Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service took a major step to make the world of political "dark money" even darker. Now, the state of Montana is working to turn the lights back on, filing a lawsuit seeking to reinstate a rule that requires dark-money groups to report their largest donors to tax authorities. Dark-money groups are entities that can receive unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals and that are not required to disclose their donors' identities to the public. Among these are Section 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations such as the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and the Trump-connected America First Policies. Election-related expenditures by these groups exploded after a 2007 Supreme Court decision struck down a provision of the bipartisan McCain–Feingold Act that had limited dark-money spending.
After unchecked "autopilot" spending that outstripped incoming revenue by $600 million a month, Illinois has a $14.7 billion jumble of overdue bills. Now, to start paying bills. The Democratic-controlled Legislature's vote last week to create a $36 billion framework over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's vetoes ended the nation's longest fiscal stalemate since at least the Great Depression. At the core of the budget was a $5 billion income tax increase. READ NEXT: Illinois approves spending plan, ending nation's longest budget stalemate The tax hike is retroactive to July 1, and the state could start seeing some additional money within weeks.
North Dakota is expected to gain $100 million or more annually in tax revenue once crude oil begins flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to an Associated Press report released on Thursday. That's money the sparsely populated northern state, which struggles with declining tax revenue, can use. North Dakota has a police bill of $33 million from the cost of dispatching officers and security personnel to the pipeline site to respond to sometimes violent protests. As soon as next week, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners' $3.8 billion pipeline could begin shipping crude oil on the more-than 1,000-mile journey to Illinois. Besides oil tax revenue from the pipeline, the state can expect more than $10 million annually in property taxes related to the pipeline.
A central attack of the tobacco industry on Proposition 56, the measure to increase cigarette taxes by 2 a pack, is about schools. The tax hike, opponents say, keeps money out of the state's education system, a point they've tried to hammer home through a television advertisement and political mailers, both featuring a Long Beach high school teacher criticizing the initiative. The tobacco companies even went to court to successfully sue over the official ballot summary to more explicitly detail the measure's effect on school funding. "Not one penny goes to improve our kids' schools," the television ad says. The move is part of the tobacco industry's strategy over the past decade to redirect California voters' attention away from the popular idea of increasing tobacco taxes and instead sowing doubt about the effect of specific initiatives.
There'll be a skunk at the establishment picnic on election day in California. That ballot initiative is an irritating pest for many who rely on giant government public works projects for their livelihood. Hardly any establishment group likes it -- whether political, business or labor. Most major newspapers have editorialized against it. Gov. Jerry Brown really hates it.