Monday, April 27, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Death, Taxes, and Bureaucratic Overreach

Belatedly, here's last week's update from U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

Death, Taxes, and Bureaucratic Overreach
Using a phrase attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “…In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”  I would submit that in modern times, nothing is certain except death, taxes, and bureaucratic overreach.

On Thursday, April 16, oral arguments were heard in a U.S. Court of Appeals in cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which I and others including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and President Obama’s former Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe believe is an example of bureaucratic overreach.  Challengers of EPA’s plan include many other states.

These cases argue that EPA is acting outside its authority in seeking to regulate existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act because the EPA already regulates them under its Section 112.  Prior interpretation by both EPA and the courts would prohibit such dual regulation.

I was hoping to join Attorney General Morrissey and others at a press conference following the oral arguments, but because of votes on “death and taxes” in the House of Representatives I couldn’t attend.

Had I been present, my remarks would have been similar to the following:
“On June 19, 2014 and again just a couple of days ago, I expressed to Janet McCabe, EPA Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation, that her agency is improperly interpreting statutory language and exceeding its authority with its so-called ‘Clean Power Plan.’  Today [Thursday], the EPA argued among other things it is premature to consider the court cases that would determine whether EPA has the necessary underlying authority for its proposed plan.”

“I think EPA’s desire to delay that legal question until after the rule is final serves only to close down coal mines, shutter coal-powered power plants and electric generation units, and cost many coal miners in the Ninth District alone their jobs.”

“I would submit that the courts should have their say on the legality of the so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ before states are required to spend a significant amount of money and resources on its implementation.  I believe the EPA’s arguments are very weak on Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, particularly given a prior court case* and the EPA’s own interpretation during the Clinton Administration that they could not regulate electric generating units under both Sections 112 and 111(d).”

“As these cases proceed, I will continue working to advance the Ratepayer Protection Act, which I am introducing along with Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) to, among other things, allow for completion of judicial review of any final rule before states would be required to comply.  If the EPA is convinced that they in fact have authority, why would they be afraid of the court’s ruling on that issue?”
The bill that kept me from the press conference was H.R. 1105, which would repeal the federal estate tax.  The “death tax” is imposed ‘on the transfer of the taxable estate of every decedent who is a citizen or resident of the United States’ (26 U.S.C. § 2001a).

This tax does not impact everyone, but is a significant burden on some Americans seeking to pass down their family farm or small- to mid-sized family business to the next generation.  Especially given increasing costs of land used in farming near urban and suburban areas, high-tech farm equipment, sophisticated small business equipment, etc. (technologies that make American farms and businesses competitive with cheap foreign labor), it is important to remember that what may appear on the outside to be a rather small operation may in fact be an expensive one which may have trouble paying the death tax.

Unfortunately, despite Americans having paid taxes during their lives, their earnings, equipment, and land are taxed yet again at their death.  The tragic consequence is that family businesses or farms sometimes have to be sold in order to cover these costs.

This is unfair.  I have long opposed the death tax, and voted to repeal Virginia’s version of the death tax while serving in the House of Delegates.  I am also proud to have now voted to repeal the federal death tax policy, and will continue fighting to protect American families, farms, and businesses from bureaucratic overreach.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

* New Jersey v. EPA, 517 F.3d 574 (D.C. Cir. 2008)