entities' "Representative Groups".
Of course, this doesn't fix the fundamental problems with Three Waters – the dodgy cost modelling, the four layers of bureaucracy, the co-governance, and the unfair distribution of costs – but it's more evidence that Mahuta is starting to get desperate.
Mahuta knows that her reforms are unpopular and is attempting to polish the proverbial to win over councils. But Parliament is now likely to be debating the reforms at the same time as council election campaigns. We'll be working to ensure candidates up and down the country are vocal on their opposition to Three Waters.
In the meantime, watch out for our massive Stop Three Waters banners (and smaller yard signs) popping up on highways up and down the country this summer. You, and thousands like you, made this possible.
Grant Robertson exploits inflation for massive tax grab
Last week I attended Treasury's presentation of the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update. The updated Government books include some good news for Grant Robertson that is also very bad news for taxpayers.
Despite the pandemic, Grant Robertson is set to increase his tax take by an extra $7 billion each year for the next five years. You'd think New Zealanders deserve some tax relief, but Robertson thinks that taking more and more is something to be proud of.
A major cause of Grant Robertson's revenue bonanza is inflation, which is now forecast to hit 5.6% next year. Inflation means a larger share of our incomes is pushed into higher tax brackets, even when we're no richer in real terms.
In fact, someone on the average salary ($58,836) is set to pay an extra $955 in income tax next year, assuming they're lucky enough to get an inflation-level pay rise. Of course, their real pre-tax buying power will be no higher, so either way everyone is left poorer.
Tax brackets haven't been adjusted for a decade. National and Labour might have thought taxpayers wouldn't notice slow, inflation-driven tax creep, but with inflation curving up, the elephant in the room is now impossible to ignore.
James Shaw raids ETS revenue to create new slush fund
The major spending announcement from last week's fiscal update was something that is becoming quite familiar: a new slush fund.
James Shaw is taking $4.5 billion in revenue from Emissions Trading Scheme levies to create a new 'climate emergency' fund for initiatives like cycle lanes, electric ferries, and urban beautification. To put that in perspective, $4.5 billion is $2,459 for every Kiwi household!
The point of the ETS is to impose market-driven prices on emissions that incentivise companies and households to cut emissions in cost-effective ways. It was never meant to be a revenue source for politicians.
The Government should simply return revenues from the ETS to taxpayers via a carbon dividend, as was done in Canada.
In fact, because our emissions are capped and traded under the ETS, spending projects from the new climate slush fund won't actually cut New Zealand's emissions. Any emissions reduction from, say, petrol vehicles, will simply free up credits to produce emissions in other parts of the economy. This is called the waterbed effect and it is well understood at Treasury and among ETS experts.
Do you follow us on Facebook?
If you don't "do" social media, I understand. It can be a pretty nasty place. But we're now reaching hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders per week on Facebook. You can help by liking our page and sharing our posts.
You'll also see memes and news items that don't make it into our newsletter, like this:
Kāpiti Coast District Council minimises waste with... salami
Followers of our newsletters may become disillusioned by the unending examples of wasteful government spending, but in the spirit of Christmas, we would like to highlight a positive story.
In August this year, more than 107 Canadian geese were slain at the hands of Kāpiti Coast District Council.
Local resident Geoff Amos led the campaign to massacre the birds after they deposited more than 400kgs of poop per day into Awatea Lake and the surrounding park. Ratepayers were fed up with the birds' mess and aggressive behaviour.
The Council's campaign of avian annihilation may have been sad news for the geese, but there's a positive twist for ratepayers and waste-haters: the Council has confirmed to the Taxpayers' Union that these beautiful but foul-smelling birds were turned into sausages and salami.
Unfortunately, the meaty bounty was requisitioned for private consumption by individuals present for the shooting, not fed to the poor as advocated by anti-goose petitioner Geoff Amos, or fairly distributed among long-suffering ratepayers as advocated by your humble Taxpayers' Union. But on balance, we have to give praise to Kāpiti Coast District Council and the resourceful contractor for setting a rare example of waste minimisation in in local politics.
As you may have noticed, the Taxpayers' Union takes a special interest in the publicly-funded disposal of dead animals. If you're aware of any such stories at your local council, please let us know at [email protected].
Taxpayer Talk: A long chat with Simon Bridges
If you're looking for something to listen to over the summer break, I recommend Jordan's long-form interview with Simon Bridges, National's new Shadow Finance Minister. It covers policy issues but also delves into topics covered in Simon's recently-published book.
Have a very merry Christmas.
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