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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of August 31, 2015

New Scam Variations, Con Artists Pose as IRS Officials to Defraud Taxpayers
A warning has been issued about new variations of a scam in which con artists pose as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to attempt to defraud taxpayers. The “imposter” scams come via telephone or e-mail, and are alleging money is owed to the IRS.

Some variations to be cautious of include: if the caller tries to convince the consumer they owe the IRS back taxes and pressures the consumer to buy reloadable pre-paid debit cards to transfer funds; robocalls with automated messages telling the consumer they owe back taxes that will result in imminent legal action and instructing the consumer to proceed in receiving directions on how to pay, and; e-mail messages containing what appears to be legitimate IRS forms, directing consumers to contact the “agency” through a link and provide bank account or credit card information.

The con artists may seem legitimate by referencing personal information, such as: the last four digits of the social security number; information about the consumer’s family members; “spoofing” the IRS phone numbers on Caller ID; sending bogus e-mails that appear to be coming from the IRS, and; calling back and impersonating the local police or state department of motor vehicles.

According to the IRS, the agency will never: call about taxes owed without first sending an official notice by mail; demand taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal; require taxpayers to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or; threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement agencies.

Consumers can verify tax status directly with the IRS by calling 1-800-829-1040. Scams can be reported directly to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) here. Local law-enforcement should also be notified.

Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Law
With students returning to the classroom and 1.5 million of those students being transported on Pennsylvania roads each day, here are some reminders regarding the Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Law:

  • Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended
    • Whether behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped
    • Whether following or traveling alongside a bus
    • At an intersection, even if not marked with a stop sign
  • If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping
  • Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety

The penalties if convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law include: $250 fine; five points on driving record; and 60-day license suspension.

Hall of Fame of Champions of Older Workers
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging Hall of Fame of Champions of Older Workers Committee is seeking nominations for employers who have provided any of the following for older workers (age 55 and older): active recruitment; creative programs for retention; phased retirement plans; flexible work arrangements; retraining; mentoring programs, or; pre-retirement financial planning. To nominate an employer, download the nomination form and submit by December 4, via e-mail to RA-PAAgingServices@pa.gov, or by mail to: Rocco Claroni, Pennsylvania Department of Aging, 555 Walnut Street, 5 th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101-1919.

Column: Tax Increases and Tax Decreases
American author and humorist Peg Bracken (who also worked with Homer Groening, father of “The Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening) once asked: “Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200 and a substantial tax cut save you 30 cents?”

Coming from the private sector, I never cease to be amazed at the differences between how government deals with issues as compared to employers – or even families. When businesses or families have a problem, they cut costs and find ways to be more efficient. When government has a problem, it reaches into the pockets of taxpayers and asks for more. I don’t think this is fair, or good government policy.

Under last year’s state budget, the Commonwealth was authorized to spend over $29 Billion, which translates to nearly $80 Million a day, over $3 Million an hour, $55,000 a minute, and $920 a second.

Imagine holding nine $100 bills and one $20 bill. Each second that goes by, that $920 disappears and is replaced by another $920 that is also replaced a second later by another $920.

Unfortunately, it never seems to be enough and government works to find creative ways to generate more revenues rather than looking for ways to cut. Government just doesn’t seem to be able to say “no” to spending, turning to the taxpayers to find ways to get them to give more – more for continued spending and borrowing.

It reminds me of a Will Rogers’ quote: “Noah must have taken into the ark two taxes, one male and one female, and did they multiply bountifully! Next to guinea pigs, taxes must have been the most prolific of animals.”

When taxes are raised, the justification is usually: “It’s only a few cents more.” However, such an argument rarely reflects the tax burdens already imposed.

If you’re holding 100 pounds and someone adds five pounds, they can say “it’s not that much weight.” However, when you’re now holding 105 pounds, it’s awfully heavy.

Consider the many federal, state, county, and municipal taxes, fees, and other costs people bear, including: taxes on amusements, building permit fees, capital gains taxes, car and boat license fees, cigarette taxes, corporate taxes, dog license fees, earned income taxes, fishing license fees, environmental requirements, restrictions, and costs, estate taxes, gas taxes, government late fees and penalties, hunting license fees, taxes on liquor, marriage license fees, municipal property taxes, parking meter fees and fines, per capita taxes, personal income taxes, personal property taxes, professional license fees, realty transfer taxes, school property taxes, state and local building code costs, taxes on services, sales taxes, Social Security taxes, speeding tickets and fines, taxes on telephone calls, traffic tickets and fines, user fees, utility taxes, unemployment taxes, vehicle and boat registration fees, water and sewer fees, and zoning fees.

Before we add to these tax burdens, I want to be sure we’re squeezing every penny from each tax dollar, which is why the Senate Finance Committee (chaired by Senator Eichelberger), and the Senate State Government Committee (which I chair) recently held a joint hearing to look at ways to better control spending and measure program effectiveness.

Until then, I don’t see any need to add any new taxes or expand any existing taxes.


Contact Information
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