Entries in Taxpayers (6)


Whitey Bulger Back in Court for Ruling on His Defense

FBIUPDATE: The decision on whether taxpayers should pay for Whitey Bulger's defense was postponed Tuesday. Prosecutors dismissed one of the two indictments against Bulger so they can focus on what they believe is the stronger indictment that could put Bulger away for life.

(BOSTON) -- James "Whitey" Bulger, a suspected organized crime boss charged in connection with 19 murders, returns to a Boston courtroom Tuesday where a judge is expected to rule whether taxpayers have to pay for his defense.

Bulger, 81, asked for court-appointed counsel -- something prosecutors reject -- pointing out that he "financed a relatively comfortable lifestyle for himself and his [60-year-old] girlfriend," Catherine Greig, in Santa Monica, California in the years before his arrest.

Court records say Bulger bragged to the FBI that he visited Las Vegas "on numerous occasions" to play the slots, claiming he won more than he lost.  Associates have also said that Bulger has been hiding money for years.

Regardless of whether any of this is true, prosecutors argue that it doesn't matter.  They say Bulger has "every incentive to lie and stick taxpayers with the bill for his defense."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Upholds Tax Credits for Donations to Religious Non-Profits

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday found that Arizona taxpayers do not have the legal right to challenge a state law that allows residents to receive tax credits for contributions to non-profit organizations . The law allows those non-profit organizations to use the funds to give scholarships to children who want to attend private schools.

The taxpayers had challenged the law arguing that in practice the non-profit groups only provided aid to students attending religious schools in violation of the Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits government actions from favoring one religion over another.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the four conservative justices, said that taxpayers only have the so-called "legal standing" to bring such a suit if it involves a government expenditure, not a tax credit.

The Arizona legislature passed the law in 1997 to encourage greater educational choice for disadvantaged elementary school children. Any taxpayer can participate, but parents are forbidden from earmarking a donation for their child.

Because the court found that the taxpayers could not bring the suit, it did not reach a decision on whether the law itself is constitutional.

Monday’s decision will narrow the ability for taxpayers in general to challenge alleged Establishment Clause violations. A number of other states have programs like Arizona.

"This is a big deal because it permits the government to aid religious causes through the tax credit device without fear of any litigation that might disturb the government policy," says Ira. C. Lupu, an expert on church and state issues at George Washington Law School.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Military Intervention in Libya Costing Taxpayers Millions

U.S. Navy photo by Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Roderick Eubanks/Released(WASHINGTON) -- Three days after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers reached the hundreds of millions of dollars and continues to climb.

U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have unleashed at least $225 million in Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals. U.S. warplanes have dropped dozens of bombs with price-tags of tens of thousands of dollars apiece. And operation of the war craft, guzzling ever-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say.

"Each sortie, even if it drops no munitions, is very pricey," said Winslow Wheeler with the Center for Defense Information. "These airplanes cost us tens of thousands of dollars to operate per hour, and the fancier you get in terms of planes, the costs get truly astounding."

The 3 B2 stealth bombers that flew from Missouri to Libya and back on Sunday, for example, each cost an estimated $80,000 per hour to operate, Wheeler said.

That means their 25-hour flight had a price tag of $6 million, and the 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) they dropped added at least $1 million more.

So far the Pentagon has financed the mission to take out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and disrupt his attacks on opposition forces using resources in its existing budget, which accounts for unanticipated military actions. And the White House has not been forced to ask Congress for additional funds for the campaign.

But experts say the administration may have to submit an emergency supplemental budget request for Libya later this year, assuming U.S. involvement in the international military operation does not end swiftly.

The cost of operating the no-fly zone over Libya alone could cost the U.S. an estimated $30 million to $100 million a week, a study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tenn. Employees Buy Time Off Work, Cost Taxpayers Big Money

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- More than 100 employees in Shelby County, Tenn., are enjoying paid time off of work for donating money to charity.

Otice Jackson, the General Sessions Court Clerk for the county, offered employees a paid day off for every $50 dollars they donated to the United Way. Not only did employees jump on the deal, but the 100 workers racked up a total of 296 United Way bonus days for 2011.
The vacation time, however, didn't come cheap for taxpayers. The approximately $23,000 in donations to the United Way will end up costing taxpayers $63,000 in wages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'DADT' Cost Taxpayers Nearly $400 Million, GAO Reports

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One month after President Obama signed a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” government accountants have finished tallying up how much the policy cost taxpayers during the 16 years it was in effect.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday that each discharge of a gay or lesbian service member over the past six years alone cost $52,800, including administrative costs and costs to recruit and train a replacement.

The removal of 3,664 service members total between 2004 and 2009 cost taxpayers an estimated $193.3 million.

The latest figures follow a 2005 GAO study that put the cost of the first decade of “don’t ask, don’t tell” at $190.1 million.

More than 13,000 service members have been discharged for violating the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian troops since 1993, according to GAO.

The reports note 2,215 of those men and women held “critical” roles in the service branches, including voice interceptors, data processing technicians, translators and special security forces.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One in Four Americans Enrolled in a Government Food Program

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The goodwill of taxpayers and charities has helped stabilize rising hunger rates, but more than 17 million households still reported having difficulty buying all the food they needed last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2009, nearly 50 million Americans -- 15 percent of U.S. families -- were "food insecure," meaning they were "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their family members" -- either they didn't have enough money or lacked other resources to buy food. One in 10 families with children worried about food at some point in the year. Between 500,000 and one million families were so strapped that the children had to go without eating at some point.

The hunger rates remained steady until 2008, when they jumped to the highest level since the USDA began tracking hunger in 1995. Dramatically rising unemployment might have continued that jump, agency officials said, if the government had not stepped up food aid.

"There is a silver lining to some degree in the fact that this food insecurity did not increase," Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, told reporters. "Between 2008 and 2009, the number of unemployed people across the United States went from just under 9 million people to over 14 million."

The United States is increasingly a safety-net nation, with one in four Americans now enrolled in one of the 15 federal feeding programs. Forty-two million people currently receive monthly benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. That's up by 10 million from a year ago.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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