Abolish State Income Tax?
The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus, Ohio based think-tank "devoted to individual liberty, economic freedom, personal responsibility and limited government in Ohio," is calling for lawmakers to phase out state income tax over the next ten years. Their study, released on Monday, asserts that eliminating the state income tax would result in 3.5% economic growth and 6% population increase for Ohio, and would help reverse the declining economic trend in the state.
Ohio's $9.1 billion in income tax collected annually represents 47% of Ohio's total tax revenue in a given year. The Buckeye Institute claims that growth resulting from the abolished income tax would make up the lost state revenue in 5 years or less.
Click HERE for a press release from the Buckeye Institute.
Click HERE for the article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Just FYI: according to the IRS, 9 states currently do not have state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
Special Session Recap
Back on my June 23 entry I mentioned three states that called special legislative sessions; Kentucky, Virginia and Nevada . Here is a quick update:
Kentucky's pension-reform bill was signed into law during the special session. Click HERE for a list of news stories that provide a chronology.
In Virginia, Governor Kaine's special session to get transportation funding was not successful. The bill would have imposed new statewide taxes for highway maintenance and regional taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to address pressing transportation challenges in those high traffic areas. High gas prices are partially to blame for the bill's failure. Click HERE for an article that gives a detailed postmortem.
The Nevada legislature met for less than 12 hours and passed a 3.3% ($106 million) budget cut to assuage deficit concerns. Cuts were made to numerous state agency operating budgets.
Immigration Proposal Gaining Support in Washington State
For months here at the Clearinghouse Blog we've mentioned states that have taken federal inaction on immigration as impetus to pass their own bills. (Click for past immigration policy entries.) According to an article in today's Seattle Times, some in Washington would have the Evergreen State be first on the west coast to pass a sweeping immigration bill.
The proposal, Initiative 409, is championed by a coalition that includes the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. Among other measures targeting undocumented immigrants, it would mandate use of E-Verify by all employers and hold companies responsible for verifying their employee's legal status. Supporters are currently trying to collect the nearly 225,000 petition signatures necessary to force the legislature to act on the proposal.
Click HERE to read the full article.
Its important to note that a pending federal court ruling about Oklahoma House Bill 1804, passed in 2007 but currently under injunction, may challenge the constitutionality of similar state immigration bills.
Early College Schools in Texas and Recruiting Teachers in the Rural Midwest
I nearly missed my train this morning because, for the first time in months, I was caught behind a school bus. Besides reminding me to leave the house 5 minutes earlier, the big, yellow bus is a sign that our public schools, the great American equalizer, are back in session.
The papers were littered with school related stories this morning, here are two of the more interesting ones.
Click HERE to link to a Dallas Morning News story about an early college high school that is helping students pave a pathway to higher education. Many of the school's students would not normally take advantage of Advanced Placement or other college credit courses in high school.
Click HERE to link to a Lincoln Journal Star article detailing the difficulty that rural districts have recruiting teachers, and the creative strategies some administrators are using to fill vacant classroom spots.
Stricter Air Pollution Rules in Wisconsin
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will likely issue a new, tougher rule regulating emissions. The rule would require utilities to cut mercury emissions by 90% by 2015, but would allow them to push back the deadline to 2021 if they agree to also cut nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce opposes the rule and has sued the state on procedural grounds.
Click HERE to access the article.
Kentucky Chamber Tackles Post-Secondary Education Affordability
Last week, Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber, unveiled a plan to ensure that students in the Commonwealth who want to attend college will be able to pay for it.
The Guaranteed Affordability Program, or GAP, would to split the cost of college among students, families, schools and the government. Under GAP, students would contribute an amount equal to what they could earn from a minimum wage job with a 40-hour work week during the summer and a 10 hour per week during the school year. That contribution could come from scholarships. Families would contribute an amount determined by federal financial aid guidelines, and the state would make up the difference.
Adkisson presented the ambitious plan to a legislative subcommittee for consideration and called on lawmakers to have the system in place by 2010.
To learn more about the Kentucky Chamber's plan check out their press release and the following news articles:
Click to link to the Kentucky Chamber press release.
Click to read the story from the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Public Salaries, Public Knolwdge?
As Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to save California's budget by temporarily cutting state employee pay to the federal minimum is held up in courts (see the article from today's Sacramento Bee), a debate is brewing in Kansas over whether public employee's salaries should be readily available to the public.
Late last week, the Wichita Eagle uploaded to their website a searchable database containing the names, positions and salaries of all state employees. While state employee salaries are a matter of public record, this web database makes it possible to easily compare the salaries of every middle school Principal in the county right from your desk. While the move has stirred a debate over personal privacy vs. taxpayer accountability, it has also generated major web traffic for the newspaper.
To read viewpoints about publicly accessible salaries, click HERE.
Mandatory Paid Sick Leave
Mandatory paid sick leave is a hot issue, particularly for small business. Right now 12 states are considering bills that would require all employees to offer paid sick days to their employees. Washington D.C. and San Francisco have already enacted such legislation.
For more background information on this important issue, check out this AP story from the York (PA) Daily Record: States push laws to require paid sick days.
State Budget Woes
If your state is facing a serious budget deficit, you are not alone. This article from the Council on State Taxation (COST) highlights some states in dire fiscal straits.
Status of the States: Deteriorating Budget Conditions Necessitate Cuts & Special Sessions
Fiscal year 2009 commenced for most states on July 1st, and many states' revenue projections are already looking overly optimistic (refer to the National Conference of State Legislatures' State Budget Update: June 2008). As a result, a handful of states have taken a proactive approach and have either begun immediate budget cuts or have scheduled special sessions.
- New York – Having identified a $26.2 billion budget deficit over the next three years, Gov. Patterson (D) is convening an "emergency economic session" of the legislature today, August 19th. Gov. Patterson is calling for $1 billion in budget cuts by reducing financing for Medicaid, assistance to municipal governments and the City University of New York, while legislative leaders, however, have only identified $200 million in cuts. Further, the Gov. recently created a Council of Economic Advisors to review the state's budget situation and provide the Gov. with additional recommendations to address the state's fiscal crisis. Click here to view the Council's membership.
- Florida – Now leading the nation in the jobless rate (Miami Herald), paired with the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis and surging energy prices, the states' tax collections fell approximately $1.8 billion below estimated March projections for FY 2009, according to a report issued by state economists August 15th. Pressure is mounting on Gov. Crist (R) to call a special session to address the growing budget shortfall.
- Georgia – As July tax collections plummeted 6.6% from this time last year, Gov. Perdue (R) ordered across-the-board spending cuts of 6%. The state faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit and there are increasing calls for a special session to consider further budget cuts or raise taxes.
- Virginia – On August 15th, Gov. Kaine (D) called for $32 million in new spending cuts to balance the state's current two-year budget. These cuts are in addition to the $17 million in reductions made to the budget in the last fiscal year that will be carried forward into the current state spending plan. In addition, earlier this year, the Gov. and lawmakers eliminated $1 billion from the original spending plan the Gov. had proposed for fiscal year 2009.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list of states addressing budget shortfalls but rather is representative of the economic trends states are currently encountering.
In case you haven't already heard, Card Check (aka The Employee Free Choice Act) is poised to be a major issue for the next congress.
Traditionally, union organizing has been done through secret ballot elections. A union will ask workers at a facility to sign cards indicating an interest in an election. Once 30% of workers have signed, the union can ask the Federal National Labor Relations Board to hold a secret ballot election. Both sides have a chance to make their case to workers during the campaign period, which on average lasts about 40 days. If more than 50% of workers voting choose the union, the union is certified and the employer must begin collective bargaining.
Under Card Check, a union would be certified based only on signatures. Union organizers would ask workers to sign a union authorization card. Once a bare majority had signed, the union would be certified and the employer would have to begin collective bargaining. There would be no secret ballot election — in fact, once more than 50% of workers had signed cards, it would be illegal to hold such an election.
Steven Law, Chief Legal Officer at the US Chamber, explained the pending bill and its implications during a workshop at the ACCE Convention in Pittsburgh. If you missed Steven's presentation, but would like to find out more about Card Check, visit Policy Clearinghouse.org for more details.