The fiscal cliff is the expiration of federal tax provisions and implementation of spending cuts scheduled for January 2013. If the fiscal cliff occurs, states—especially those connected to the federal tax code and federal spending—will see fewer federal deductions. A recent report by Pew Center on the States, titled The Impact of the Fiscal Cliff on the States, shows how scheduled federal tax changes will affect states.
The scheduled tax changes include about $393 billion (or 80 percent) of the fiscal cliff’s total amount. If federal taxes increase, states tied to the federal tax code will see increases in state revenue as well.
Here’s how the fiscal cliff affects states:
• 25 states and D.C. would see higher state tax revenues from lower federal deductions
• 30 states and D.C. would see increases in revenue from tax credits after federal tax credits are reduced
• 23 states would see deductible businesses expenses expire and result in higher taxable corporate income in the coming term
• 33 states can collect more estate tax revenue by 2013
• 6 states allow citizens to deduct federal income taxes from state taxes, which would reduce state tax revenue in the coming term
The scheduled spending cuts equal $98 billion of the fiscal cliff. $49 billion of the spending cuts are required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
If the fiscal cliff occurs, the federal deficit is reduced by $491 billion. Yet, the Congressional Budget Office reports the fiscal cliff would cause significant economic digression in 2013.
Anne Stauffer, the Pew project director, stated: “Given the uncertainty about whether any or all of the policies in the fiscal cliff will be addressed temporarily or permanently, it is important to understand that the effects of the different components will vary across states.”
Source: Pew Center on the States
On November 8, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands announced that Senator Alvin Williams, Jr. was indicted for working with others to engage in bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Two legislative members, Garry Sprauve and Kim Blackett, were indicted as well.
The indictment claims the following:
Williams gave the commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works a bribe of $10,000 on September 5, 2009 to grant work by Ace Development Inc in the future. Williams had interest in the company.
Williams gave bribes to developers for the Raphune Vista housing project in St. Thomas from February 21, 2007 to November 8, 2011. He also promoted legislation for the developers so Ace Development Inc could provide rented equipment to the developers.
Williams received a bribe of $10,000 for supporting legislation for the Tutu Park wind turbine project from September 1, 2008 to September 31, 2008. He is suspected of receiving $25,000 on September 22, 2008 as well.
From 2006 to December 2011, Williams and other staff members were suspected of taking campaign contributions and using the funds for personal expenditures. He accepted bribes from September 2010 to July 28, 2011 for increasing the salaries of staff members as well.
Lastly, Williams and other staff members are suspected of engaging in wire fraud so Williams could pursue online degrees from the University of Phoenix. The defendants reportedly defrauded the Virgin Islands government to use public funding for the non-legislative education.
Williams faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. The indictment is asking for $1,129,365.76 in restitution.
U.S. Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe stated, “It is a breach of the public trust for public officials to use their office for personal gain. I encourage anyone with direct knowledge of illegal acts or who has any information concerning corruption in the Virgin Island to call the Public Corruption Task Force at (340) 715-6516.”
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
On November 27, 2012, the Department of Justice announced that Baylor University Medical Center, Baylor Health Care System, and HealthTexas Provider Network agreed to pay the federal government $907,355 for submitting false claims to Medicare.
False claims were also submitted to the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (TRICARE) for radiation oncology services. The radiation is highly sophisticated and uses tools for extreme precision to protect surrounding organs.
The United States claimed that Baylor University filed the improper claims from 2006 to May 2010. During this time, they doubled their claims to Medicare for radiation treatment plans, billed more expensive services when a less expensive service was needed, billed services without providing documentation of the services or medical records, and more.
Stuart F. Delery with the Justice Department’s Civil Division stated: “Physicians who participate in Medicare must bill for their services accurately and honestly. The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that federal health care funds are spent appropriately.”
Sarah R. Saldaña, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, stated: “This civil recovery is a testament to the efforts of the Department of Justice to hold all parties, regardless of position, accountable for the submission of improper claims to federal health care programs.”
The Civil Division for the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Services helped during the settlement with Baylor.
The settlement was possible because of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) that was created by the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services in May of 2009.
Source: Department of Justice
On November 13, 2012, the Justice Department announced that it filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Jacinto in California for violating the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was filed for the city’s treatment of group homes for disabled persons.
According to the complaint, the city has made it extremely difficult for group homes of people with disabilities to remain and operate in the city. The zoning codes currently state groups homes that are not required licensing from the state—and even some licensed homes—are not allowed zoning in the city.
The complaint also alleges that the city targeted housing for people with disabilities during a sweep in November of 2008. During the sweep, armed officers and deputies in uniform showed up to multiple residences, interrogated the residents with disabilities, and made them fill out a questionnaire intended for people with mental disabilities.
The lawsuit occurred after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a large number of complaints from operators of group homes around the city. The Justice Department is asking the court to make the city stop enforcing the discriminatory laws and make reasonable accommodations for all group homes. The Justice Department is also seeking monetary damages for victims of the civil rights violations.
Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, stated, “No person should be denied an equal opportunity for housing in his or her community, or suffer harassment or intimidation, because he or she is a person with a disability. The Justice Department is committed to preventing discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities.”
André Birotte, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central district of California, stated, “This suit is part of my office’s continuing efforts, in partnership with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to ensure that all residents of the Central District are accorded the rights to which there are entitled under the law.”
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
Same-sex marriage in France is now one step closer to legality, as lawmakers in the lower house of parliament approved a bill that extends the right to adopt and marry to same-sex couples.
The initiative secured approval in the National Assembly by a vote of 329 to 229 and 10 abstains. Before it can be placed into law, the bill must still go before the Senate; if passed, it would formally mark the most critical advancement for French gay rights advocates in more than 10 years.
France is not the only nation debating the polarizing issue of gay marriage, as UK lawmakers also took a big step last week toward legalizing the measure when they appropriated the second reading of a bill in the House of Commons.
While a significant number of Parliament members backed the legislation, which is backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, the push has prompted widespread controversy and rebellion within Cameron’s conservative party. The bill in the United Kingdom must go through several more stages before it can officially be made into a law. The Church of England, and other religious institutions, are among the organizations vehemently opposed to UK legislation.
Extending the right to adopt and marry to homosexual couples in France was one of President Hollande’s electoral pledges during his campaign efforts last year.
France’s National Assembly, which is dominated by Hollande’s Socialist Party, approved the most critical article of law with an overwhelming majority earlier this month. The left, which also controls the majority of the Senate, faces stiff opposition from social conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church as huge numbers routinely turn out for protest marches in the nation’s capital of Paris.
The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, claims that offering marriage and adoption to same-sex couples would be viewed as a transformation of marriage that would impact everyone. The bishop went onto say that failing to recognize gender difference within the union of marriage would be a deceit that would damage the foundations of society and lead to widespread acts of discrimination.
That said, the legislation has secured wide backing from gay rights advocates, including from the French, gay, lesbian and transgender organization Inter-LGBT who claims that legislation would be a significant step forward for France in terms of equality of rights.
A law legalizing civil unions in France was passed in 1999 under a previous Socialist government. Known in the nation as PACS, the civil union agreement may be entered into by straight or homosexual couples and offers many but not all of the rights of a traditional marriage.