Kaine Optimistic / Goodlatte Guarded on Marketplace Fairness Act

Internet retailers have an advantage over brick and mortar retail stores when it comes to collecting state sales taxes. Shoppers say they look at a product in a store then order online to avoid paying sales tax.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said though he understood the concerns of retailers “the issue of an online sales tax is extremely complex.” He pointed out that Internet companies have shipping costs that must be factored into any purchase that is made online.

Virginia’s U. S. Senator Tim Kaine was in Roanoke Wednesday discussing the bill at the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. City Manager Chris Morrill hoped it would be enacted – especially for Roanoke’s downtown retail businesses so they could compete on a level playing field.

Kaine said they would likely vote on it by May 7. Virginia is being shorted millions in sales tax revenue that can go towards transportation and education, he said.

Governor Bob McDonnell is counting on the adoption of the Marketplace Fairness Act to fund part of his transportation package that passed the General Assembly this year. He was confident that Congressional leaders would pass the bill supported by the National Governor’s Association.

McDonnell has urged both Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to support it.

With today’s technology Kaine sees collecting online sales tax revenue a snap. “This is a problem that has been debated for 15 years without any action.” However there needs to be an exception for small online retailers. The threshold would be something like $1 million of online sales before the tax would kick in. “That’s a fair compromise,” said Kaine.

Sen. Kaine was certain it would pass both the Senate and the House. “We have 60 votes on a test vote.” In the House, Kaine said that “most of my discussions with the Virginia delegation has been pretty positive.”

But Congressman Goodlatte had a word of caution in response to an email through his Communications Director, Beth Breeding.

“I do not believe legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act is sufficiently simplified yet. While it attempts to make tax collection simpler, it still has a long way to go. There is still not uniformity on definitions and tax rates, so businesses would still be forced to wade through potentially hundreds of tax rates and a host of different tax codes and definitions. There is also concern that despite disclaimers the bill could open the door for states to tax or even regulate beyond their borders. I am open to considering legislation concerning this topic but these issues, along with others, would certainly have to be addressed.”

The National Retail Federation is lobbying hard for the bill while anti-tax groups like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Prosperity are warning congressman against it.

When asked about the Plan B, Morning-After Pill Kaine said, “We should all be trying to reduce unwanted pregnancies. We should all be trying to reduce abortions. I don’t think the right way to do that is to criminalize abortions or criminalize women’s or physician’s health care choices but I think provisions of education, health care and access to contraception is the way to reduce unwanted pregnancies.”

The Justice Department said late Wednesday that it is appealing a U.S. judge’s order that lifted all age limits on buying the Plan B “morning-after” birth control pill without a prescription.

Kaine also told The Roanoke Star that he thought gun purchase background checks would come up before the 2014 elections. The bill is still on the Senate floor, he said. “The vote that was a disappointing one was trying to amend the bill to make it more likely to pass … those of us who support it are watching for the moment when we can make another attempt and convince a couple [Senators] who voted no to vote yes.” The Senate is working to make little changes to garner these few more votes. “The folks that care about it are not going away,” he said.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, said he plans to bring up background check legislation. Manchin and Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, teamed up together to present the bill that failed a super majority vote.

By Valerie Garner

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